Sensuous Structures

This was an exhibition that I curated and produced about the nature of our sensory experience of our environment.  All of the contributors submitted some of their work to show their approach and awareness of the ability of architectural decisions and designs to affect our senses.  Key theorists in this field are Juhani Pallassmaa and Steven Holl, but it is my belief that to a greater or lesser extent, good architecture involves not only the creation of sustainable shelter fit for purpose but also to engage the human spirit at a sensory level.  A lot of thought and work went into this, and there is a publication and a cd catalogue showcasing some of the work of the participants.

SENSUOUS STRUCTURES

  • CiCi BLUMSTEIN
  • TCA
  • CHRISTO and Jeanne-Claude
  • Balkrishna DOSHI
  • DURBACH BLOCK
  • Franck and FRANCK
  • Neville GABIE
  • Herman HERTZBERGER
  • Susanne HOFMANN
  • Steven HOLL
  • Martin MØLLER
  • Juhani PALLASMAA
  • Ian RITCHIE
  • Paolo SOLERI
  • Michael SORKIN
  • TESTCARD
  • Ushida FINDLAY

A PROJECT BY CONRAD MARGOLES

INTRODUCTION

SENSUOUS STRUCTURES is an exhibition of artists’ and architects’ work which will go on show in January 2002 for four weeks, at the Herron Gallery, School of Architecture, University of East London.  The idea is bigger than the exhibition alone.  Never before has the work of these artists, architects and authors been brought together to explore this most profound aspect of our experience of places and spaces.  This catalogue is intended as the glue to tie the very different works together.  Putting the work together in a single document creates a powerful call for greater attention and awareness to our sensory experience of our environment – so that we may be more ‘present’ to our environments and the responsibility and joy we have in creating, designing and experiencing them.

The participants’ work is all about exploring the multi-sensory experience of our environment, and challenging the hegemony of the visual ‘style byte’.

The project has pedagogical intentions for both the participants and the visitors to the exhibition, so that we may learn more profoundly from each other and dig below the surface of the work.

This project brings together diverse ways in which artists and architects design for the possibility that places have of allowing us to imagine, dream, and feel … places designed for the senses.  Many practitioners and academics are working on and with the ideas that the programme and the “look” or visual appearance are not everything.  This project is unique in bringing together their diverse work in a single forum to explore what, how and why this work is powerful – what makes it important, how to recognise it, is there a link between it, and so on.  It is not a style, there is no simple “ism” to attach to it.  It takes immense courage to trust our human intuition and instinct, when our training and our thinking is to be rational and reason with linear logic, (that allows the simplest paradigms to rule).

The power given to the visual sense deprives our other senses and leaves us unfulfilled, creating a world where Houston = Sydney = London = Kuala Lampur = Johannesburg etc.  What about our haptic sense whereby we know the world?  What about the differences, particularities and details that make each place unique, which connect people to place in profound ways and allow us to be present, to feel alive, which increases our sense of being in a place, and being human?

The participants to the exhibition (and this catalogue) are not the finite list of people who work with these ideas as a priority.  There are many others who, due to work pressures and the short time frame in which this project has been put together have been unable to participate, but whose work has been a profound influence.  I am certain that you could well think of people whose work would easily fit into this project.  The powerful idea is to see this as a profound movement towards a fulfilling and humanistically centred created and built environment.  Participants in this project include CiCi Blumstein, tca, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Balkrishna Doshi, Durbach Block, Franck and Franck, Neville Gabie, Herman Hertzberger, Susanne Hofmann, Steven Holl, Martin Møller, Juhani Pallasmaa, Ian Ritchie, Paolo Soleri, Michael Sorkin, Testcard and Ushida Findlay. 

This project is a heartfelt, joyous celebration about the sensory and emotional power of our built environment.  The project is put together out of a passion for the subject and a belief that it is a necessary path to follow if our built environments are to fulfil their potential in enriching the human spirit, and being profoundly sustainable – in the broadest sense.

Conrad Margoles
5 Alder Lodge, River Gardens, 73 Stevenage Road, London, SW6 6NP, UK
tel/fax: +44 (0) 20 7381 8977    e mail: margoles@tesco.net