Course: Sensory Architectural Design




Online Study Programme for Architectural Students


Four Week Programme over Zoom

Every Saturday between February 6th and February 27th 2021

1300 hrs. (EST) in New England, 1800 hrs. in Oxford, 2000 hrs. in Helsinki


Course Leader:  Professor Ian Davis (Oxford, England)

Visiting Professor, Kyoto, Lund, Oxford Brookes University and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) Europe


Guest Lecturer: Professor Juhani Pallasmaa (Helsinki, Finland)

Former Professor of Architecture and Dean, Helsinki University of Technology


Administrator and Technical Director: Corinne Morgan (London, England)



Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced…”

                                   John Keats, 1819


“As we open a door, our body weight meets the weight of the door;

our legs measure the steps as we ascend a stair,

our hand strokes the handrail

and our entire body moved diagonally and dramatically through space.”

                                   Juhani Pallasmaa

                                   The Eyes of the Skin, Architecture and the Senses (2005, page 50)




Architectural education has always had a strong visual bias, but in recent years there has been a growing movement to expand this narrow focus to embrace all the senses. This emphasis includes vision, touch, sound, smell, physical movement of people and movement of parts of buildings such as doors/ screens etc. temperature and humidity.


This ground-breaking four-week online study programme has been devised by two architecture lecturers and writers based in England and Finland who through designing, writing and lecturing have promoted the creation of multi-sensory architecture.


The course leader, Professor Ian Davis, has recently written the first book to explore the ways we use our senses to explore the city where he has lived for 50 years: Experiencing Oxford (2020).  The guest lecturer in one of the sessions, Professor Juhani Pallasmaa, the world authority on multi-sensory architecture, is the author of the definitive text on the subject: The Eyes of the Skin – Architecture and the Senses (2005).  This book is a classic text of architectural theory and has become required reading in schools of architecture throughout the world.


The four-week study programme will take place through Zoom each Saturday at 1300 hrs (EST) from February 6th until February 27th 2021.  Each interactive session will last 90 minutes with optional work assignments being set each week, with feedback in following webinars.  To promote group interaction the course will be limited to 30 persons. Students who participate in the course will receive a signed certificate.  


The cost of $125.00 (US) per student will include participation in the course, films of the sessions for future reference and course materials;

  • downloads of two chapters of ‘Experiencing Oxford’ by Ian Davis;
  • video presentation of Alvar Aalto’s ‘Villa Mairea, a house under the pines’ (1939) as narrated by Juhani Pallasmaa;
  • reading lists;
  • websites;
  • a set of selected readings;
  • lists of both International and US based sensory architecture 

Sessions will be filmed and placed online.  The course is being offered to architectural and urban design students in the following universities:     





Mount Holyoke

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

UMass, Amherst



To explore a range of opportunities for architectural and urban design students to create sensory buildings and urban places that enrich the experience of their users.  The intention is to expand on the existing pre-occupation with the visual sense that remains the priority in architectural education and the primary concern of many architects. Therefore, this study course seeks to embrace a rich sensory experience of touch, smell, sound, vision, kinetic movement and temperature variables as well as other vital elements in the experience of architecture that include symbolism and association. The studies will consider both positive and negative sensory experiences and the lessons to be drawn from them.



  1. An enhanced awareness of the importance and potential for sensory architectural design
  2. Understanding certain tools to help the design process by considering all the senses in parallel as integrated design criteria
  3. To explore the sensory elements that provide a positive ‘sense of place and belonging’ as well as the opposite - places that result in a negative ‘sense of fear and detachment’  
  4. Understanding the interaction of sensory architecture through the case study of ‘Experiencing Oxford’ This example covers sensory design within the city spanning architecture and urban planning extending over a period of a thousand years. 
  5. To create a deeper understanding based on an investigation of examples of effective sensory architecture by various designers, drawn from a variety of cultures. The contribution of the Swiss Architect Peter Zumthor to sensory design will be explored in detail through his buildings and writings.


Find out more and register through the links below: