September 2, 2014

Architecture is fundamentally about crafting the human experience – and the human experience is not just visual, it is also multi-sensory.

Sensory design has been an under-utilized element of architectural design. Traditionally, the approach to the senses has been static and passive, regarding each sense modality as independent, but treating auditory, tactile, haptic, gustatory and olfactory senses as secondary to the visual. 

Upali Nanda, Ph.D., Assoc. AIA, EDAC; Ana Pinto-Alexander, RID, IIDA, EDAC and Carina Clark, EDAC, LEED AP BD +C, HKS, Inc. Center For Advanced Design Research and Evaluation, will expound on the benefits of multi-sensory design in their presentation “Blue Sounds, Black Smells” at the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) 2014 Conference, September 18-20, in La Jolla, Calif. 

Nanda, Pinto-Alexander and Clark will compare the traditional approach of “sensory orders” (supported by anthropology) to the more current notion of neural “plasticity” – a constant dialogue between the senses that crafts our perceptions and shapes our experiences, focusing on the sense of smell and how it blends with the other senses. 

The trio will begin with a case study in a simulated Emergency Department where caregivers were exposed to different senses and their physiological feedback (heart rate and bio-feedback) measured to determine physical stress response, while using mood mapping to indicate the individual’s emotional state of being at the beginning and end of each aromatic environment. They also will discuss where smell falls in the sensory order and the relevance of synesthesia, a neurological condition where stimulation in one sense triggers a perceptual experience in another. Finally, they will talk about the neurological basis and the theoretical significance to architecture, concluding with how under-utilized senses, sensory orders and sensory “cross-connections” can affect design. 

Nanda is director of research for HKS and executive director of HKS’ Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation (CADRE), the research arm of HKS committed to original research to advance the design industry. Pinto-Alexander, principal and director of healthcare interior architecture with HKS, has more than 25 years of experience designing interiors for the country’s most progressive healthcare facilities. Clark, with more than seven years of experience, focuses her research on how sensory perception affects an individual’s performance, specifically within a healthcare environment. 

HKS is ranked among the top healthcare architectural firms in the world by Modern Healthcare and BD World Architecture. Operating from 27 offices worldwide, HKS focuses on innovative healthcare design, process and delivery. The firm’s award-winning healthcare architecture includes 2,000 unique projects representing 80,000 beds and 184 million square feet. HKS projects have garnered numerous awards and coverage in worldwide publications. The firm’s healthcare specialists are highly respected international speakers. 

 For more information, contact Sherri Smith at

Posted in Health
Tagged Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture 2014 Conference, Ana Pinto-Alexander, Carina Clark, multi-sensory, Upali Nanda