the perception of time in architecture

Actively designing the experience of time is the next great opportunity for architects, lighting designers and other design professions focused on the built environment.

The PBS Youtube series “It’s Okay to Be Smart” has a fantastic primer on how the human brain manages the perception of time, how it shifts depending on situation, age, repetitiveness of the experience, etc.:

Architects have historically tiptoed around the activity of designing a time-focused experience: The closest they usually get is plotting spatial progression. But when digital technology activates architectural objects, surfaces and zones, new forms of occupant experiences emerge that demand a conscious design effort to understand the compression or expansion of that occupant’s memories of the experience within singular places. Likewise, entirely new design tools and methodologies must be incorporated into the act of placemaking, such as scriptwriting, storyboarding, UX/UI design and live rendering tech.

A powerful example of consciously designing time-dependent lighting experiences is adding the element of ritual to our daily experience. Such rituals with daily, monthly, seasonal or yearly time cycles are a prime way to connect the human experience to the environments that surround us. Check out this article on how Veronica Strang, an aboriginal anthropologist considers the connection of light and water to native tribes.

A beautiful quote from the piece recalling a powerful luminous experience in nature:

Some years ago, cultural anthropologist Veronica Strang was fishing on a trip to the Orinoco River in South America. When the fish didn’t bite, she settled for a walk along the riverbank. “The light filtering through the rainforest canopy threw a shimmering green lacework onto the water, and suddenly there were bright yellow butterflies everywhere—thousands of them,” she recently recalled. “Their wings were a gorgeous egg-yolk yellow and, fluttering in the sun, they filled the air with magical, dancing light. It was like walking into a spell.”

Why Light Inspires Ritual – Issue 11: Light – Nautilus

“Embedded lighting” offers tremendous opportunity to incorporate dynamic animation and concepts like temporal “play of brilliants” into architectural surfaces. Check out my previous work on embedded lighting for examples.

“Smart building technologies” are currently vacuuming huge amounts of data from the real world, but the next phase will be returning this data to inform and impact the experience of occupied spaces. Check out my earlier post on data-driven vs media driven spaces.