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Visual Perception Of Architecture Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2064 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Architecture is a tool through which we relate ourselves to this world, we relate ourselves to time and space. This relation is made through architecture, which is experienced by our senses. If we isolate ourselves from experiencing space and time, we remove our being (the ‘I’) in this world. Architecture is the representation of self. Architecture which stimulates senses not only enhances the quality of building and space but also enhances and strengthens the whole being of humans on this earth.

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Experience of a space through our five senses change as per dominance of one particular sense. Before 16th century people just didn’t first see but smelled and heard. During renaissance there was a shift from this and the visual became the dominant sense of all and the same is prevalent till now, visual dominates over all other senses. [1] This dominance of visual can also be seen in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Heraclitus etc., how they consider eye and vision as the supreme gift for the living beings. But as Juhani Pallasma writes and describes in his book, ‘Eyes of the skin’, Tactile sense as the most significant sense of all and all the other senses including vision as its extension, and if this is true then why is visual sense so dominant ?

Architecture is highly affected by the way it has to be experienced. Dominance of a particular sense over others affects the whole architecture. Similarly, as the dominance of a sense affects architecture, loss of a particular sense also affects it. Say if a building is to be experienced by only those who are visually impaired then its architecture should reflect it. So architecture to be universally experienced by all kinds of people should be multi-sensory.

The reason for dominance could be many things. One of the examples for this dominance could be technological advancements. In the world of technology where most people spend most of the time on internet, it’s the look of a building that becomes the most important as photographs are what will be seen of it. Introduction of computer software’s which help making organic forms also in some way promotes the dominance of visual sense. So, what is the role of technology in promoting the dominance of visual sense over others?

This dissertation briefly aims to question the dominance of visual sense over other senses, and what role does architecture play in invoking the other dormant senses of human beings, or to say does it have a role to play?

To understand the dominance of visual sense and its effects on architecture, this dissertation intends to understand the Non-visual perception or blind people’s Perception of architecture because they by default don’t have this factor of visual sense. It is not that due to the lack of visual sense their other senses get amplified, but they do have a better sensual experience then a normal person. By understanding there experience we can see where we lack in providing a multi-sensory architecture. So, this brings us down to the main question which this dissertation intends to answer – How can we enhance the experience of architecture through our senses by understanding the Perception of Architecture through Non-Visual senses ( Blinds Perception of Architecture ).


How can we enhance the experience of architecture through our senses by understanding the Perception of Architecture through Non-Visual senses (Blinds Perception of Architecture).


Our experience of space and time through our senses is being polluted by the life style we follow today. Pollution and the fast running life hardly leave any experience for our senses. There is a strong need for an architecture which invokes the dormant senses and defines what a multi-sensory experience is.

A need to understand our senses (specially other four senses) and their role in connecting one with the architecture around.

Architectures role has to examine in stimulating our senses and creating buildings and space which compensate our loss of experience, due to our lifestyle or the whole city (e.g. Traffic).


This Dissertations immediate scope is concerned with studying five senses – Vision, Tactile, Olfactory, Taste and Acoustic and there role in understanding and relating one with architecture, and thus presenting the argument of the dominance of visual sense. A very limited discussion will be presented on all nineteen senses together; otherwise this dissertation will be limited to only five senses mentioned above. Perceptual aspect of Non-Visual architecture or blinds architecture falls under the scope, leaving the technical aspect of it.


Due to limited interactions with blind people and limited time period, I might not be able to do justice to the whole issue.

For case studies I intend to take help from blind students of institute for blind, take them to famous buildings in Delhi and note there experience. Thus the inferences made out of the case study will depend to certain extent on the understanding and co-operation of the people involved in the study and how well they have understood the process of study.

Covering all the questions posed above in detail won’t be possible in this limited time period. So the main question – dominance of visual sense and understanding of the non-visual perception will be covered in detail and others will be only used to complement the study.

To understand blind perception, I will go through one or two books on psychology of blind and mainly rely on summaries and reviews of the books.


A thorough and exhaustive literature survey on senses and perceptions related to Visual and Non-Visual senses and around it will be done, which will provide a data base to start the dissertation.

Defining and Classifying senses and clearly marking the five senses mentioned in the scope and understanding where they lie on the overall list of Nineteen senses and there role in experiencing architecture.

