Architecture is a field that is coherently dependent on the environment in which it manifests. The power of visualizing and sensing these interrelated spaces is what architecture as a holistic program aims for.
Stefan Behling, a senior executive partner in Foster+Partner, leads the team’s practice into sustainable design and innovative, newer material research. His talk at Goodenough College was an inspiring revelation. The talk focussed on the promising arrangement of stimulation and its changing quotas based on architecture and spatial organization. With a strong background in environmental analysis, computational design, and fabrication, Stefan Behling has always designed with the implication of how humans would feel and connect with space.

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Introduction to CIA studies and surveys_©TEDx Talks| Stefan Behling on

As stated in his speech, architecture truly has the capabilities to change the world and its perception. It is in for a long haul and would survive the sands of time. This advantage of such a diplomatic field needs to be used in a resourceful manner that would establish the interrelation between humans, the built environment, and nature.

Considering architecture as the bridge between people and spaces, it becomes essential to view and fabricate a realm of understanding and stimulation of senses. Stefan Behling speaks about this connection and how we can trace our sensory power for stimulating any feeling based on the context we surround ourselves in.

The talk is briefed on how we can connect architecture with ourselves and how to evolve from that. Stefan then moves into tracing an early outline through various examples and visuals. He begins by connecting the evolution of human civilization and yet how time has not affected the similar sensory feelings we still carry with ourselves. The ideology is to create an environment that is suitable for all. Buildings are designed to serve mankind in a balanced manner, however, the current scenario shows more of a disconnect between nature and humans.

The reference of different variables in everyday lives speaks about the uniqueness and difference each person has. Stefan points out that what we are currently losing ourselves into is not being able to set apart the good and bad environment that we work in. It is necessary to create stimulation of their sense to distinguish an environment to increase the rate of productivity within that context. He goes on to explain his ideology with various examples and surveys and his research to base a neutral ground before leading with his argument. One of the examples set in front of the audience was that of the survey conducted by the CIA that focussed on physical test survey and its results that showed the theorem of how sensory feelings would vary based on their surroundings. 

The key argumentative fact stated by Behling was on how the modern world is cooped indoors and is caught in the so-called ‘Artificial Environment‘. The evolution of the artificial environment has been predominantly seen since World War and what can be made of it, is monotonous, rigid, unhealthy living conditions. The black box as stated was used as a bunker in World War as a key feature, a space with no ventilation, no nature, connected only to become a monotonous solid “box” that could replicate to provide more bunkers. A multipurpose volume that is suppressed with only mechanical vents for the supply of air became a stated comparison to how people would feel in a submarine. 

This emphasis on bland and sealed living mentioned by Behling is compared to its heavy influence in our workplace. Most of our high-rise offices seem to be inspired by this. The ideology that has shaped the current scenario best describes a sealed environment. The closer we got to the metaphor of ‘reaching to the clouds’, the farther we moved from nature. 

Another important aspect he brought to the light was the heavy usage of AC and mechanical ventilation. The pressured air that circulates within the sealed environment is continuously sucked through vents and later on pumped into purifiers and pipes and this is what disguises as fresh air, which has led to a serious issue and concern for global warming.

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Current scenario about offices and their stimulation senses_© TEDx Talks| Stefan Behling on

Stefan Behling summarizes his provocative thoughts and puts forward his argumentative statement on why we are creating such places that are not only bad but rather producing adverse effects. (Behling, 2016)

Perceiving the Spatial Fields by The Power of the Senses and Its Changing Variable

Coming back to the idea of how to stimulate, Behling notions to the study of human physiology and psychology. Each individual is different with different sensory factors, this requirement of an individual is what basis the stimulation in their mind. The talk then focuses on how the introduction of aesthetics tells us to judge any environment we surround ourselves in that needs to be judged by all our senses. 

Behling has a unique identity that when he speaks, he uses exemplary examples as a comparison to our daily lives. Similarly, he compares nature and how its essence varies similarly to humankind. 

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Stimulation on senses study_©TEDx Talks| Stefan Behling on
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Experimental software creation to understand stimulation in human minds TEDx Talks| Stefan Behling on

As he progresses with his research, he highlights some of the projects they have worked upon. A simple healthcare centre in Manchester displays the visual and connects with nature to create a natural, outdoorsy and earthy feel to the overall building. Next, including some of their seemingly different takes on creating stimulation. The project included ideas for spaces on the moon and mars. Space science was something different from their initial ideas and allowed the company to work with sciences, said Behling. 

Architects and scientists together could understand the advantages stimulation could bring to space. He also briefed on how the company has looked into emotional mapping, building newer software to map stimulants. All of his study and research led to the newest project, Apple Park. “Right back to basics” as he states was to create a perfect environment to encourage creativity and enhance productivity. (Behling, 2016) 

The design was to break the barriers of the office stigma to create a natural realm transparent building that unites the park around into one. The ideology to infer from is to reduce energy proactive machine living.

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Apple Park, Designed by Foster+Partner, California _©TEDx Talks| Stefan Behling on

He ends his oration by advising the fellow audience to feel the space in which they survive. Stimulate the place to distinguish if it’s a bad or good environment. His talk can be described as a source of enlightenment to understand sensory emotions and architecture. To any novice who is trying to understand how to break the stigma of a monotonous space, his talk purposefully does that. Using visual aids and palpable examples, his talk can easily penetrate the minds of the young architects.
His enlightening talk mostly reminds us of how to stay connected to our roots and origin with modernism at its peak; it becomes an absolute must to see and understand the kind of feelings and senses we embrace in a space. Stefan Behling puts on a show that displays the intensive research and understanding from the human origin to what we can control by architecture and how we could reshape it for a better future.

TEDx Talks. (2016). Architecture and the Science of the Senses | Stefan Behling | TEDxGoodenoughCollege. [YouTube Video]. Available at: [Accessed: 08/ 05/ 2021].


VismithaYaji is an aspiring designer and a writer who is currently working in the field of Architecture & Design. She has recently decided to put her passion for writing on the front stage and has been contributing to many on-going competitions and anthologies. Being an ardent fan of motivational quotes, poetry, and designing, she is often seen questioning the current trends in a divergent and unique fashion.She enjoys a philosophical approach to life and is keen on learning and developing new skills. Being a person who has traveled and has often shifted from place to place, she has been able to explore and appreciate various cultures and lifestyles. She enjoys traveling, sketching,anything related to music or movies, and once in a while the rare opportunities of photography. Her approach towards writing is inspired by life and its unexpected turn of events. Most of her works in any field, whichever it may be reflects these ideologies and beliefs. She pushes herself to discover newer approaches in the field of design and create modernistic conclusions.