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Architecture and our urban environment arise from a long history of development and tradition. Even the Modernists, who dismissed the rules of classical architecture, produced rules that were simply a version of what had been before. Architecture does not exist in a vacuum. It is shaped by history, social contexts, and culture. It is inherently biased and this is not necessarily a bad thing but something to be recognized and acknowledged. In fact, we can learn from what biases and ideologies are revealed by architecture to put forward alternative architectural narratives in the contemporary context. In this sense, society can be understood through its architectures and representations producing new historical and contemporary readings of space that are in some ways more honest than those provided in text books.

Architecture shapes space. It is a tool that creates a virtuality of experience. It manifests

an inside and an outside (Deleuze, 1988). We can think of the outside as the socio-political

and cultural constructs, and this inside becomes a reflection of that providing a looking

glass to understand subjectivities in space. Architecture then becomes an interesting

intersection of psychology, philosophy, science, technology, sociology, ecology, and


Architectural design research becomes a world-building exercise that relies on the curation of a particular narrative or narratives that provide a lineage of work that supports the project. It becomes a vehicle of representation for larger questions. It is political. It is ecological. It is social. It is cultural. It is ‘all of the above.’ It does not exist in a vacuum. It is for this reason that architecture and representation can provide a powerful tool to reveal perspectives and perceptions. This thesis section will incorporate history, theory, philosophy, and psychology in order to formulate a provocation that addresses architectural practice, its mediums, representations, and signifiers. Students will develop critical thesis arguments and a design project that represents these.

Olafur Eliasson "Future Assembly," 2021; Venice Biennale


Sensorial stimuli are crucial for our ability to perceive space. This allows us to process information about our surroundings so we can recognize our relationship with them. The signals received from the eyes, nose, ears, and skin allow for the brain to create a mental image of our environment. We are able to calculate light, reverberation and echo, material quality, temperature, and distance via these signals that situate us within our reality. Without them we would not be able to understand our relationship to space in the same way. The body then responds to these stimuli and negotiates itself within the environment. Our experience of space is directly linked to our perception of it. Manipulating sensorial experience allows for reinterpretations of perception and ultimately provides an exploration into other modes of perceiving ourselves within space and our relationship to other bodies. Allowing architecture to become more responsive provides an opportunity to create dialogue between perceiver and perceived, renegotiating the role of design as an active, rather than static or passive, participant in the production of experience.

“No artistic practice is spared the examination of the role of the human body in

the work, whether the body is the subject, the tool or the negated presence.”

-Madeline Schwartzman, See Yourself Sensing

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Haus Rucker Co "Mind Expander"

Historically, humans have produced devices, whether as tools or through the built environment, that have allowed a manipulation of perception, using the respective technologies of the time period to do so. This is done as a matter of need (like in cases such as the Acoustic Radar developed during war to amplify hearing capabilities), in the name of science (like Muybridge’s photographs dissecting motion showing the moving

body in a way that no-one had ever before perceived), and as a form of artistic expression and exploration (like countless perceptual art pieces and architectures we see throughout history). In a way, we have always been cyborg, incorporating various tools that augment

our abilities to perceive. It seems part of human nature- something that reflects culture and society and that speaks volumes about the bodies that use(d) them. Architecture always, to some degree, augments sensory experience and has the capability to take on an even more active role in this through the implementation of new technologies and the development of more communicative and responsive attitudes with our built



The production of experience directly has psychological implications, impacting subjectivity in space. From a sociological standpoint, it is also

inherently biased - based on the experience and collective subjective histories of those that design it. The sensorial and perceptual qualities

are a crucial part of this, and so, the studio questions our norms of designing space and reflects upon sensory experience and perception

of it. While it is impossible to design anything that is not in some way biased- design will inevitably reflect the subjectivity of its designer- we must be conscientious of this fact so that we may become more critical of why or how we chose to design- what social histories are we perpetuating and why. This acknowledgment of the ‘other’ ultimately creates more equitable space that caters to a multiplicity of experience.

More information about courses can be found on the CUHK School of Architecture Course page.

