top of page

Winners Announced: Essay Writing Contest: 'Reimagining Architecture As A Cognitive Space'

Updated: Aug 28, 2021

Essay Writing Contest, 1st Cycle floated by Architectural Journalism & Criticism Organisation announces the Winning Entries.

Theme for the Series in this cycle is 'Reimagining Architecture as a Cognitive Space’ – from Product to Process.

Brief- We are shaped by what we experience. This is an often-heard refrain. But what does it really mean? How does the experience of modern architecture shape us in the way we think? Or does it? How does brain architecture get shaped by architecture in general? What do children imbibe when they encounter modern spaces and artifacts? Do children get to encounter any process? What is the message architecture gives children? More important, what does it hide from children? How does the so-called child-friendliness impact children? Is there any process-oriented architecture? Life is a process, so is the child, but in order to awaken the inherent sense of process, the child needs to engage with the processes around. But the child, in the context of modernity, only encounters products and processes trapped within products - the same way intuition is trapped within reason, spontaneity is trapped within planning and how unknown is trapped within the known.

How do senses work within the confines of the mind? Modernity in general has taken out what it takes to be nature-centric human beings. Anthropocentrism is the default being-ness of modern humans, as it has taken away some crucial aspects that we need to experience when our brains get formed. The child, in their first twelve years, gets rooted in its context and imbibes the characteristics and shapes its cognitive foundation. The window to see the world, the frame of reference to make sense of the world around. Its ethical foundation is set here and if it happens according to the demands of life is about sustaining life. This means sustainability is part of our biological wiring. Let us not forget the homogenization of human cultures, one of the reasoning being modern architecture. Could we reimagine architecture as a cognitive condition/space/source that makes us nature-centric by default? What lessons can one learn from indigenous architecture where it means to achieve bio-centrism as default?

The 'Citation Award' goes to Pranjali Karnik

“Reshaping the Built: How does it affect us Psychologically”

In today's digital era, we often get enticed by the scenes of architecture and design on social media platforms every day. Based on our preferences, we either say 'wow' or express displeasure after seeing them. These photographs or graphics transport us to the place mentally, allowing us to imagine and feel the spaces, the colours, the atmosphere, and the experiences we might have. Imagine such a space or a structure you have admired on a social media site that carried you away in your imagination. But right here, I would like to stifle your imagination and pull you out of that fantasy realm.

Because, the visual sense is deceptive. What might be visually appealing to the eyes might not be acceptable to the body.

Our body possesses five senses, i.e., the sense of smell, touch, hearing, taste and vision, but we seldom forget that all the senses work hand in hand to give us an experience. Though we may believe that a visually appealing environment is all that is required, our other senses equally trap the space in their respective memories, and we, as a human body, feel the space and recollect these memories when we come in contact with a similar space.

Let's consider spaces or structures in terms of typology. What distinguishes a space as a specific typology and give it a distinct character? Why do all offices appear to be the same? Or the hospitals look alike? Or schools look the same? Why is it that we restrict ourselves from going to hospitals but feel a sense of warmth and enthusiasm glimpsing a house, resort or spa? Is it due to its functional character, or is it the architecture that dictates the typology? Based on standard design guidelines, architects design an office, school, hospital, or resort in a particular way that fits into the respective typology. It is here that our minds react to the specific typology and starts to imagine the space that has been fitted in our minds. Our sensory memory triggers the previous experiences that we encountered in that typology. We begin to think of spaces as - glass and air-conditioned offices, odorous and noisy hospitals, school campuses with courtyards and large grounds, cozy houses, and calm and serene meditation centers.

We, humans, have had a long history of living amid nature; hence, we are tuned with nature and its cycles. We feel tranquil and peaceful in built areas that are in harmony with nature. Nature has the ability to heal our minds and our bodies. Architecture that incorporates it generously and synchronizes with its cycles activates all our senses, and we feel the space. Nature can be integrated through materials, biophilia or biomimicry, natural hues, elements like plants and water bodies, etc. In terms of senses, we can, for example, smell and taste the raw earth or wood walls, touch the sunlight and air, hear the breeze, and so on. Such spaces elevate our mood, induce joy, creativity and tranquility, and we tend to visit that place again and again. Novel places develop excitement, imagination, and interaction with the space. For a space to be experienced, our body necessitates constant interaction with it through all the senses that integrate and send signals to the brain. The brain responds either positively or negatively to the space based on signals received from each sensory stimuli by apprehending the volume, thermal comfort, haptics, sounds, etc.

