Architecture Program


Date of this Version

Spring 5-4-2012

Document Type



Haptic Vision is an investigation into the idea that the experience of architecture is lacking because of the bias Western society has placed on vision, that the other senses are stifled by this and that it is a result of us living in an occularcentric society. Architect and theorist Juhani Pallasmaa has said that, “While our experience of the world is formulated by a combination of five senses, much architecture is produced under consideration of only one - sight. The suppression of the other sensory realms has led to an impoverishment of our environment, causing a feeling of detachment and alienation.” In order to combat this “detachment”, and increase the experiential qualities of our environment, architecture should be designed in consideration of the other senses, in particularly that of touch. Touch is the sense that is most closely related to vision’s ability to understand our environment.

Human experience can be improved upon if sensual experiences are more duly considered. When the other senses besides the visual are regarded there can be an experience that is created that is more embodied with an increased feeling of attachment to our spaces, buildings, and environments.

An in-depth inquiry into how one experiences was done to gain an understanding of how one comes to understand their embodiment with the world. Under the assumed doctrine by Johne Locke of the tabula rosa, or “blank slate,” the senses are the only sources of knowledge about the world. This is directly related to research into sensual psychology, sensory deprivation and sensory overload. These were researched to form a solid base of information towards the consideration of the physiology and psychology of how one senses and perceives the world. From there, an investigation was undertaken to understand physical objects in regards to their inherent haptic nature. This was accomplished by building various three-dimensional artifacts as a physical manifestation of the ideas received from the research. Each artifact had a recipe for design intent that dealt with the sense of touch regarding the hand, and the eyes. This is research for the exploration of relationships using contextual, rather than quantitative data. The design process, the creation and, observations of these artifacts are considered for the qualitative research and evidence. The results were not necessarily generalizable, but were transferable.

The artifact research was done to understand the relationships between vision and touch, exploratory touch, sensual information received through touch, and what happens when a physical object considers its own haptic qualities for aesthetic and pragmatic interaction. It is important to note that with these it is the hand that is of value. Because of their scale they are tailored to the intimacy of the hand. What was learned

from the artifacts was then taken and applied to the concepts of a wall, a space, and to architecture. This was done for the sake of the body as well as the hand. Because the back will interacts differently than the hand, the feet differently than the elbow.

As an architectural investigation into Haptic Vision there was a designed addition to the Southern entrance of the link of Architecture Hall. Three programs were exercised into the design to fully investigate the potentials and limitations in consideration of the haptic dimension in architectural design.

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