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SYNAESTHETICARCHITECTURE

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SYNAESTHETICARCHITECTURE
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Submittedinfulfilmentoftherequirementsfor
ARCH5036MastersProjectReport1
InthedegreeofMastersofArchitecture
FortheSchoolof
Arts,ArchitectureandDesign
UNIVERSITYOFSOUTHAUSTRALIA
12/05/2011


Ideclare thatthisexegesisdoesnot incorporatewithoutacknowledgmentanymaterialpreviouslysubmitted
for a degree or diploma in any university; and that to the best of my knowledge it does not contain any
materialspreviouslypublishedorwrittenbyanotherpersonexceptwhereduereferenceismadeinthetext–


Copyright2011
JoshuaBudarick

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Figure1 TheTreacheryofImages[LaTrahisionofImages]byReneMagritte
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MagrittePipe.jpg



Figure2 TheDisneyConcertHall,LosAngelesbyFrankGehrey
http://www.astroman.com.pl/img/magazyn/577/o/FG__Walt_Disney_Concert_Hall.jpg



Figure3 RoyalOntarioMuseum,TorontobyDanielLibeskind
http://campoalexandra.com/english/other/images/2144266465_08277478e2.jpg



Figure4 ArchitectureParallax:TheBlindArchitect,AlexanderPilis
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAZElamWRKg



Figure5 ArchitectureParallax:TheBlindArchitect,AlexanderPilis
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAZElamWRKg



Figure6 FeedbackCircuit 
BaronCohen,S&Harrison,J(eds.)1997,Synaesthesia:ClassicandContemporaryReadings,
BlackwellPublishers,Oxford.p161


Figure7 CrosstalkCircuit
BaronCohen,S&Harrison,J(eds.)1997,Synaesthesia:ClassicandContemporaryReadings,
BlackwellPublishers,Oxford.p164


Figure8 ExperimentalMusicPavilion:SynaestheticPavilion
RutzingerS&SchineggerK2008,FlimmerndePrasenz:WettbewerbOhrenstrandmobil,Viewed
26thApril2011,http://ohrenstrand.de/Teilnehmer08/Flimmernde.pdfp1



Figure9 AcousticStructure
RutzingerS&SchineggerK2008,FlimmerndePrasenz:WettbewerbOhrenstrandmobil,Viewed
th
26 April2011,http://ohrenstrand.de/Teilnehmer08/Flimmernde.pdfp8



Figure10 SynaestheticFilter:Plan
RutzingerS&SchineggerK2008,FlimmerndePrasenz:WettbewerbOhrenstrandmobi,lViewed
th
26 April2011,http://ohrenstrand.de/Teilnehmer08/Flimmernde.pdfp6



Figure11 SynaestheticFilter:Section
RutzingerS&SchineggerK2008,FlimmerndePrasenz:WettbewerbOhrenstrandmobil,Viewed
th
26 April2011,http://ohrenstrand.de/Teilnehmer08/Flimmernde.pdfp7

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Q.Discusstheflawsofexcessvisualconsiderationsinarchitectureandhowinfluencescanbedrawnfromthestudy
ofSynaesthesiaandSynaesthete’storeinvigoratearchitectureanddirectitbackintotherealmofmultisensory?