You can also visit our studio instagram account to follow our work in progress @sensingspacestudio

HOW DO WE SENSE SPACE? - M.Arch Design Studio CUHK AY21-22

This studio seeks to challenge current modes of perceiving through the use of new technologies and proposes exploration into alternate models in order to design architecture for the multiplicitous body. It does this through three lines of related inquiry: 

  1. the examination of human interaction with architecture and ways of producing more communicative structures; 

  2. the examination of the cyborg and the production of sensorial and biometric devices that produce perceptual shifts; 

  3. and the examination of the built environment and how it can be augmented through the production of narrative and world building that re-imagines Hong Kong.  

The studio will build upon experiential theories of architecture and design, examining the responsive, sensorial, and immersive through 3 phases that build upon one another. We will be using various technologies and modes of representation to formulate critical standpoints on architectural issues in Hong Kong.

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"I understand architecture because I have a body from which to understand it." - (paraphrase) Heinrich Wölfflin


This studio seeks to challenge current modes of perceiving and proposes exploration into alternate models. Examining environmental conditions, sensorial stimuli, and ways of reading the body and its response, we will be designing architecture for the body. We will be learning from the expertise of cognitive scientists, psychologists and neurologists. We will experiment with different forms of scale, media, representation techniques and methods of design and fabrication in order to produce perceptual manipulations. Through the development of these provocations and through readings of theoretical and scientific discourse concerning the body in the built environment, we will discover and dissect the value of designing a particular experience for the body and what the implications of this are for subjectivity and for the architectural profession in general. 

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There is a long lineage of virtual reality spaces throughout history that have utilized different mediums, modes of representation and framing which propose different sensory engagement. Devices of immersion re-present a perceived reality, itself a form of representation as it is determined on a subjective basis through sensorial perception of space. As designers working with mediums and materials we inherently engage with this virtuality of experience. So then, what do our virtual realities expose about our society's deepest inclinations?



This course examines the built environment through filmic representations of the city. It will interrogate the urban landscape looking at various cities and considering the historical, social, economic and political influences that have created their existing conditions. Each week there will be a film viewing followed the next morning by a lecture and discussion that delves into the respective ‘place.’ Students will also use film to develop their own critical reflection of Hong Kong. 


This course will break down architectural history looking at various architectural elements and how they have evolved over time, manifesting differently around the world. While the elements may take on unique forms on one side of the globe as compared to the other, we can argue that they are also universal and serve as a way to connect diverse cultures, religions, and societies. It is by no means a comprehensive historical overview but rather an opportunity to look at the finer architectural details that create an experience of architecture inevitably shaped by the cultures it exists in. We will use the study of buildings, their design and their construction in order to understand more about their historical narratives. The lectures will cover a broad and global spectrum of architecture that takes us from the pre-historic to the beginning of the Modernist movement.

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This course will cover 20th century architectural movements across the globe that grew out of, ran parallel to and broke away from modernism. This will be done through specific domestic case studies that reveal and open up a broader conversation around architecture, urban design and their social implications

History & Theory I (WIT)

This lecture course surveys world architecture, urbanism, and landscapes from the ancient world through roughly 1700 CE. Lectures shall discuss architecture as a form of cultural expression and in relation to artistic, political, religious, scientific, technological, and social developments.

History & Theory II (WIT)

Judging by its outcomes, the practices of 20th-century architecture failed to address the systemic conditions of the global climate crisis and persistent social injustices. In response, this course is part of a disciplinary re-tooling of the architectural history survey. Beyond the established canon of exceptional European monuments, we explore a broad thematic overview of the built environment, including cities, landscapes, infrastructures, artifacts, and the humble structures of everyday life. The course embraces histories beyond the horizons of Western Europe and North America to consider perspectives centered in Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Rather than simply cram more into the already crowded list of sites, we embrace the challenge of rethinking this topic from an authentically global perspective. 

Throughout, we challenge students to speculate with us using analytical drawing to produce new narratives to confirm, correct, or complete the emerging histories of architecture. In this, the course tests the hypothesis that the best way of learning history is by doing history.

This lecture- and discussion-based course surveys world architecture, urbanism, and landscapes from 1700 CE to the present. Lectures discuss architecture as a form of cultural expression in relation to artistic, political, religious, scientific, technological, and social developments. Discussion sessions provide opportunities to present and critique analytical drawings of key buildings.

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