In the age of modernization, where we define a space by four walls, use synthetic materials excessively, rely on active techniques, and impose guidelines and standards, the interaction between us and the building is lost. The communication with materials, joyous encounter with the sunrays, staring at the mysterious play of light and shadow has been lost. Modernization of spaces, materials, technologies, mass production, etc., though have provided solutions that assist in quick designs and eased construction work, has also led to buildings seeming monotonous, giving the same visual appearances and experiences. Since such buildings or spaces do not create the necessary interaction with our body and mind, we tend to feel detached from the space, and the creativity, joy, and excitement to explore are lost. Such places, therefore, causes stress or anxiety in us.

Consider structures from the perspective of children - when they touch the walls of the schools or hear the raindrops splatter on the roof of their house or measure a large hall. Children communicate with the spaces from an early age which provokes excitement within them to explore. Every spatial experience creates a place deep down in their memory which is recollected when they come in contact with a similar space. Modern monotonous structures or designs, materials and hues limit this interaction, confining the ability for creativity and sensory exploration. Depending on their spatial experiences, they might feel joyous, fearful, etc., of going to particular buildings. It could be dangerous if they respond to a building or space negatively and feel claustrophobic about it for years. Thus, it becomes indispensable to create architecture that instils a sense of security and comfort among the children and other users.

Buildings can thus impact the perception of the space and invoke emotions such as a sense of security, danger, calmness, comfort, frustration, fear, anxiety, depression, creativity, conspiracy, and so on within the users. Architecture, therefore, influences our thinking, actions, performance, moods and behaviour, as well as our health. Yet, in the age of modernism, aesthetics and competitions, we seldom give attention to designing for humans and their psychology.

'Special Mention Award I’ goes to Radhika Jhamaria

“The Blue Tarp”

A narrative of intrinsic curiosity of an impressionable mind

Seven-year-old Shikha hails from Pandrasali village of Jharkhand, India. Her father is a day-wager in the construction industry, and her mother has just started a pushcart selling multi-colored bangles. The supplemented income is meager, yet both parents try to provide a better life for their daughter. The mud-walled structure that Shikha calls her home is supported with a roof that dwindled during the last month's heavy rain causing much distress to its inhabitants. Shikha's father fashioned a makeshift solution, and the roof is now patched with a tarpaulin sheet. On a rainy morning, amidst the cacophony of chickens clucking and water trickling through the open drainage canals that envelope the bricked path outside the hut, Shikha packs her bag to leave for school.

Today's activity at school unearths the "psychic state" of our protagonist. With paper and pencil in hand, the group of pre-teenagers is asked to spontaneously draw their dream shelters. Shikha puts her hands and mind at work simultaneously and uses various hues in her drawing, knit-picked from her memory of her mother's multi-colored bangle box. Her drawing reveals the exterior elevation of a mud-house with a carved door, a threshold, and a roof drawn in perspective, indicating a house that is "lived-in" and not just a mute façade. The striking point of the drawing is the exact replica of the hanging blue tarpaulin on the patch of the mud roof. Here we affirm psychologist Françoise Minkowska's view that even as Shikha draws her home from the outside, she reveals its details of intimacy. The tarpaulin's function takes precedence over everything else in her drawing. We can weigh in on this point and say that her dream shelter is one where the roof doesn't leak.

This feeble incident highlights the interplay of architectural agency on a child's psychology. The fixed nature of a house is contradicted with the ephemeral roof over the child's head. This mere discovery incites her curiosity. She further discovers the differences in the characteristics of both the materials (thatch and tarpaulin). She makes observations in architectural details around her and learns to think critically. However, such participation in the regenerative process of building her home is uniquely rural, or we can say that such methods are alien to privileged factions of the society. In urban areas, where parents want to protect their children and limit their learning hours to schools, the discussion of architectural problems and their subsequent solutions are done out of bounds of inquisitive minds. Modern architecture in urban scenarios, thus, masks the social struggles that can shape the young generation.