The understanding and experience of architecture comes from the senses; the medium by which
our bodies interact with their surroundings. Without the use of these senses we are abandoned to a
worldvoidoffeeling,emotion,experienceandmemory.Similarly,ifasenseislost,oroverlyfavoured,
weareleftcrippled;unable totrulyexerciseourperceptionstoexplorethefullpossibilitiesofspatial
experience.Unfortunatelythisishappeninginalotofarchitecturetoday.
Contemporaryarchitecturehasbeguntorelytooheavilyonvisualstimulationandaccordingly,the
uniqueness that results from sensual detail has been sacrificed in order to facilitate mass visual
production.Theseworks,stunninglycraftedin1800x1600rendersandreproducedjustasstunninglyin
12”x8” photographs for the covers of architectural magazines, distort our focus from full body
appreciationtoanaddictionofvisualbeauty.Such visuallyseductive architectureleavesusalienated,
forourbodiesarenolongerinvolvedintheexperience.Ifweleavearchitecturetocontinuedownthis
pathourperceptionswilleventuallybetamed;leavingarchitectureonlytofulfilrequirementsofvisual
indulgence.Oureyesalonearenotenoughtoencompassthepossibilitiesofarchitecturalexperience;
nordoweperceivewithonesenseatatime.Accordingly,thisexegesisquestionsthevalidityofgiving
thevisualsensesuchfreereigninarchitecturalspaceandemphasisestheimportanceofamultisensory
design. Harnessing studies in both synaesthesia and architecture this exegesis seeks to illustrate the
intricacies embedded in architecture’s relationship with the senses; proposing the possibility of an
architecturalpraxistoaccentuateexistingphenomenologicalexperienceandformconnectionsthatmay
beinterpretedbynonsynaesthetestobemorethantheyappear.
FLAWSOFARCHITECTURETODAY
 Itcannotbedeniedthatinthearchitecturaldesignprocessexcessiveattentionispaidtosight;
tovisualaesthetics.Amplifiedbyanageofmedia,technologyandabundantcapitalism,‘architectureis
beingreducedtoseductiveimagesusedsimplytoenhancethecoversofmagazines’(Yeung2006:16).
This style of architecture has become a pandemic and must be remedied immediately, for many are
losingtouchwiththesensualessenceofarchitecture.
ForinspirationoneneedslookonlytotheSurrealistmovement;amovementthatissuggested
tobeheavilyinfluencedbysynaesthesiaandsynaesthetesalike(BaronCohen&Harrison1997:21).The
surrealistssoughtaunificationofthesenses;yearningtomoveawayfromtheanalyticalexplorationsof
their society and shift artistic thinking into the realm of direct qualitative experience, as typified by
synaesthesia.Kandinsky,anotablesurrealist,graspedthatartisticcreativityshouldnotresultofamind
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whichinstantlyanalyses,orunderstands,whatisthere ,forimpedesthesensualexperience.In1910he
declared that in order to save art we, the people, must ‘lend [our] ears to music, open [our] eyes to
painting,and…stopthinking!’(Kandinsky,1977:22).Insuchaclimate,echoesofsynaestheticsbeganto
emerge in various art forms. Sadly, despite Kandinsky’s warning, again we find that visual percept’s
exceededtheothersensorystimuli.

1.Intermsofarchitecturethisisaresultofexcessivevisualanalysis. 4

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René Magritte, another notable surrealist
spoke out against the limitations of the flattened
surfacedofvisualperceptioninhisworkTheTreachery
of Images. His proclamation ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’
[This is not a pipe] registers the truth behind the
falsifiedpretencesvisualarchitecturepresentsus.The
painting of the pipe [fig 1] is a representation and
thereby not equal to the pipe itself. The painter can
capture the colour and shape of the pipe and even
Figure1 TheTreacheryofImages
allude to dimensionality and temporality. However,
besides the visual information there is no supporting evidence to confirm its existence as a pipe: the
aromaofthewoodanditslacquer,thewaftingscentoffreshlyburnedtobacco,theremnantheatfrom
aprevioususe,andtheshiftingtactilityofitssurfaceallremainundefinedinthispastiche.Itcannotbe
used;itservesnofunctionotherthantobeseen.It’slackingabilitytoprovidethesensorystimulationa
real pipe would leads Magritte to the assertion that it cannot be a pipe. Today’s contemporary
architectureleavesusaskingasimilarquestion:isitreallyarchitectureifitdoesnotengagethebody?
ARCHITECTUREPORN

It is not hard to find examples of such architecture; architecture aligned solely to
considerations of visual imaging [Figure 2 & 3]. This architecture, often celebrated by the media,
surroundsitselfwithpublicityinanattempttomanipulatepublicopinion,therebyconvincingusofits
genius. This results in the architecture sustaining an air of vanity and omnipotence. However, these
designs ‘attempt to conquer the foreground instead of creating a supportive background for human
activities and perceptions’ (Pallasmaa 2000:85). Accordingly, while these works may successfully
contribute bold visual statements to their surroundings, once visited they become nothing morethan
empty shells.  Furthermore, these designs are removed from related social and contextual
considerations; in many cases even negatively impacting on the surroundings2. They exist as an
inappropriatenouninthenarrativeofthestreetscape.


