On sensory experience of historic architecture: an empirical review of sensory perceptions in historic buildings, aiming to inform their conservation process.
Braat, Sylvie Anne Ingrid
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BRAAT, S.A.I. 2017. On sensory experience of historic architecture: an empirical review of sensory perceptions in historic buildings, aiming to inform their conservation process. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.
This thesis studies people’s sensory perceptions of historic architecture, exploring the physical triggers for such experience, and connecting these with what can and should be maintained through building conservation. Sensory design is a developing field in architecture. The research argues that this approach can inform people’s understanding of the architectural experience of historic buildings, which in current discourse are predominantly considered for their associated ‘cultural significances’. People’s affinity to (historic) buildings is initiated by a response through the senses. This research advocates that establishing the triggers for such sensory response should be the main focus of the initial assessment of a building for conservation. From the review of changing approaches to building conservation, and exploration of sensory perception and sensory design, the research concludes people’s experiential perceptions have not been structurally considered in the appraisal of historic buildings. The methodology entailed the empirical development of a suitable assessment format, through performing initial on-site surveys that generated data to be added to those of a final sensory assessment, covering three buildings. Buildings were assessed according to Gibson’s sensory systems of visual, auditory, haptic, olfactory/gustatory and orientational perception, as well as with a comprehensive multisensory focus. Evidence from the data retrieved through this research indicates that the sensory assessment is a useful, informative and exciting addition to any architectural survey in building conservation practice. Such rich information will provide guidance and clarity to decision processes, to assist in retaining the affinity as the building’s physical relevance for the future. The research makes an original contribution to knowledge through the combination of two areas of study; through the application of sensory perception to understand historic buildings; and, in demonstrating that a sensory assessment has true potential as a suitable approach to the issue in practice.