A common misconception among the social elite is to build designated spaces for their child's learning. This strategy is foolish simply because cognitive development in children is a continuous process and cannot be limited to specific spaces or certain hours. As Maria Montessori rightly points out, the leading cause for delays in children's learning is the unavailability of appropriate stimuli for their development in their surroundings. The day's architecture requires a theatrical manipulation of all spaces closest to the child to stimulate their senses and harbor their curiosity, emotional intelligence, and creativity. There is a need to design such that not only schools but residential environments and street settings present opportunities for children to interact and play. Architecture should focus on these little feet and drive them to become independent. Once independent, it will be easier for them to ask questions and derive answers from their surroundings.

After her regular school ends, Shikha whoops her belongings and skips across the street cracks (a game she forged with her friends) to her favorite place in the village. The place she proudly calls her second home. Aayub school is truly home to several of the tribal kids who come here to learn from Pradhan Birua, an environment conservationist that opened his home as a creative panacea for young impressionable minds. The school nurtures esteem for the environment by familiarizing the children with concepts through play. Designed to allow interaction, Aayub school's backyard brims with opportunities for learning and instills a sense of inclusion among the kids who are part of the process of its making. As Shikha tends to one of the palas saplings that she had helped sow in this backyard, she also learns about mathematical fractions by counting the petals of the blooming flowers. Palas is Jharkhand's state flower, and by planting this particular species, the children's perceptions focus on the grounds where they live. The school thus breeds an environmentally conscious pool of citizens.

Genetically, we are wired as biophilic beings without fear, curious to experiment and learn from the environment around us. With the spiking issues of criminal activities, global warming, and recently, the toll of the virus, children have been imprisoned inside their homes. Thus, from inciting wonder in kids through natural spaces, we are reduced to introducing superficial nature to existing spaces. However, the act of agency (to explore and learn from nature) in kids remains autonomous. To ameliorate the effects of the new lifestyle, bringing the outside inside will ensure tacit learning that will groom children into compassionate individuals.

In the web of multi-disciplinary discourses of children's cognitive development, modern architecture needs to engage nature-based development policies and target multi-sensory design implications. And these solutions must be ingrained through a participatory relationship between all stakeholders: the child, the conscious adult, and the prepared environment (Montessori, 1898), such that architecture reveals the process behind every niche.

In the evening, Shikha gets home to find her father bent down, working to fix the clogged gutter as the downpour outside continues. She rushes to her side, carefully eyeing his every move and happy to become part of the process when requested to pass his toolbox. She is bubbling with questions, but she'll have to wait until tomorrow to ask Mister Birua. She wonders if the blue tarpaulin can solve this problem, too?


Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), 92.

Moore, Robin C. “The Need for Nature: A Childhood Right.” Social Justice, vol. 24, no. 3 (69), 1997, pp. 203–220. JSTOR,

Niyogi, Deepanwita. “Tribal Children in a Jharkhand Village Learn the Joy of Science.” Mongabay-India, 8 Jan. 2020,

Migliani, Audrey. “How to Stimulate Children’s Autonomy Through Architecture and the Montessori Method.” ArchDaily, Archdaily, 18 Jan. 2021,

'Special Mention Award II’ goes to Haripriya Panakkal

“Experience: Process, Trajectory and Expression”

Traversing through memories in/of spaces and the message architecture gives children

One of my most cherished experiences, when speaking about architectural spaces, was in my ancestral house, where we spent most of our holidays. My grandfather renovated the house once the family started growing and the spaces that were structurally renovated the most were the kitchen, dining hall and the living space. He intentionally did so, just because he wanted to accommodate his whole family and spend his time together with them. I wasn’t aware of it back then but those spaces somehow united us and brought us closer as a family.