 
Figure2WaltDisneyConcertHall,LosAngeles]Figure3RoyalOntarioMuseum,Toronto

2. According to Alasdair Palmers article in The Daily Telegraph Gehry's design failed to consider the 5
o
neighboringapartments;thegleamingstainlesssteelraisingthetemperatureofthehomesby15 .Lawsuits
thatensueresultedinadull,ugly,nonreflectiveclothcoveringlargeareasofthedesign.(2007)
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Asthegapbetweenarchitectureandthesensescontinuestowidenwebecomelostamongsta
bombardment of visual stimuli. Juhani Pallasmaa (1994:34), in The Architecture of the Seven Senses,
discussestheindividual’sreactionstothisaffront:


Theeyeisthesenseofseparationanddistancewhereastouchisthesenseofnearness,intimacyand
affection. During overpowering emotional stateswetend to close ofthe senseofvision; we close
our eyes when caressing our loved ones. Deep shadows and darkness are essential, because they
dim the sharpness of vision and invite unconscious peripheral vision and tactile fantasy.
Homogenous light paralyses the imagination in the same way that homogenisation eliminates the
experienceofplace.


ArchitectureimbuedwithanexcessvisualconsiderationlackstheintimacyPallasmaadiscussesandis
more reminiscent of the pornographic image; existing only as a medium to simulate beauty and
stimulate visual pleasure. If one was to compare the interaction between the body and architectural
spacetothatbetweenlovers,however,onecanbegintounderstandtheimportanceofsensualityand
intimacyinarchitecture.Byimpedingsightwithdarknessonegeneratesanairofmystery;forcingusto
use our other sensual modes, especially the sense of touch, to observe, interact and experience. A
similar event is discussed by Kevin Hetherington his interview with a blind woman. Here he provides
insightintotherelationshipthatcanexistbetweenbodyandobject.Thewomandescribesthatwhen
she is experiencing an object, there is no ‘me’… [or] object….It is just the object. So the ‘me’
disappears….ThewayI[senseisthrough]identificationwithsomethingsomewhereinsideof[me];[I]
havegotarelationshipwithit(Hetherington,2003:193334).Suchasensationcannotbeperceivedby
meansofvisionalone.AccordingtoHetherington(2003:1939),duringthisprocessthereisa‘gameof
identification’involvedbywhichthesensualfeelingismatchedtopastmemory.Insteadofreducing
the sensual possibilities the woman’s loss of sight enhances her sensual spectrum; although this
methodtakeslongertoperceivetheprolongedexperienceincreasestheintimacyofthememory.
MEMORY

Thebiasagainstsensualityinarchitecturealsoimpactsonitsrelationshipwithmemory.‘Memoryis
by no means static, continuously shifting in perspective and purpose’ (Lambek 1996: 24243). This is
mainly because the process of cognitive retention involves forgetting as much as it does memorising.
Sensory memory is selective, so it chooses only the dominant senses to strengthen and reinforce
memory.Accordingly,ifsightdominantsarchitecturalexperienceourmemoryistracedasavaguevisual
syntax.InthewordsofCicero:


when we [experience] things in everyday life things that are banal or excessive we generally fail to
remember them…We ought then to set up [architectural events] of a kind that can adhere longest in
memory... Thethings weeasily rememberwhenthey arereal we likewiserememberwithout difficulty
whentheyarefigments(Yates1966:2526).

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Memory, in fact, is so closely integrated with place that they become mutually dependent upon one
another.Theformeracquiresitssubstance,alocus,fromplace,whilstthelatterdrawsitsmeaningand
itstimelessqualitiesfrommemory.Forexampletocreateasenseofhomeonemustevoke“homeness”
bystimulatingmemoriesofahome,thusresultingintheformulationofadditionalmemoriesofhome.
From within this circular methodology also emerges the phenomena of déjà vu and intuition. These
states are discussed by Frascari, who asserts that the imagery of memory is not synonymous to the
visualimage,butratheracollectionoftheintuitionsofthewhole.Hespeaksofablindmanwhocan
sketch something vaguely recognisable by those who maintain sight. This suggests that the individual
hastheabilitytointuitimagesfromtheothersensestheypossess(Yeung2006:5).Alreadythisbeginsto
speakofapossiblesynaestheticnatureexistingwithinoursubconscious.
BlindArchitecture