Tracing the history of senses in human beings and culture and the shifts that occurred in the dominance of one sense on another over the time and the changes that happened in architecture due to it.

Understanding blinds psychology and perception of architecture through four Non-Visual senses.

Getting the real picture of architectural perception by doing case studies and interviews (which will be a comparison and analysis of the reading of a space by a blind person and myself ) and then analysing the collected data and the real picture together to reach to the final conclusion.

Chapter II


This chapter mainly deals with the introduction of senses and perception and relates them to architecture. Defines and classifies senses and briefly traces its history through time. This then also shows the relation between senses and architecture. This chapter basically builds a base by which further argument or discussion will be understood.

II.I Senses and perception – definition

This section has definitions of sense and perception. Then it will also define the five senses which will be covered in this dissertation.

II.II Classification of senses

This chapter broadly classifies all the nineteen senses and sees where the five mentioned senses lie. What are the receptor organs of these five senses and how the whole sensory system of these five senses works.

II.III Shifts in the Dominance of senses – Brief History

This chapter briefly traces the history of senses of human beings through culture and time and shows how the dominance of one senses or the hierarchy of senses changed through time, its reason and impact on the architecture and art of that time.

II.IV Senses and architecture

This chapter relates architecture and senses and shows how architecture is experienced or perceived through our senses.

Chapter III


This chapter describes visual perception of architecture. History of visual perception through time will be briefly traced. Dominance of visual sense will be question and before that the whole argument of its dominance will be established through writings of famous philosophers, architects, artists etc.

“I exist in life only if I can see – Le Corbusier” [2] 

“I am and I remain an impenitent visual; everything is in the visual – Le Corbusier” [3] 

Peripheral vision will be described and its Importance and preference over focused vision will be highlighted, where it will be shown how peripheral vision makes the experience of a space more inclusive of all senses and focused vision exclusive.

III.I Dominance over other Senses

This section traces the history of visual sense and its dominance over other senses.

III.II Loss of Architecture

This section deals with the loss which architecture faces, by being visually experienced and not being multi-sensory.

III.III Peripheral Vision over focused Vision

Here peripheral vision is compared to focused vision and reasons for the preference of peripheral vision over focused vision will be made.



Street PerceptionG:architectureWORKfourth yrdissertationLIT SURVEYchandni_chowk.jpgG:architectureWORKfourth yrdissertationLIT SURVEY250px-The_tree_lined_Lodhi_Road,_New_Delhi.jpg

a. Chandni Chowk

b. Lodhi Estate road

Organised Eating spaceG:architectureWORKfourth yrdissertationLIT SURVEYfood-court-big.jpgG:architectureWORKfourth yrdissertationLIT SURVEYimages.jpg

Delhi Haat

Food court in a Mall

G:architectureWORKfourth yrdissertationLIT SURVEYindia_habitat_centre_exterior.jpg

Reading a Contemporary building- IHC


The main purpose of these case study and the selection of these particular spaces and buildings is to do a comparison between famous spaces or buildings under a same category in terms of their response to sensory perceptions of a visually impaired person (Blind) and Visually abled person. E.g. Chandni Chowk is a place with layers of visual images and things happening on the street in a chaotic way in comparison to Lodhi estate.

All the buildings and spaces mentioned will be studied by me and a blind person and the studies will be overlapped to see the common areas between both.


Primary study ( Study done by me – Visually abled )

Understanding the movement pattern in plan, Entrance into the building, transition from outside to inside. How do these things relate to our senses or stimulate our senses.

Analysing the elements of the space in terms of all five senses. This will include reading of textures present in the space (tactile or Visual), sound quality, and smell.

Interviewing regular visitors of that place about how they feel about the space.

Secondary Study ( Study done with the help of a blind person )

Noting how the building opens itself to a blind person in terms of its movement pattern, Entrance, etc.

Noting how a Blind person perceives the elements of the space through his Non-Visual senses.


Overlapping both the studies and seeing the overall picture of how the space responds to all our five sense, or does the visual really dominate over other senses. This will show the common areas where the perception of visually impaired and visually abled person differs or are common. This will also show how much the building is able or designed to stimulate our senses.


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