Experiencing the Home: Sensory Deprivation


Source: The Eye of the Camera by Dziga Vertov 1929. The technologised world of today has led to the dominance of the visual sense at the expense of all other senses.Source: The Eye of the Camera by D. Vertov 1929. Today’s technologised world has led to the dominance of the visual sense at the expense of all other senses.

Historically the home offers respite, comfort, fellowship and intimacy. But in the midst of the recent and rapid technological advancements of our culture, there is concern for the homes of today becoming void of experience. The increasing desire for aesthetically-appealing architecture in addition to the mass production of visual imagery has created an imbalance in how our sensory systems experience life and therefore buildings, with a strong bias towards the ocular sense at the expense of the four other senses. This point is fervently argued by Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa who blames the current industrial mass production of images for depriving architecture of emotional involvement and identification (1). Think of the images used in lifestyle magazines or housing brochures. Perfectly framed photos of flawless houses; spotless kitchens without a cup out of place; strategically placed pillows on perfectly kempt bed linen; essentially showroom houses void of life. And yet the dominance of vision has resulted in this unobtainable way of living appealing to us far more than it should. Whilst the visual sense does provide a richness of sorts, on its own it is limited and holds the viewer at a distance. It is deprived of human interaction and experience.  If considered alone, we settle for something far less than what is on offer, inherent beauty and atmosphere lose their authority.

Without change, if we fail to appreciate a space for anything more than its visual appeal, what we historically know to be the home is in fear of disappearing, leaving only an empty house in its place, void of identity and emotion. In light of the full-sensory deprivation suffered in our technologised world, Pallasmaa leads the call for architects of today to re-discover our neglected senses; to design for more than just appearance. In the midst of the London housing crisis, where floor area is at a premium, there is all the more need to design ‘multi-sensory’ homes- housing that appeals for more than just its square footage and its aesthetic qualities.

The next post in this series considers the direct outworking of our over-reliance of the visual sense in today’s society.

1. Juhani Pallasmaa (1996). The Eyes of the Skin. Academy. p22