InaninvestigationintothefieldofBlindarchitectureAlexanderPilistemporarilystripsaperson
oftheirabilitytoseeandplacesthemintoasquare,whiteroom.Aidedonlybyacaneandtheirsenses
the individual is asked to explore the unknown environment. The process begins slowly, but as the
individual moves through the space the echoes, the resistance and textures of its surfaces, the
temperatures of the lights and materials, and the residual aromas of use and constriction, provide
enoughsensorialstimulationtocomprehendscale,dimension,proportionandtextuality;thusallowing
for the construction of a virtual image. Accordingly, by removing our dependency on sight, the other
sensesareheightenedand,notsurprisingly,provideamoredetailedstudyoftheenvironment.


Figure4–ArchitectureParallax:TheBlindArchitect Figure5–TheBlindArchitect:MeetsRembrandt

Weareallblind,exceptthattheblindcanteachusagainhowtosee….Weseetoomuch.Thereisnoend
ofseeing.Thereistoomuchtosee.Ifwedonothingelsewesee.Weliveinaculturesofilledwiththings
tobeseenthatvisibilityiswhatdeterminesthebeing[ornonbeing]ofobjects,experiencesandidentity.
Thereissomuchtosee,andrarelyanofferofaspaceoratimeforlooking.Evenlesstheofferofaspace
ortimewhereoneneedn’tlookatallbutrather…(Pilis2008)


InleavinghissentenceunfinishedPillsechoestheviewsofFrascari,whoclaimsthatthereisasensual
intuitionthatweallexperience.Thememorymappedwithsuchintuition‘takesusinto[an]environing
world…[thatis]coextensivewithworld’(Casey1987:311).Inthisworldwhatyouactuallyseeiswhat
hasbeenpreconceived;aworldbuiltfromsensualmemory.

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ArchitectJuhaniPallasmaa,inhisstudiesofarchitecturalphenomenology,discussesthenatureof
sensualityinarchitecturalexperience.Heobservesthat‘authenticarchitecturalexperiences[may]have
moretheessenceofaverbthananoun’(2000:82);ratherthanstandingasaloneentity,architecture
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shouldbeconsideredasseriesofarchitecturalevents .‘Authenticarchitecturalexperiencesderivefrom
realorideatedbodilyconfrontationsratherthanvisuallyobservedentities’(Pallasmaa,2000:82).Take
thetypicalarchitecturalentitiesofadoororawindow:


The visual image of a door is not an architectural image, for instance, whereas entering and exiting
through a door are architectural experiences. Similarly, the window frame is not an architectural unit,
whereas looking out through the window or daylight coming through it, are authentic architectural
encounters(2000:84).


However,asaconsequenceoftheoverindulgenceinvisualconsiderations,today’sarchitectureseems
to ‘originate in a single moment and evokes an experience of flattened temporality’ (2000:80) rather
thancollectionsofintimatetemporaljourneys.This“flatarchitecture”canbeinterpretedasbothliteral
andmetaphorical;theformerreferringtoapictorialrepresentationofspace,thelatterreferringtothe
lackofmeaningbehinditspictorialessence.
Atthispointitmustbestressedthatarchitectureofformalstrengthshouldnotbecondemned;
we must merely be critical of architecture that relies entirely on its image to stimulate a response.
Besides, as it has been shown, there are architects, like Marco Frascari, Alexander Pills, Juhani
Pallasmaa, whoseek toreturn the sensesto the architectural design process.Attemptssuchasthese
havepreparedthefoundationsforanewmodelofsensualarchitecture:aSynaestheticArchitecture.


BeforewecandelveintothepossibilityofaSynaestheticArchitecture,however,wemustfirst
have an understanding of synaesthesia and synaesthetic experience.  The term synaesthesia, derived
from ancient Greek syn meaning joined, and aisthsis, meaning sensation, shares its root with
anaesthesiameaningnosensation.Itisdefinedasoccurringwhen‘stimulationofonesensorymodality
automaticallytriggersperceptioninasecondmodalityintheabsenceofanydirectstimulationtothis
second modality’ (Cytowic, 1993). As an example let’s say X experiences a sound, this sound
instantaneously triggers X’s sight and a flash of paleblue appears before them. Such reactions are
independent of thought; they are not connected to the imagination, nor can they be learned.
Furthermore, whiletheexperiencesofanindividualarestableallsynaesthetesdonotexperiencethe
samesensations(Cytowic1993),suggestingthatwhilesynaesthesiacombinesperceptualmodesitdoes
notremovethesubjectsabilitytoperceiveindividualresponses.
Explanationforthisphenomenonhaseludedthemindsofscientistsforcenturiesandaftera
peak of interest between 1860 and 1930 synaesthesia was left forgotten and unexplained. In the last
fewdecades,however,synaesthesiahasreacheditsrenaissance;withrecentadvancesinneuroscience
and psychology prompting greater study into the phenomenon. This, however, has provided more


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3.Theseeventsthemselvesshouldalsoreflecthumansituationsandencounters.Formoreinformationrefer
toPallasmaa’sHapticityandTime.
SYNAESTHETICARCHITECTURE
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questionsthananswers;ofwhichtheoriginofsynaesthesiaremainsthemajor.Currentlythereexistsa
key debate between neuroscientists regarding whether synaesthesia is sensory leakage [Figure 6]
(Jacobs 1981) a mutation of the cognitive process [Figure 7] (Galton, 1880) or rather a forgotten
elementofcognitiveevolution(LewkiwiczandTurkeqitz1980).

Figure6FeedbackCircuit  Figure7CrosstalkCircuit
Thelatter,Ibelieveisamoreromanticnotion,foritsuggeststhatweallpossessthiscognitiveability
whenwearebornuntilgradually,whetheritbethroughfundamentallearningorbythematurationof
our bodies, the distinction between senses sharpens; eventually converging into their individual
specialities Accordingly, it is this definition which the foundations of the proposed Synaesthetic
Architecturewillbebuiltupon.


As our senses are distinguished it becomes almost impossible not to differentiate between
them. Despite the difficulties this presents it is essential to recognise that our body perceives the
externalstimuliasaunion.ThedefinitionYeunggivestosuchanexperienceisSentire;theconditionor
quality of being sentient, concise and susceptible to unified sensation (Yeung 2006:29). Bodily
experience,ratherthanindividualperception,isessentialinthecomprehensionofarchitecture.Inthe
wordsofPearson:


Far from being narrowly based upon any single sense of perception like vision, our response to
[architecture]derivesfromourbody’stotalresponsetoandperceptionoftheenvironmentalconditions
whichthatbuildingaffords(1991:68)


ThisisreinforcedbyphenomenologistMauriceMerleauPontywhoassertsthat‘perceptionisnotasum
of[sensual]…givens,[we]perceiveinatotalwaywithmywholebeing;[we]graspauniquestructureof
thething,auniquewayofbeing,whichspeakstoall[our]sensesatonce’(1964:50).Suchaninstinctive
union of sensation highlights that our perception of architectural space is already close to being
synaesthetic.Itissimplythespace’sthemselveswhichlacksynaestheticqualities.

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 Withinthefieldofarchitectureweareessentiallytryingtoinfluenceplace.Thisplacehowever
does not merely exist in a corporeal realm but also a psychological one. In his book Remembering: A
PhenomenologicalStudyEdwardCaseydeclaresthatarchitecture‘initsabidingcharacter…isthereto
be reentered, by memory if not by direct bodily movement’ (Casey 1987:186). This suggests that
sensually active architecture helps to make it accessible in a way that is rarely true in a comparably
sensually inactive architecture. This presents an immediate advantage to Synaesthetic Architecture in
thefieldofmnemonics.Asalreadydiscussedlastingarchitecturalexperienceisgoverned bymemory;
andmemorybyitsassociatedsensuality.Similarly,researchintothecorrelationbetweensynaesthesia,
synaesthetic experience and strengthened memory has also been proven (Cytowic 1993). This results
fromthecumulationofsensualexperience,andconnectionsforgedbetweenthem,providingmultiple
distinctions for a single stimulator. For an example take colourgrapheme synaesthetes. The word
architecture may correlate to a specific shade of blue and thus that shade of blue and the word
architecture become mentally connected; the colour stimulating memory of the word and vice versa.
Accordingly, if we can induce, or allude to, synaesthetic experience architecturally we can afford a
greaterimpactontothoseexperiencingitandfurthermoreamorelastingmemory.


