Architecture of perception : communicating meaning through phenomenological and multisensory-driven design

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Smith, Sianne Justine
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Master of Architecture (Professional)
Unitec Institute of Technology
Schnoor, Christoph
Pretty, Annabel
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Matakohe (Northland, N.Z.)
New Zealand
Kauri Museum (Matakohe, N.Z.)
museum architecture
museum design
architecture and space
Northland (N.Z.)
Smith, S. J. (2018). Architecture of perception: Communicating meaning through phenomenological and multisensory-driven design. Explantory document. An unpublished research project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture (Professional), Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.
RESEARCH QUESTION: How can phenomenological and multisensory-driven design communicate meaning in order to highlight the relevance of architecture to the wider public? The representation of architecture enables the easy dissemination of the built form to a wide audience. As a consequence, however, the public have become disengaged with the architecture of reality, and architects are perceived as being relevant to only the small portion of modern society that can afford their services. Through an architectural proposition that is driven by the theories of phenomenology and multisensory design, this project aims to reaffirm the relevance of architecture to the wider public. Phenomenology is a philosophy centred around first-person, sensory experience. The philosopher, Martin Heidegger, first correlated phenomenology with architecture in the middle of the 20th century, advocating that the built environment is understood physically, through sensory interaction. In The Eyes of the Skin, Juhani Pallasmaa argues that this aspect is being neglected in architecture of the 21st century due to the dominance prescribed to the visual sense. Pallasmaa argues that the design and making of buildings must consider all of the senses, as humans rely on this significant exchange between body and environment to understand the world and their place in it. This research project develops a design methodology based on sensory perception and the theory of phenomenology that enables qualitative, atmospheric conditions to be specifically designed for. Through engagement of all of the senses and by generating an atmosphere or mood that affects the emotions, architectural space can communicate an underlying meaning that speaks to the perception. In doing so, the design outcome emphasises architecture as a physical construct that requires human participation, as opposed to an aesthetic object. The redesign of the Kauri Museum, located in the small town of Matakohe in Northland, New Zealand, provides the site and program for this investigation. By incorporating the developed methodology, the design outcome conveys a deeper meaning through its architectural space that supports the overall kōrero of the building – the ongoing story of the kauri tree.
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