The art of reading buildings

As the creation process unfolds, imagination engages the artist in his work, creating an engagement to it. Starting with an idea, the building’s story unfolds with various aspects and peculiar details. Architects create the narrative with diverse spaces to experience the building and surroundings, allowing users to translate, reinvent, and become part of what is happening. A building crafted by imagination, thought, and various techniques create a narrative and an image that portray the idea of belonging. The factors to consider while designing the building are construction techniques, the use of sustainable materials, and the understanding of climate-responsive approaches.

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The play in architecture_©Shah, P. (2020). Poetic Play.

Architecture and the craft of reading buildings

The designing process includes a variety of elements that are all connected and equally important individually. The way in which the building is approached, the way the light creates ambience, the scale and proportion of the building in relation to its user, and the way it is placed in its context all create a drama to be experienced. Through the use of space, enclosure, and structure, the architecture is explained. Our senses are enhanced by various thresholds and transitions designed to pause us and make us feel the surroundings. The transitions hold an element of curiosity moulded to form platforms, podiums, and spaces for people to observe the building. The narration of the building starts from an ambiguous concept transforming it into a liveable space with required functions and aesthetics. 

The experience of the building consists of perception and sensory elements designed to evoke the sense of the place for the user. Built form is connected to its context, and it is not an isolated entity. The context consists of specific styles, beliefs, and cultures interpreted in art forms, surviving in history. Architectural built form is the movement of surprises, views of surroundings, the spatial play of functions, sustainable materials, and natural light hitting the built form. Studies have shown that the environment influences the way we think and act. Throughout the 21st century, we have been so focused on form-making that we have neglected the needs of the user and connectivity to the environment, which causes us to have a poor sense of space. Blurring the lines between inside and outside generates a play of light and shadow. Sustainable materials should be the future of architecture. A semi-open space with sufficient natural light connected to the environment is created by understanding the climate and designing with the sun’s direction in mind. This helps to create shaded and cosy spaces. A living environment and experience are created when inside meets outside. Later cities can be planned in such a way as to create the magic of green cities using sustainable materials, usable streets, and places for people to gather, meet and greet.

New era construction techniques

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Aguahoja I (2018)_©The Mediated Matter Group

An understanding of how the methods and the materials relate is necessary for the construction of a building. Various technology solutions such as 3D printing, precast building components, and interactive designs were utilized in order to create a building using advanced technological understanding. Architect Neri Oxman applies computational knowledge to design across disciplines, media, and scales, from micro to macro, via her research on computational design, digital fabrication, materials science, and synthetic biology. A primary goal of Oxman’s is to implement design principles inspired and engineered by Nature in the creation of new design technologies that enhance the relationship between built, natural, and biological environments.

Understanding it through the architectural experience of Therme Vals – Peter Zumthor

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Spa, Therme Vals_©

“Mountain, stone, water – building in the stone, building with the stone, into the mountain, building out of the mountain, being inside the mountain – how can the implications and the sensuality of the association of these words be interpreted architecturally?” Peter Zumthor.

Therme Vals has been designed with simplicity through the material and an elegant form to provide a sensory experience. The Spa/Baths were designed by Peter Zumthor and opened in 1996 before the existing hotel complex existed. In essence, the project involved building a cave or quarry-like structure. Under a grass roof structure half-buried into the hillside, the bathrooms blend in with the natural surroundings. There are many layers of Valser Quarzite slabs composing the Therme Vals. 

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Sensory experience, Therme Vals_©

Design inspiration came from this stone, which was treated with great respect and dignity. Guests can enjoy the antique advantages of bathing in this space designed to help them relax and enjoy a relaxing experience. Combining light and shade, open spaces and enclosed areas, and linear elements yields an intensely sensual and restorative experience. Essentially, the interior space has an informal layout that follows a carefully modelled path of circulation, leading bathers to predetermined points while letting them explore other areas on their own. In constructing the landscape, the architect was primarily influenced by his fascination with the magical qualities of stones within the mountain, with darkness and light, with light reflections on water or in the steam saturated air, with the unique acoustics of the bubbling water, with feelings of bare skin and warm stones, and with bathing rituals. 

Their intent to engage with these elements, consciously implement them and give them a special shape was evident from the beginning. The stone rooms were designed to accommodate the human form, not compete with it. They give room to the human form, regardless of age or gender, and a place for it to live.

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Therme Vals_©


  1. ArchDaily. 2022. The Therme Vals / Peter Zumthor. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 5 June 2022].
  2. D&#39; Angelo, M., 2022. Neri Oxman Takes Her Interdisciplinary MoMA Exhibition Online. [online] Architect. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 June 2022].
  3. 2022. ARCHITECTURE REFERENCES – Therme Vals, by Peter Zumthor. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 5 June 2022].
  4. MIT Media Lab. 2022. Person Overview ‹ Neri Oxman – MIT Media Lab. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 5 June 2022].

An observant Architect and wandering soul who captures the tales of poetic experiences through writing. She is a traveler by heart who explores the essence through understanding the relationship between people and places with sensitivity, as she believes “Architecture is an extension of one’s life “