Storytelling is integral. Humans are wired to learn, connect, and emote through stories. Over centuries, generations have distilled the qualities of good storytelling into disciplines that span the literary, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic pockets of art and technology. Architecture, always an amalgamation of the creative and the routine, has become a torchbearer for ‘spatial storytelling’. 

This kind of storytelling calls for keen observation, introspection, and retrospection. These skills assist the creator and viewer in imagining new tales and recollecting the old. Each space becomes a chapter, a piece of the story coming together to form a cohesive whole. And like any good story, architecture, through its scale, materials, details and more, chooses its moments to shine, fade into the background, or provide respite from daily life. 

The question, however, is this: If all the world’s a story, how is architecture telling it?

Setting The Context For Spatial Storytelling

Period, place, philosophy – these create a solid foundation for every story. They provide insights into the various overlapping facets of context that deeply affect storytelling and, by extension, architectural expression. 

Every region in every era and phase of philosophical and cultural change has seen alterations in social and spatial needs, environmental conditions, resource and material availability, and technology. These individual contextual attributes weave uniquely tangible tales for generations to recall and reconnect and for the outside world to experience. 

All The World’s A Story-Sheet1
General view of World’s Fair of Paris, 1889 [Framed Lithograph]_
The Eiffel Tower, constructed in 1889 to showcase industrial prowess and advancement in iron and steel technology, was the main attraction of the World’s Fair in Paris. Over decades, it has been woven into the country’s cultural fabric and is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions. 

By creating spaces that contrastingly – vehemently and quietly – establish the beliefs, traditions, needs, aspirations, systems, and economic and political conditions, architecture goes beyond our primal need for shelter and aims to achieve a loftier goal – of gradually building cultural memory. 

Recognising The Characters

No story would make sense without characters. In the case of spatial storytelling, users of the space become the protagonists. Their activities, lifestyles, and requirements dictate the functionality, and their personalities and choices dictate the aura. Over time, new elements, constant wear and tear, renovation or rework, or even change in use add layers to this already complex tapestry. This development of the “Man-Architecture Relationship” isn’t limited to built environments. Open spaces, public spaces, and even streets evolve with people who use them. 

But in a rapidly interconnected and possibly homogenising world, is there scope for architecture to stay unique? Yes! Even when overarching ideas follow the same theme, the textures, the execution, and the details can make a world of difference. For example, the last decade has seen global design sensibilities move toward sustainability. However, climatic conditions, vernacular knowledge, tried-and-tested construction methodologies, and even logistics like shipping still dictate what is considered sustainable in each region.

Athangudi tiles are handmade from locally sourced materials and are energy-efficient in their manufacturing. While their production is labour-intensive, in a country like India with low costs of labour, such tiles automatically become a viable, sustainable option.

All The World’s A Story-Sheet2
Sreenag Pictures, The Kanchipuram House by Uncut Design Lab featuring Athangudi tiles_

Understanding The Plot

Designing, at its heart, is problem-solving. It is the process of intentionally and objectively crafting a solution that improves the quality of life in some way. When discussing architecture, spatial storytelling and designing involves researching, conceptualising, planning, ideating, editing, revising, prototyping and finally constructing a space that uplifts its users and supports them in achieving their goals. Therefore, with spatial storytelling, the plot, the content, the story – whatever you call it – is about curating the best life for the intended protagonists of the built and unbuilt environments. 

‘Tiny Offices’, a project developed by Design Invertuals in collaboration with Chris Collaris Architects for holiday park operator Droomparken in the Netherlands, is a prime example of the ingenuity of design solutions. These compact offices feature a large window, a comfortable day bed, and a functional, intimate, and cosy workspace. Predictably, this project found itself in the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic. While designed before the pandemic hit, this project reflected the increasing desire to step outside and still stay safe. 

All The World’s A Story-Sheet3
‘Tiny Offices’ developed by Design Invertuals_

Measuring The Impact

With built and unbuilt environments constantly shaping human life, it is no surprise that architecture seriously impacts human psychology. So much so that the call for human-centric architecture based on architectural psychology or ‘psychitecture’ is consistently growing louder. 

UNStudio’s vision to create the world’s smartest neighbourhood is an example of designing with community and architectural impact at its heart. The Brainport Smart District will be home to residential, recreational, and business spaces designed to ensure better health, ease of transportation, energy efficiency, and even circular technology. 

All The World’s A Story-Sheet4
Brainport Smart District envisioned by UNStudio_

On an individual level, spatial storytelling can positively stimulate our neurological systems, elevate moods, improve self-esteem, and even enhance productivity or relaxation. 

On a communal level, architecture can improve safety and security against crime and disasters, reduce alienation or isolation, stimulate connection with others and nature, and even help regulate health. Spatial storytelling is also a means to maintain or improve age-old living systems or innovate new ones to further the sense of community and build a better, greener future.

But that is not all. Architecture helps forge cultural identities, exhibit strength, unity and pride, and boost economies. The Lotus Temple in Delhi tells the story of one such architectural marvel that brings together people of all faiths under one roof. 

All The World’s A Story-Sheet5
Futo-Tussauds, The Lotus Temple in Delhi_

When looking back at the saga of human existence, the impact of architecture is unquestionable. At every turn, the history of the world has revealed itself through elements and moments of spatial storytelling. 

And this trend will endure. Generations to come will subconsciously learn of their immediate ancestors through the spaces they inhabit; they will stand in awe of the heights reached by the people who came before them, the ones who toiled to innovate and improve their lives; they will empathise and work together with those who stand with them; and they will continue to strive for a better world for those after. 


Architecture (2023) What are some examples of context-driven architecture that inspire you?, How Context-Driven Architecture Inspires Us. Available at:,express%20their%20identity%20and%20values. 

Cajsa Carlson |1 September 2020 Leave a comment (2021) Dutch Invertuals designs tiny offices from corrugated aluminium plates, Dezeen. Available at: 

Devale, A. (2021) Co-relation between users and architecture they inhabit. – RTF: Rethinking the future, RTF | Rethinking The Future. Available at: 

Margarete (2018) 1# architectural psychology: The influence of architecture on our Psyche, Medium. Available at: 

Patil, M. (2021) 10 Ways Architecture Impacts Society – RTF: Rethinking the future, RTF | Rethinking The Future. Available at: