Course Structure




  1. Each of the webinars will last 90 minutes.  Three sessions will include presentations led by Professor Ian Davis, with a guest presentation by Professor Juhani Pallasmaa. Powerpoint Presentations will be used with a direct commentary by the speaker.
  2. Presentations will be followed by questions from participants relating to the study topic.
  3. This will be followed by break-out group discussions and a final reporting back and summary session.  The break-out discussion groups will relate to the previous week’s assignment..
  4. Optional individual or group work assignments will follow the first, second, and third webinars.



The price for the four week course is $125 per student. You can register and pay for the course through the following link: Register



Session 1.  Saturday February 13th, 13:00-14:30 ET


Introduction to Sensory Architecture.

(Ian Davis)


This introductory session will describe the nature and function of sensory architecture, providing selected examples of buildings and spaces drawn from varied cultures and historical periods where architects have imaginatively considered various senses in their designs. Some of the key issues, dilemmas and design tools in creating sensory architecture will be discussed. The content of the study programme will be explained, showing how the individual work assignments relate to the subject. Key literature and websites will be introduced.


First optional work assignment for Week 2

The Multi-Sensory Essence of Architecture

  1. Read an essay by Professor Juhani Pallasmaa to be provided to participants                  and watch the video presentation of Alvar Aalto’s ‘Villa Mairea, a house under the pines’ (1939) as narrated by Professor Pallasmaa.
  2. Consider the following question emerging from your reading and viewing:

“What does this essay and the content of this film say about the essence of sensory architecture?”



Session 2.  Saturday February 20th, 13:00-14:30 ET


The Multi-Sensory Essence of Architecture

 (Juhani Pallasmaa)


In architecture we are engaged in lived and experienced situations rather than geometric abstractions. We are related with the world through our entire existence, both bodily and metal, through the senses. Usually we think of the five Aristotelian senses, and following the Greek philosopher’s view, we consider vision our most significant sense. However, Steinerian philosophy categorises twelve human senses, and “The Sixth Sense Reader” (edited by David Howes, 2009) suggests 35 sensory systems through which we are related with the world.

Vision has not always been the most important sense; historians testify that until the sixteenth century hearing and olfaction were the dominant senses in human life. However, the dominance of vision has been decisively strengthened by cultural conditions, such as reading and printing as well as the countless technological inventions from the telescope and microscope to todays’ miraculous inventions that make it possible for us to see inside matter as well as into the depth of the universe.

The senses are usually studied individually and in isolation from the “impurity” of real lived life. As Maurice Merleau-Ponty writes:


My perception is not a sum of visual, tactile an audible givens: I perceive in a total way with my whole being; I grasp a unique way of being, which speaks to all my sense at once”.


We experience environments and architectural situations simultaneously through all our senses, and we fuse them in our sense of reality and existence. I suggest that our most significant sense in the art of architecture is our existential sense, which unifies the sensory experience with our sense of reality and self. The fullness and veracity of reality arises from this multi-sensory essence which enables the co-existence and dialogue of the world and the self.


Second optional work assignment for Week 3.


  1. Case Study: Experiencing Oxford

To prepare for Session 3 read Chapter 5 Radcliffe Square of ‘Experiencing Oxford’ , that can be downloaded in a PDF extract from the following website and after reading the chapterlisten to the Podcast on ‘Radcliffe Square, Oxford’


Go and click on ‘Book Exerpt’ under the ‘Book: Experiencing Oxford’ option on the menu bar, and ‘Podcast’ on the menu bar.


2 .Consider the sensory aspects of the buildings and urban spaces that comprise Radcliffe Square as described in the chapter and in the Podcast, and reflect on any lessons they may provide to an architect or urban designer working today



Session 3.  Saturday February 27th, 13:00-14:30 ET


Case Study: Experiencing Oxford, UK. 

(Ian Davis)


This case study summarises issues discussed in ‘Experiencing Oxford’ (2020) by Ian Davis.  The case study will consider sensory architecture in the macro-scale of Oxford’s built environment of colleges, streets and Radcliffe Square as well as in the micro scale of individual design of buildings, and of details within buildings. In addition to a focus on the senses in architecture this case study will explore the role of symbolism, and association in providing meaning to the users of buildings and urban places. Finally, the question of what constitutes ‘a sense of place’ or its opposite - ‘a sense of alienation’ in Oxford will be considered.  


Third optional work assignment for Week 4:

Design Tools for Sensory Architecture

  1. Use library and internet search tools to investigate the architecture of the Swiss Architect, Peter Zumthor.

Go to ‘You Tube’ to see the conversations between Peter Zumthor and Juhani Pallasmaa on the 17th and 18th January 2018 on ‘Architecture Speaks’

  1. Using written text and sketchbook drawings explore the way Zumthor designs to create rich sensory experiences for the users of his buildings

(An outline reference list of Peter Zumthor’s writings and buildings will be provided)



Session 4. Saturday March 6th, 13:00-14:30 ET


Design tools needed for Sensory Architecture

 (Ian Davis)


An interactive review of the practical tools needed by designers to create rich sensory results. One of the tools to be described concerns the value of drawing or painting buildings – a process requiring  intense observation of buildings and their patterns of use. The session includes discussion concerning the final work assignment on the sensory architecture of Peter Zumthor. This session will review the course presentations, break-out discussions and work assignments to check whether the learning outcomes have been met.


Arrangements will be announced of the dispatch of ‘Certificates of Participation’ to all who have successfully completed the course of study.



Find out more about the course and register below:

Course: Sensory Architectural Design

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