Monthly Archives: November 2010

Modern Age … New Demographics

Development on the concerns of design for the elderly;

  • It should be transgenerational
  • Patronization isn’t going to work
  • It shouldn’t segregate the generation from others
  • It’s not designing for the elderly, it’s designing for the larger market!

To get a better understanding of the generational differences in society I worked on a visual profile of each demographic:

Baby Boomers

The Sunshine Teens

These profiles allow me to design for the elderly by designing for everyone, the old want to be the young and the young want to be young forever! Everyone feels the same way towards aging and designing specifically for the elderly generation singles out that group when all they want is to be integrated in society.

From the profile of The Sunshine Teens  I will be able to project an estimated profile for their future – as our future oldies! Their needs, concerns and wants will become the basis of my design for the adaptable, changeable growing comunity that I proposed for my intial RSA Modern age project.


The language of space and place in terms of experience.

Brian Lawson’s main purpose in his overview, ‘The Language of Space’ is – as the title states – a study into the language of space as a form of communication that usually unbeknown to us we use more often throughout our lives. “When we walk into a room, others are reading this spatial language long before we speak” (Lawson, 2001). The book explores the different perceptions of space, in terms of human spatial behaviour; the relationships that develop through space, the rituals, attitudes and territories that inhabit our spaces and how these factors define a space as a place. It is the relationship that develops through the emotional responses to space that I shall concentrate my study on.

Throughout the book Lawson often refers to the statement;

“Whatever space and time mean, place and occasion mean more. For space in the image of man is place, and time in the image of man is occasion.” (Aldo van Eyck, 1962)

It is the inhabitants of space that in turn create the idea of place, through their action, routine and experience of the space. Although we as designers can expand and develop these spaces in order to honour these behaviours.

Lawson goes onto explain that the experience of place isn’t always as easy to communicate as one may think. People no doubt are clear about how a space can make them feel – either good or bad – but the reasons for these feelings are harder to express. Often the easiest way to describe their emotions towards a place is by comparison to another similar atmospheric place.

To understand this emotional response to space Lawson suggests that we must recognize the characteristics of a space that people use to perceive and make an assessment of their surroundings. Asking this as a simple question – How does this space make you feel? How would you describe the space? – opens up the results to a vast number of feelings and emotions evoked from that particular place, failing to get a general atmospheric opinion from the space. To counteract this problem Lawson suggest the use of psychological method that is a simple way of recording these experiences we have with space. It is called semantic differentials. It involves asking a subject to rate their response of a space in relations to a scale that ranged from one description to its opposite meaning.

“For example a scale that ranged from hard to soft, one from open to closed and so on. Usually these scales are either five or seven points long; an odd number of points allow a respondent to choose a middle point in either direction.” (Lawson, 2001)

This method allows us to compare different groups on their experience of place and in terms of ‘externalising’ feeling in order to communicate between the client and the designer it is very successful in keeping them on same page basis.

This study then leads Lawson on the question of stimulus;

“Is it the overall proportions, the variation of colour or texture, variations in sizes of features, or their proportions or frequencies of occurrence?” (Lawson, 2001)

He makes reference to Lynch’s theory in order to make sense of what “features that most determine how people feel about and react to places.” (Lawson, 2001). Lynch (1960) suggests the perception of an environmental image is broken up into three components; structure, meaning and identity. Structure relates to the rules and order of place, meaning is the symbol and message that the place stands for and finally identity represents those identifiable elements that give a sense of exclusivity and distinctiveness to a place. These combined attributes to the stimuli we perceive work as they evoke feeling and emotions that we come to associate with the place we view.

Further study of this emotional response to the relationship we build with space led me to look at Sensory Design by Monice and Vodvarka. An initial quote from the book automatically creates a connection between the two pieces of writing;

“a good house… speaks not just of the materials from which it is made, but the intangible rhythms, sprits, and dreams of the people’s lives… In its parts it accommodates important human activities, yet in sum it expresses an attitude towards life.” (Moore, Allen Lyndon, 1974)

This reference the authors make to the quote points out how – previously explain – a space is not a place until it is inhabited and experienced.

The authors look at a sensory response to space and experience throughout the book, exploring the ideas of perception through our common senses and also our hidden senses. They refer to Geoffery Scott’s description of how “weight, pressure and resistance are part of our habitual body experience” (Scott, 1965) because of this we use them to identify the spaces we perceive.

“In any building three things may be distinguished: the bigness which it actually has (mechanical measurement), the bigness which it appears to have (visual measurement), and the feeling of bigness which it gives (bodily measurement).” (Scott, 1965)

This reference to Scott’s comment gives the impression that on top of the five common senses we use to perceive the world there are other less obvious senses concerning the experience of space. The authors use a reference to Paul Zucker in order to validate Scott’s statement about how we use many other senses to perceive space;

“Space is perceived by the visualization of its limits and by kinaesthetic experience, i.e., by the sensation of our movements. In the state of ‘visual tension,’ kinaesthetic sensation and visual perception fuse most intensely.” (Zucker, 1970)

Our visual perception of space is enhanced by the motion in which we experience the space adding to our sensory perception of the environment around us.

Referring back to the concept that space becomes place through experience the authors use a suggestion from Yi-Fu Taun, “What begins as undifferentiated spaces becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value.” (Taun, 1977) The authors interpret this ‘getting to know better’ concept as experiencing the space through our senses; judging perceiving and analysing the space in order to identify its place.

In both pieces of writing studied here the connection between the human presence and interpretation of space is clearly experience. Both portray similar concepts of how place is relative to the activity of space. The importance of the psychological study of human behaviour becomes clear to the relevance of successful interior and architectural design, in the way that we experience space emotionally and sensually. Understanding space is not just based on visual perception but also an experiential process we all go through when making the connection between space and place.


Lawson, B. 2001. The Language of Space. Oxford: Reed Educational and Professional Publishing.

Lynch, K. 1960. The Image of the City. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Malnar,J, Vodvarka, F. 2004. Sensory Design. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Moore, C, Allen, G, Lyndon, D. 1974. The Place of Houses. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Wilson.

Scott, G. 1965. The Architecture of Humanism: A Study in the History of Taste. Gloucester: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Tuan, Y. 1977. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

5 Senses? Lets make it 21!

There are so many blogs out there listing the REAL number of senses that the human body has each claiming a different number and a different list. As part of a current project we are looking into this “official” list of senses, elaborating on the 5 basic senses that we get taught from a young age. But first the design process that brought us to this idea…

Our exhibition project – as part of the international GIDE project – has the theme fabrication (to lie or to build). We first researched the subjects that lied to us and the senses repeatedly cropped up. We took this idea and with further research could not define each fabrication of the sense to the specific 5 senses that we knew, so that made us think there was so many more to investigate.

As our realisation started to grow as did the number and our concept developed further bringing the other definition of fabrication into play. We took the space for the exhibition (The DSA) and looked at the fabrication of it and with inspiration from an exhibition on fabrication we decided that we wanted to physically re-fabricate the space in relation to the human sense. In a way fabricate the senses of a human into the building itself, bringing human elements to the space.

The exhibition would be a sensorium allowing the user to experience and reflect the 21 senses of the body, in perhaps a less obvious way. It wouldn’t in a sense be an educational exhibition, for example like a science centre, but more a spatial awareness exhibit that explored the sensual interior design of the building.

So back to these 21 senses. As we defined these senses big words like quilibrioception were not in shortage (no wonder we they never taught us these in the first place!) and as a design student and not a biologist it wasn’t the easiest to recognise the meaning of the sense by just reading the name. We needed a visual connection to create a fast and creative spark that allowed us identify the sense.  

So 21 senses means 21 visuals!

We will start with the first 4… auditory, gustatory, visual and olfactory. The last of the main 5 is touch but there are more senses within that initial sense…

Thermoception, Nocioception (Sense of Pain), tactician.

