Initial Understanding of Architecture

Over the course of numerous years, my travels have taken me to various destinations, offering glimpses into history through the lens of architecture both before and after my formal education in the field. However, the true transformation in my perspective emerged during my architectural journey, redefining the way I perceive and experience the spaces that surround me. The sheer scope of buildings and their intricate details struck me, leading me to contemplate the design and engineering mastery that spans centuries. This initial revelation marked the boundaries of my architectural perception. It was when I delved into the world of design that a profound shift occurred. No longer confined to my eyes, my mind and curiosity expanded to encompass all senses, allowing me to delve deeply into spaces and experience them more profoundly with each encounter.

While architecture might be perceived by many as a physical concept governed by the laws of physics and three dimensions, enthusiasts understand that space transcends these limitations, offering a multisensory experience. Our perception of space involves more than just visual information; it’s a symphony of sensations. Visuals are the first to enter our minds, but the scent of a space is equally influential, shaping our feelings and manipulating memories. Acoustics, the materials we can touch, and even the use of light play pivotal roles, collectively contributing to our overall perception of a place.

A Case Study: Notre-Dame Cathedral

  Consider a place of worship, a realm where crucial design decisions are made to instil a sense of sanctity. As an illustration The Notre-Dame Cathedral is renowned for its awe-inspiring design, which purposefully creates a distinct atmosphere, evoking a sense of sanctity and reverence. The design elements work harmoniously; upon entering, there’s a deliberate attempt to make one feel smaller, emphasizing the sacredness of the space.  The soaring vaulted ceilings, intricate Gothic details, and expansive nave collectively contribute to a visual spectacle that emphasizes the sacredness of the space. Acoustics, devoid of technological support, carry sound across great distances, creating a profound effect. The use of light within the Notre-Dame Cathedral is another crucial design criterion. 

A Metamorphosis of Sensation-Sheet1
“exterior, western frontispiece, north portal”_

  The stained-glass windows, strategically placed to capture and diffuse light, create a play of colours and shadows that adds to the ethereal atmosphere. The materials used, from the aged stone of the structure to the wooden pews, offer tactile elements that further enhance the overall sensory experience. Hence, the Notre-Dame Cathedral serves as an illustrative example of how architectural decisions, including scale, acoustics, light, and materials, work in harmony to distinguish it as a sacred place of worship. It exemplifies the multisensory nature of architecture, transcending mere physical constraints to create a space that engages all senses and leaves a lasting impression on those who enter.

A Metamorphosis of Sensation-Sheet2
“interior, north transept elevation and rose window”_

Outside Conventional Perception

   Beyond the traditional senses, my newfound appreciation for architecture extends to the vestibular sense, governing movement and balance, and proprioception, dictating body position. These senses play a crucial role in our spatial awareness, allowing us to recognize how the arrangement of elements within a space influences our movement and sense of equilibrium. It’s a harmonious dance between architecture and body dynamics. 

   Our bodies naturally document the interactions we have with the space and materials around us. Have you ever considered how your body instinctively moves sideways when passing through a narrow space or effortlessly climbs each step of a staircase without consciously calculating the height or width? This is because our bodies inherently manage these movements for us. When using stairs, our bodies estimate the steps we’ll take without conscious thought, as it becomes a consecutive and automated action. As a result, designers align the spaces and everyday objects with these natural expectations. For instance, the riser’s height, the vertical surfaces between the treads of a staircase, should be uniform. Any abrupt change in height could disrupt the natural flow of movement, potentially leading to safety issues or accidents. The same principle applies to the ratio between a tread and a riser. When designing a staircase, designers consider the average human foot and establish a range of dimensions. Since we typically use one foot first, and the other naturally follows, one tread should be spacious enough for one foot, and the riser’s height should accommodate the step seamlessly. This movement occurs in both the horizontal (x) and vertical (z) planes. Therefore, the tread we step into should not be excessively long, ensuring a smooth and safe foot placement. Nosing, a design element used for both aesthetics and providing a broader surface, is typically limited to 3cm to maintain functionality. In essence, understanding and respecting the natural movements of the human body is crucial in creating designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also safe and functional. Understanding the space we occupy and recognizing how our bodies interact within that space is a fundamental aspect when venturing into the realm of design. 

This sensory revolution not only enriched my architectural understanding but also fostered a heightened connection with the spaces I inhabit. Every step becomes deliberate, and every experience unfolds as a symphony of sensations, leading me to embark on my architectural journey with a profound mindfulness. This journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of design and its profound impact on our perception of the world. 


Lara Tikenogullari, a wandering mind immersed in the infinite subtleties of architecture, seeks to explore and share the intricate delights with fellow architects and those who embrace a common love. This journey will host myriad discussions, not only about the field of architecture in terms of design but also its relationship with humanity, time, history, and so much more.