These initial memories I have of such spaces made me feel something and made me conscious of them. I believe that it was by design and not chance, because of the dialogue between the people and the built environment. The form alone wouldn’t have made me feel the same way if I had not been with my family. Without those spaces, I wouldn’t have the memories I cherish now and even though home is where your family is, I cannot help but feel indebted to those subtle nuances of architecture which made our family closer.

We feel different in different spaces. Certain spaces make us feel relieved, be it in nature or form, but does that mean that they have a presence even when we don’t occupy or perceive it? Is this presence independent of our existence? When I look back at it now, I wonder if I would still have similar memories without those spaces, or conversely, if I did not, would the ingenuity of those spaces get negated?

How brain activity gets shaped by architecture and its impact on children

I was once hospitalised in a government hospital in Kerala for a few weeks when I was a child. I wasn’t having any pain or discomfort until I got admitted to the hospital. Days before the surgery, my mother and I started to get mentally disturbed being in those spaces filled with people who were sick and in pain, and that in turn, started to reflect in our physical health. These hospitals were built not considering the mental health and well being of the people but mostly on efficiency, budget and such factors, which made me question: how can it be efficient when a hospital, intended to heal people, makes them unquestionably uncomfortable? As a child, in these extreme situations, I got time to introspect and realize how immensely architecture can affect brain activity which manifests in our physical health.

On the other hand, my ancestral home shaped my implicit memory, instilling the importance of family, unity and belonging. In those times, we went outdoors a lot, naked feet on the ground feeling the earth, enjoying nature as our playground, which made me realise the importance of the environment and my part in it. It’s disheartening to see how the children these days don’t have many open spaces to play in the urban areas, being unaware of the joys of nature which may facilitate anthropocentrism.

The issues that we are facing right now, be it social, political or environmental, by focusing on children, by creating spaces that provide exposure which instills skills for them to tackle those issues growing up, we can create a sustainable future by initiating a positive change within children. This is why child responsive design is crucial, not just in the form of products designed by adults for the children, but by involving them in the process. Because the eyes through which they perceive the world are not tampered and are of unlimited possibilities. To not take advantage of such a resource would be nothing short of foolhardiness.

Experience of modern architecture shaping the way we think

If we look at most of the malls, commercial and office buildings in Cochin, for example, it sells us an image of progress and development. The spatial quality provides us comfortable temperatures temporarily in the tropical climate using artificial cooling devices, mimicking the images of developed nations which more or less, deceives people who do not have sufficient knowledge about the environment and the destruction these buildings leave behind. The general public seldom imagines how much it affects the environment and damages, in a very real sense, their own lifeblood. It’s deeply concerning how this very ignorance can lead to such destructive spaces being encouraged.

Modern architecture itself comprises different types. What’s important is, regardless of time, knowing the consequences of destructive space and to avoid them. When whole generations grow up seeing images of destruction, renovation, and the apparent ‘modernisation’ they will most likely lose the sense of identity and belonging to their roots and become increasingly unsatisfied without constant change. There is a great deal of responsibility for the planners and designers to stay true to the design, create a sense of community and belonging, and respect the natural environment because it’s the only sustainable way to progress. It’s through mistakes that we learn and that too is part of the process.

When we work closely with a place, it derives its building from a foundation of respect without compromising long term efficiency. If we design mindfully, the intention will surely manifest itself producing spaces that would shape the thinking of not just its current inhabitants but generations to follow as well. To create spaces that are inclusive of all, across the many facets of the civilisation, embracing the diverse nature of the existence, preserving our cultural heritage while at the same time being open to change, and creating a sense of belonging for all, is definitely a worthy endeavour. Working together with the old and the new, to use the present for a better future, to sustain life on this planet especially when we know that innovation can make this dream a reality is sure to appeal to the general public, which slowly but surely, becoming more and more educated.

Certificate of Appreciation_1: Nishanti Srinivasan

“An Architecture of Process”

One of my favourite parts of Roald Dahl’s ‘Mathilda’ features our protagonist, a young genius and avid reader, describing how she is able to explore the world and go on adventures, all while reading in the corner of her room. Her family attempts to deprive her of the books she travels the world through, her school forces her to study material she would have absorbed with ease at age three, and therefore this extra, unused mental energy is translated into extraordinary powers. If we look closely, however, is this not what is currently the case for millions of children worldwide? In depriving our children of spaces that will nurture and cater to cognitive development, do we not force them to develop the power, to see and create worlds where there are none? The mind of a child is more than capable of taking what is given to it and making it into something extraordinary. Where it is handed a hat, it could receive a boa constrictor digesting an elephant; but is it still fair to hand it simply a dull old hat in the first place?