IncontrasttotheproposedconceptsofSynaesthetic
Figure8SynaestheticFilter
Architecture,whichalignsitselftoarediscoveryofexperience
through bodilyperceptionsandthesenses,therehavebeen
several alternative proposals claiming a synaesthetic
approach;  the most recent emerging from a competition
entry for Ohrenstrand mobil 2008. Submitted by architects
Stefan Rutzinger and Kristina Schinegger the design,
“Synaesthetic Filter” [Fig 8], combines the functional
applicationsofsynaestheticsratherthanthephenomenological.Themobilepavilion,constructedasa
stageforexperimentalmusic,consistsofrotatingacousticelementswhicharemanipulatedaccordingto
the desired acoustical functionality. Maneuvering each individual element produces a shifting pattern
over the pavilions surface [Fig 9]. This results in a synchronic relationship between visual, spatial and
acousticqualities,hencethe“SynaestheticFilter”.

Figure9FormalStructure

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Thepavilionitselffiltersspacebothvisuallyandacoustically;byharnessingsynaestheticsatafunctional
level thedesign allows for flexibility in theplacement of both musiciansand audience[Fig 10], whilst
maintaininga‘playfulintegration[with]itssurroundings’(Sykes,R 2009).Inthewordsofitsdesigners:
‘Likethesoundsthatemergefromit,thepavilionproducesnoformbutaflickeringpresence.Itdoes
not create an enclosure to enter but a synaesthetic experience [in which] you are immersed…’
(Rutzinger&Schinegger2009)[Fig11].


[Above]Figure10–FloorPlan


[Below]Figure11Section




As winner of the 2008 Austrian Experimental Tendencies award this design stands as a marker of
synaesthetic design. However, while the design reacts synaesthetically, it is not informed by its
contextual sensorium. It focuses on two sensual elements, sight and sound, assimilating into the
surroundingsviamanipulationoftheirporosity.AccordinglyitshouldnotbeseenasatrueSynaesthetic
Architecture but rather a study of the possible relationships between internalized synaesthetics and
function.

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Conclusions:

Itisclearthatitistreacheroustoconsiderarchitectureintermsofonlyonesense.Excessivevisual
considerationswillnotonlyleadtoaflatteningofthearchitecturalcanvas,butalsotoatemperingof
oursenses;wewillbecomeaddictedtothevisualandloosesightof ourhumansensorium.Wemust
endeavor, to reunite contemporary architecture with its sensuality and in doing so we should look
beyondprimarysensoryaestheticsintoarealmofsynaesthetics.Synaesthesiaisnomerecuriosity,but
awindowintothequaliaofsensualperceptionandcognition.Infact,suchasCytowicclaimweareall
synaesthetic, we just don’t realize it. If we can somehow manage to harness or stimulate these
synaesthetic experiences with architectural designs we may be able to reimburse the idea of visual
stimulationwithsynaestheticreasoning.Furthermore,suchexperiencecanenhancethestimulationof
memory, the evocation of emotion, the intimacy of new memories and the overall impacts of our
architecturalspaces.Accordingly,theintegrationofsynaestheticforcesintostudioprocessisintended
to stimulate architectural events; in the specific case of the recent Marion development carefully
located “nodes of sensual force” will manipulate the subcity’s habitation and occupation through
consideredpushandpulloftheestablishedsensorium.
WhetherthepossibilityofatrueSynaestheticArchitectureisactuallyobtainable,orwhetherit
ismoreplausibletomerelyalludetosynaestheticsthroughconsideredcumulationofanarchitectural
sensorium, we must nevertheless harness these explorations in an effort to medicate the visual
pandemicthathasbegottenarchitecture.ToshallconcludeIrefertoLocke,forhismusingspromptthe
imaginationintothepossibilityofsomethingmorethanarchitecture:


Astudiousblindmanwhohadmightilybeathisheadaboutavisibleobject,andmadeuseofthe
explicationsofhisbooksandhisfriends,tounderstandthosenamesoflightandcolours,whichoften
came his way, betrayed one day that he know understood what scarlet signified. Upon which, his
friend demanded what scarlet was? The blind man answered, it was like the sound of a trumpet
(BaronCohen&Harrison1997:4)

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