Then we start to get those hidden senses that can’t really be associated with an organ…

Kinesthetic (movement), Proprioception (knowing where your body parts are), Quillibrioception (balance)

Then there are the senses that we believe are there but not necessarily confirmed medically!

Spiritual sense, Intuition, Telepathy

Sense of attraction, Sense of direction, Sense of presence, The twin sense

Then there is the condition that merges all the initial senses together and we decided to define that as a whole sense…

Synesthesia, when people sense things differently. They see colours when hearing, they taste when they see, they see shapes when they taste.

Then the last three are the Sense of Danger, the Somatic sense and Precongnition (images will become available shortly).

Modern Age Project RSA Competition 2010/2011


Everyone gets old but it’s the process of aging that matters. Taking into consideration the social affect aging has on the community, I came to the choice to improve on the elderly’s own home rather than a purpose built home. Thinking further into the future the reality of moving to a care home isn’t as reliable as we are a generation that are living longer – by 2050 19million people will be over 65 in the UK. So another option is to stay in your own home for as long as possible; population increases may lead us to face a fact that we may stay with out families for longer.     

Researching in futuristic designs allowed thinking ahead to the desires we would have to meet being our own generation. Archigram inspired me with their ‘Plug in City’; modular and pod like design – a modern twist on the ‘granny flat’. Parasite architecture also influenced my designs especially the Rucksack House that attaches to the exterior of a building to create more space.

Taking the modular aspect of my research it led me to designs created from shipping containers. This design is transportable, manageable and adaptable which would fix in successfully with my concept.

The idea being that instead of focusing primarily on the elderly when they reach a certain age, we focus on the process of aging and the affect it has on the community around us. If we embrace the stages of life we can adapt our homes to grow with us through the process of aging.

I developed my designs by taking the layout of a typical student flat and experimenting on what I could do to adapt it to meet the needs of the stages in my life as I grow old, right up to the point when I am an old women, family moved out and having a house to big for myself. 

The permanent structures of the building must be the essential rooms that each stage in life needs. Kitchen, living space, bedroom, bathroom.

A shipping container can be added to adapt the home for each stage in your life as your aging in life begins. It can become larger to accommodate for a larger family and as you come to the end of your need for extra space the option of reducing the home size again is available.

The design presents a home that you can stay with for your life, which can adapt to your situation. It grows, expands or contracts as the life cycle continues, also including a environmental aspect from the recycling of shipping containers.

The concept can be taken into a larger scale and can become part of a community, the neighbourhood can then interact with their surrounds and take notice on the different stages in people’s life based on the stages that their house takes the form of.

The community becomes a living and adaptable environment that caters for generations on a whole to include everyone equally in society and design.

Bomb Project

From the 1st November to the 3rd the DJCAD open day tours took place and to encourage activity within the studios a three day “bomb” project was given out to all 4 years. This rapid collaborative project allowed the years as a whole to interact with each other as well with the studio space.

In our groups we were to collectively create a 3D conceptual interpretation of a building typology between dwell, play, shop, learn, care; our group’s typology was play.

We literally “played” with the concept of play and developed connections between child play and adult play; between the idea of play within the working environment and the type of play we do to get away from work; the infectious play that happens within the studio projects and how we respond to ideas and processes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We took the playful object of a balloon and experimented (played) with its form, texture, material and visual affects it has on a user. How a singular balloon can be transformed into a modular form with quantity.

We documented our progress with the project and it showed how we again literally “played” with the concept and had fun with the construction of an infection form that inhabited the interior design studio. We built up the balloons and let the spatial structure take form and adapt as we went along, infecting the space that it occupied.

Not only did the 3D structure spread physically but also word spread through the college and people came up to the interior studios as they had “heard about the balloons and had to come up and see them”. This design became infectious not only visually but it evoked curiosity.

The main element of play is fun and our experience of the “bomb” project was defiantly of that sort!