(The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943)

On introspection about the ways in which architecture shapes the cognitive development of a child, I began to recall the spaces and landscapes of my childhood: my school with the sprawling grounds, the library with all the best books on shelves I needed a chair to reach, the forbidden corridor leading to the ‘haunted’ laboratories I longed to grow up to study in. Or perhaps the housing society I grew up in, with the large rain trees we would climb to read books in on cloudy afternoons, the secret passage that connected my building to my best friend’s. The funny thing is, none of these spaces ever existed anywhere outside my imagination; at least, not the way I recall and describe them. They came to be as an amalgamation of various existing spaces, and the collected works of Enid Blyton, J. K. Rowling, J.R.R Tolkien, and various other authors who had captured my imagination. In reality, the grounds were barely large enough to play a decent game of football. The laboratories weren’t haunted, they just had a model of a human skeleton that frightened us. The rain trees had far too many insects in them to so much as climb. The “secret” passage was just the alternate route that passed from behind the buildings.

Architecture, like art, is subjective, but unlike art, has very specific needs it must cater to, that vary with age. My appreciation for modern architecture and today’s concrete boxes has developed over my past few years of studying the nuances of various styles of architecture, but having been a child that grew up exposed largely only to such spaces, I can attest to how impossibly dull it all seems to a child. So what, then, would an architecture that satisfies the desires of a growing child look like? What would an architecture of process need to be, when designed for a person in process? Can such a space even exist?

The spaces we occupy as children that are designed specifically for cognitive development, such as schools and colleges (and those dreadful, windowless tuition classes) seem to act only as something that enables us to read and write and listen; the spaces themselves are largely non-entities, if they aren’t outright obstructing the education. The spaces that actually foster growth are those that allow the children to make them their own, through the act of play, something that has been proven to be crucial in cognitive development[1]; but this act of playing is something that happens organically, something children intuitively do. What would spaces designed for this purpose look like? In order to answer this question, we look at spaces that do foster growth and development. Common consensus is that natural spaces and landscapes, amongst their various health benefits, are also known to aid in cognitive development[2]. (What a failure it is that the only spaces that perform this function are those that have developed independent of us!)

We grow up in cities designed based on function, and are taught to have ‘function’ be a key aspect of our design development, where any freedom for play becomes merely incidental. This is all well and good for the productive lives we lead as adults, but for growing children that require spaces to simply make their own, it can impede this growth. We are taught to navigate the world on the basis of functions, hence this idea of a “functionless” space made simply for growth and development and play seems farfetched. It helps to look at why natural green spaces, the fantastical worlds of books, and imaginary worlds created by us are so freeing: they exist not to serve any purpose of function, but simply for the joy of existing. Spaces that encourage growth and development, then, are any spaces that retain this joy.

The way a child navigates and understands the spaces they occupy makes use of this idea, with every nook and cranny holding the potential to be a whole world. The room is not cluttered, it is filled with potential props to act as building blocks for a more interesting world of the child’s creation. To see the world the way a child does is to see the innate potential in every single thing, and transcend both form and function to create the impossible, fantastical, and wonderful.


[1] Tamis-LeMonda CS, Shannon JD, Cabrera NJ, Lamb ME. Fathers and mothers at play with their 2- and 3-year-olds: contributions to language and cognitive development. Child Dev.2004;75 :1806– 1820 [2] Green spaces and cognitive development in children - Payam Dadvand, MarkJ. Nieuwenhuijsen, Mikel Esnaola, Joan Forns, Xavier Basagaña, Mar AlvarezPedrerol, Ioar Rivas, Mónica López-Vicente, Montserrat De Castro Pascual, Jason Su, Michael Jerrett, Xavier Querol, Jordi Sunyer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jun 2015, 112 (26) 7937-7942; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1503402112

