Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sensory Urbanism Proceedings

This book contains papers from the January 2008 conference, Sensory Urbanism, held by the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. This conference was part of the Designing for the 21st Century Initiative project: 'Multimodal Representation of Urban Space'. This project is funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC). I am on the advisory board of this project. Papers deal with issues surrounding the sensory perception of urban design and how to design better for all the senses. The book is illustrated throughout, and contains 26 papers from fields including architecture, urban design, environmental psychology, urban design, planning, sound design and more.

"Representing space is not only a long-standing challenge to the arts but is also a major task in the planning process for buildings, cities, and many other products. This particularly applies to the "Urban Renaissance" of our days with its emphasis on public places.

Space – more than the surrounding objects or buildings – seems to demand to be represented not only visually, as it is not only determined by the visible surrounding objects, but also by sound and smell which are literally "in the air", and by an integrated multimodal body experience which is related to the space itself. Nevertheless, spaces, especially urban spaces in planning processes, are today usually only represented in a visual manner.

The major hypothesis of our project is that much better results for convenient and appealing urban spaces could be achieved if all sensory factors were acknowledged and controlled during the design process. There is no doubt about the multimodal quality of urban space – it always appeals to all senses. For example the most beautifully designed public square is destroyed if a noisy and odorous motorway is nearby, and not much would be left of the special atmosphere of the Piazza della Fontana di Trevi in Rome if the sound and coolness deriving from the running water was missing. All these factors are usually poorly represented (if considered at all) during the design process, but such an appropriate representation could help create better public spaces.

How might such an appropriate representation of the multimodal qualities of urban space be achieved during the design process? Depending on this general question several sub-questions emerge: How can space be represented in general? What means of representing space have already been developed? What kind of design control could be achieved if the multimodal qualities of spaces were also included into the design process? What kind of creativity might be evoked by using methods of multimodal space representation? What affordable and practical technologies might be used in common design processes for spaces?"

For more information contact:

Dr Raymond Lucas
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Architecture
University of Strathclyde
Room G28, Architecture Building
131 Rottenrow
Glasgow, G4 0NG

The Sensory Notation Handbook will be available soon, with the first edition detailing the notational system and providing 30 case studies from Rome, Tokyo and Boston. An expanded edition of 50 studies - including Glasgow and Edinburgh will follow.

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I am exploring a hybrid form of art and design practice through the use of computer-based design and fabrication tools. I am interested in experimental objects and spaces that are dynamic and responsive and seek to challenge perceptions, expectations and established behavior.

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