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The Sensuous Journey

Part 1 Dissertation 2001
Sam Williams
University of Plymouth | UK

This essay is concerned with a perceived loss of the ‘sensory’ from contemporary life and architecture, it is a reaction to what Juhani Pallasmaa calls Retinal Architecture in his essay entitled “An Architecture of the Seven Senses.” . That is to say architecture as reduced to a mere object for pleasing the eye rather than architecture to enliven the senses and provide enriching experiences. It deals in the early stages with understanding what factors are involved in a sensory consideration, and elucidates some of the possible reasons for its loss. It then goes on to consider the human body as a sensory organ, our sensory organ, in the world. It will introduce the idea of the body as a participatory element within this world and its ability to order our experience of place. It further deals with the dominance of vision over the other senses and the consequent bias in cognition. The culmination of the first part of the essay considers both Wabi – Sabi and Pallasmaa’s haptic architecture as responses to the current situation. It will discuss the value of these responses in terms of encouraging the subject to ‘connect’ with the space. The second part of the essay forms a phenomenological account of how I have experienced place in an attempt to gain some insight into how a consideration of the sensuous could lead to a greater depth of architectural experience. It deals both with the participation of the senses in experiencing ‘place’ and personal responses to architectural situations such as designing from the body outward, nature as a source of inspiration and the value of a space just off the beaten track.

Sam Williams

During the past academic year this student has co-ordinated the investigations within his design project work with those of the dissertation as part of a strategy to develop a coherent and ‘experientially’ founded architectural position. The student’s maturity of approach led him to recognise that a study of the areas of architectural theory concerned with corporeality, and in particular the work of Merleau-Ponty, was a key element in bringing this plan to fruition. The dissertation is being nominated primarily because the student has been successful in this aim and has demonstrated a high level of ability in synthesising complex subject material from a number of primary sources. In particular the thesis demonstrates a level of critical awareness that enables it to deal enthusiastically, clearly and objectively with a difficult and at times opaque subject matter. As a result I look forward to directing future students who are interested in the subject toward the dissertation in the knowledge that they will encounter an enjoyable, thorough and timely account.

Anthony Aldrich

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