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Eliciting An Emotional Response in Architecture

Simon Unwin

I wish to report on a project I ran for student architects in the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, during the academic sessions 2002-3 and 2003-4. The challenge of the project was to create an installation (in the sense of 'art gallery installation') that would elicit an emotional response in those who experience it. In each session the project was undertaken by a group of eight students, each of whom conceived, designed and built their own installation. Students were encouraged to consider the range of emotions that it might be possible to elicit through the design of architectural space, and the means available to them. The emotions they explored included: embarrassment, pride, shyness, loss, vulnerability, shock, grief, intrigue, amusement, joy, claustrophobia, exhibitionism.... The means they exploited included: enclosure, light, sound, smells, textures, reflection, movement, elevation.... The resulting installations were exhibited and experienced by a wide range of people. This paper describes the more successful installations produced by this project, and discusses the possibilities in architecture for provoking emotional responses by architectural means.