The Lived Experience of Architecture

Craig Tait, Architect, September 2018.

As we prepare to open our studio at Edinburgh’s Doors Open Day, we are reminded of the value of experiencing the spaces in our city in person.

“It is pleasurable to press a door handle shining from the thousands of hands that have entered the door before us; the clean shimmer of ageless wear has turned into an image of welcome and hospitality. The door handle is the handshake of the building. The tactile sense of connects us with time and tradition: through impressions of touch we shake the hands of countless generations.”

Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of The Skin, Architecture and the Senses

We live within a continuous stream of visual information that prioritises the ‘image’. As Juhani Pallasmaa highlights in his book The Eyes of the Skin, the hegemony of sight and its command over other fields of cultural production acts to distance us from our environment and our participation via lived experience. As with other forms of expression, ideas of form and image dominate the architectural profession. However, Pallamsaa’s writings remind us of the importance of physically connecting with architecture by placing ourselves within its environment and opening our senses to its influence.

Since classical times, the human body has been the measure of architecture; the careful design of proportion establishing an anthropometric reference between ourselves and our world, seeking to create harmony between our body and the places that we create. Like film, our appreciation of architecture is a fully immersive experience that asks us to engage with each of our senses and often encourages an emotional or behavioral response. Good places resonate with the craftsmanship of their making and the environments they create positively affect our wellbeing and sense of our self. We can only really know a building, or place, by inhabiting the spaces that they create. Architecture is something that cannot be appreciated by a static image alone.

So open that door, and your senses, to discover a place that makes a difference to you.