Corporeal Architecture: A Methodology to Teach Interior Design and Architecture With a Focus on Embodiment

Corporeal Architecture: A Methodology to Teach Interior Design and Architecture With a Focus on Embodiment

Maria da Piedade Ferreira
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7254-2.ch020
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This chapter describes a teaching method, corporeal architecture, which uses performance art and neuroscience to teach interior design and architecture with a focus on embodiment and experience. The method sets new approaches to teach design, as it integrates design, neuroscience, and performance art and brings awareness to the importance of multi-sensory experience. The interaction with design objects at different scales is taken as an opportunity to investigate how the human body relates to space and allow the exploration of affordances through movement. Students are instructed with physical exercises and encouraged to design, build, and perform with objects such as chairs, cabinets and tables, installations, existing buildings, and public spaces. The performances explore narratives which reveal or subvert expectations we have around design objects. The methodology has a background in phenomenology, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Juhani Pallasmaa; Antonio Damásio in neuroscience; and Oskar Schlemmer, Marina Abramovic, and Stelarc in Performance Art.
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Inspired by new developments which integrate architecture and neuroscience (Mallgrave, 2010), Corporeal Architecture also integrates emotion measurement tools (Kim, et al, 2015) and questionnaires (Bradley, Lang, 1994; Lang, 1998) to evaluate the experience of the body while interacting with the designs. Such methodologies are frequent in the fields of neuroergonomics, computer science and marketing, in order to understand through psycho-physical evaluation how the body/ brain reacts to certain stimuli, but only recently such practices have started to be incorporated in the design process as well (Sussman, Hollander, 2015). Emotion measurement machinery is frequently used in medical contexts, or for the purposes of physical evaluation, for example in physical training/conditioning for competitive sports. Corporeal Architecture takes reference from the work of performance artist Stelarc, who has incorporated technology in his performances interpreted as an extension of the human body. For Stelarc the human body has always been prosthetic, revealing our interdependence with technology. Stelarc uses emotion measurement machinery to aesthetically translate into quantifiable means the impulses that the body produces, while performing under certain conditions. This is also a reference to the methods of Taylorism, which explored the use of such technologies, although from the point of view of anthropometrics and efficiency which was continued with Le Corbusier.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Body-Conscious: The term of body-conscious, seen from a philosophical perspective can be considered as the self-knowledge an individual has regarding her/his physical and somatic needs. Body-consciousness also refers to the capacity to tune into emotional or cognitive experiences and understand how they are able to influence the bodily reality.

Holistic: Philosophical position which proposes in the context of the research described in this chapter.

Perception: What a body detects and processes as external stimuli in an environment through the senses.

Play: Exploratory activity which involves curiosity, active imagination and interaction with the body and other bodies and objects in an environment for the pursuit of joy, development of creative tasks, problem solving and social/emotional bonding.

Proprioception: Often referred to as the 6th sense, it concerns the feeling of one’s body and it’s position in space and reaction to surrounding environment through motion.

Somatic Self-awareness: The capability to feel how the body reacts physically to external and internal stimuli.

Embodiment: Embodiment corresponds to what is now known about the process of perception from the perspective of neurosciences and cognitive sciences. According to this, perception is not a process of mapping sensory stimuli onto an inner model of the world, but a sensorimotor coordination that always occurs in the overall concept of an acting being or agent, which involves the integration of body and mind.

Interior Landscape: Images that are formed in the mind through the on-going process of absorbing sensorial information from the environment and sense-making through experience. It involves memory and psychophysiological states and is exclusive to the individual. The level of abstraction of such images varies according to each body and situation, for example, the internal landscape of a congenitally blind individual differs considerably from that of an individual with the sense of vision.

Affordances: What the environment, design object, interior space or building offers the individual as potential for action. Affordances can be related to possibilities of interaction between bodies and objects and also between bodies, adding a social dimension.

Phenomenology: Philosophy developed by Edmund Husserl as the study of essences and continued by Maurice Merleau-Ponty as the study of perception.

Empathy: The capacity to relate physically and emotionally to an object or person. In an aesthetical context, empathy refers to the body and minds disposition to find affinity to certain colours, shapes or patterns which trigger sensations of affinity by the activation of sensorimotor responses.

Embodied Simulation: The capacity to imagine situations through the visualisation of images which are created through the continuous collection of perceptions and processed by experience.

Proxemics: Concept developed by Edward T. Hall referring to animal and human need for personal space and the biological boundaries that regulate social distancing and proximity.

Intersubjectivity: The capacity of one body to relate and establish affective bonds with other bodies and objects in the environment.

Wayfinding: Concept from neurosciences that refers to the capacity of a body (human or animal) to orient while navigating an environment.

Somaesthetics: Interdisciplinary philosophy coined by Richard Shusterman which aims to investigate bodily perception, performance and presentation integrating theoretical, empirical and practical disciples, for example John Dewey’s pragmatism and Zen body-mind philosophy.

Persona: Concept from psychology that refers to the set of characteristics that an individual displays as her/his personality traits on a regular basis. The persona in this context also refers to a public or social self.

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