Certificate of Appreciation_2: Wijdane Esseffah

“Reimagining Architecture as a Cognitive Space”

Cognitive processes refer to an array of operations that aim to create, translate and wield mental representations of information. These processes comprise a myriad of functions ranging from attention, perception and learning to memory storage and retrieval, as well as problem solving and decision making. Cognition, though a complex mechanism, is based mainly on transforming and manipulating various sensory inputs into intelligible and pragmatic responses for a better apprehension of one’s environment. Cognition originates mainly from phylogenetic factors, dictated by basic hereditary attributions, however, it is also heavily influenced by ontogenetic aspects relating to the human’s lifelong existence and affluent experience, within which is inscribed the subsequent interaction with architecture and the built environment as a whole.

Architecture or the built environment can be qualified as an allegorical humanoid, both technically, based on the complex constructive logic and the interrelated systems, and theoretically, as an entity that contributes actively in sheltering lives, creating memories and shaping identities as a whole. It can even be argued, as phrased by Aaron Hendershott, that architecture is corporeal, a prosthetic extension of the body in which this latter practices its cognition. This idea of extension paves the way towards a more established theory known as embodied cognition, which studies the relational pairing between the body / mind dyad and the components of the built environment, scilicet, this embodiment determines our architectural experiences.

The aforementioned causal inferences of architecture and built environment on the human behavior and perception are the subject of interdisciplinary interests, namely architectural phenomenology, the primary objective of which is to explore the metaphysical realm embodied in the built architectural form, and more recently so, neuroscience that investigates empirically the neural effect of the built environment on the cognitive repertoire so to set conjunction levels between brain architecture and architecture. Studies have shown that long-term memories are processed in the same brain region responsible for spatial navigation and wayfinding functions, which means that it is virtually impossible to disjoint the act of summoning a given memory from the spatial framework in which it has been inscribed. Moreover, the quality of the space in question along its subsidiary elements constitute variables that can affect cognitive processes differently; a child growing in a secluded suburban area will develop distinct cognitive skills from the ones another child living in a densely populated city might have, similarly, the slightest shift in any spatial variable will have a neurological impact on the cerebral sensors, thus presenting circumstantial cognitive cues for the subject to imbibe.

The human behavior within the built environment has been a prone subject for scientific ardor, since Kevin Lynch’s study on cognitive maps and imageability within the urban space to the more recent constant neuroscientific studies exploring cognition and perception all aiming to optimize the notions of quality and comfort in architecture. The introduction of neuroscience as an aspect of the apprehension of the built environment accentuated the tremendous contribution of architecture in the development of human cognitive skills especially in the rows of children. Richard Neutra emphasizes the importance of letting the human “neurological entity” flourish and blossom through conceptual quality conceived by the architect who should be, according to him “a gardener of nervous growth”, all whilst being fully conscious of the leverage architecture has upon its inhabitants.

As opposed to the general directives that Neutra and other architectural theoreticians have set for their preferred cognitive-friendly design processes, modern architecture seems to have ripped itself from the embodied experience towards a more disembodied, merely retinal and warped perception of the built environment as Juhani Pallasmaa would phrase it. Modern architecture is centered on pre-established and anthropometric measurements aimed towards an impersonal homogenized society of like-minded individuals. It is a mechanized, codified and commercialized environment practically devoid of circumstantial cognitive stimuli, ready to imbibe its users in general and children in particular with commonplace cues, not in the height to generate revolting cognitive processes. Predictable, matter-of-course spatial configurations can only bring about matter-of-course cognitive repertoires especially for children in their formative phases. On the other hand, vernacular architecture offers the possibility of transcending the body schema to the space schema, creating a cognitive force triangle exclusive to each space, the unpredictability, the elements of hazard, and purely incidental architectural appurtenances belonging to the human or natural craftsmanship alike create a unique proprioceptive experience.

