Picture this – you walk into a room with a mega water feature in the center and beautiful greenery all around. You can smell flowers and the sweet scent of plants along with a feeling of wonderful tranquillity in the air. The sound of water relaxes you further and the greenery soothes your anxiety and stress. Your eyes then wander around the fabrics used in the room which feel smooth and polished. This is a multisensory design approach that is created to appeal to not just your eyes, but other non-visual senses including hearing, smell, touch and even taste.
Architectural practices have always been dominated by sight, but recently there has been a shift where architects and designers have started to consider other senses namely sound, touch, smell and even taste in some rare occasions. Multisensory architectural design makes sense. It tries to harmonize with the perceiver and works on the principle that all the senses are indispensable. Majority of the world’s population lives in urban areas and spend around 95% of their time indoors and it is necessary to create a design that promotes our health and well-being by taking into consideration the impact of various senses on a building’s inhabitants.
The traditional approach of designing for the eye not just suppresses other senses but it detaches people from the relationship with their environment. Multisensory architectural design changes that. It helps you perceive the world through a sum of all the human senses. It is helping create urban spaces that do a better job of promoting our social, cognitive and emotional development rather than hindering it.
Multisensory experience is essential as it engages us from all directions. By not being confined to one sense or sensation, such an interior design can be absolutely nourishing. And since senses are unique to every person, with one sense overpowering the other, designers and architects have the opportunity to appeal to different people with different design cues.
Multisensory design approach isn’t just for rebelling against the traditional sight approach or to enhance health and well-being. It is inclusive in nature. Sensory abilities change over time and by addressing multiple senses, architects and designers can support the diversity of human condition. Multisensory architectural design is a way to embrace human diversity and inclusivity by accommodating a range of physical and mental abilities for people of all ages. Architecture can elicit strong emotions. It can be soothing just like it can be threatening. Some spaces can comfort us whereas some can intimidate us. Multisensory design can be stimulating and when done in the right way can be enriching and create memorable everyday experiences. It can shape our behavior, emotions, truth, and most importantly, us.