The interdisciplinary efforts between architecture and neuroscience, as well as the recent use of computerized assistance can confer an unprecedented upheaval to contemporary design practices, within which cognitive development is ubiquitous. The new technological paradigms can help to optimize the user experience within built environment and to empirically examine causal inferences. Architectural design is, by definition, not an analytic discipline that systematically investigates all the possible spatial combinations and their effects on users, however, virtual reality and digitally assisted design can explore all these configurations and promote a general reassessment of walkability, usability, visibility, intelligibility and wayfinding in every building regardless of its programmatic complexity. These immersive virtual reality simulations are an effective tool for a neuroscientific study of the architectural experience and an efficient antidote for the modern standardized “artifacts” or mere “products”, towards a neo-neuro-sustainable embodied experience, finally now, we can say that the once quixotic aspiration of creating bespoke spatial configurations catering to the needs and specificities of their users is looming in the horizon, and the fruits of Neutra neurological garden might ripen just in time.

Certificate of Appreciation_3: Zeynep Çolak

“Perceptible World Behind Design”

For me, architecture is the journey of the process and evolution of human existence in all dimensions; it is a challenge that man in the evolution process fights for his true existence. During this great challenge, man gained the ability to think about existence and the courage to use his mind; he developed his feelings and thoughts within aesthetic values and made architecture immortal and permanent. Man was being of his mind, thought, knowledge and consciousness in the ancient Greek era. Then the Renaissance artists created three dimensional works and discovered the secrets of nature, space and architecture. After that the Bauhaus school transferred the basic form to a three-dimensional world, architecture, with a new logic of seeing, thinking and feeling. In all of these eras man produced works in the act of creating by following the new logic of cognitive, in other words ‘conscious intellectual activity such as thinking, reasoning or remembering’ (Meriam Webster). Moreover on the hunt to find its reason for existence man discovered the potentials of the nature and science because nature heightens the human experience by awakening senses and since the senses are linked to emotions they affect us. Another thing that is essential for the experience is the atmosphere; as architects we actually design an atmosphere, the feeling and experience of it that invites visitors to discover is the essence of architecture. As a result all of these have an impact on the experience and in my opinion this is the raison d’etre of design; when intellectual activity, atmosphere and the process comes together they create a perceptible world behind our designs that is able to show us the journey of human existence in other words they create a cognitive space that responds with experience and nature centric designs strengthens it.

“Every time designers engage themselves in a design project, they somehow recreate the world” (Findeli, 2001). I love the power of design; whether it is an object or a space or a building, design in general have a power; their textures, functions, colors demands, encourages, mediates, delegates and allows for different experiences therefore they affect and shape our behavior, senses and emotions and I believe matching these activities with design is the way to ‘reimagine architecture as a cognitive space’. If we look at this way it becomes easy to understand why we designers are recreating the world and the term ‘social’ because when we imagine any design in a cognitive way we focus on the experience and therefore we focus on how we affect humans. Albena Yaneva says “It is impossible to understand how a society works without appreciating how design shapes, conditions, facilitates and makes possible everyday sociality” (Yaneva). With this in mind I started to rethink my 3rd year urban housing project in a cognitive way. I believe every space has its own distinctive sound of intimacy, rejection or invitation, hospitality or hostility moreover spaces can promote our social, cognitive and emotional development and this is why the pure existences of the spaces in all figures are a way of affording a reassembly of the ‘social’. That is to say they offer a social contentment in pleasure to all visitors without regarding gender, age and profession, moreover they become places where the people can collectively enjoy using the space. They mediate conversation through a specific way in which it delegates and facilitates activities like walking, sitting, resting and reading. Since these basic actions are repeating and they are enjoyed by different users, this repetition stimulates the enrichment of social life. Moreover as the visitors walk through levels the curves affect their emotions instantly with their playful impulses also the benches are inviting them with the curvilinear forms because it makes them seem more approachable compared to rectilinear ones.

Image 1.1 (by author)

In the 1.2 image we see a promenade that holds the main circulation but other than that we know the script of a promenade is simply to follow but with the curvilinear path, the promenade hides the destination point and creates a huge excitement and curiosity for the visitor while the plants creates an isolated experience for the visitors inside. It becomes a place for the individual to rest with the company of their thoughts and it encourages them to follow the curvilinear path.

Image 1.2 (by author) and Image 1.3 (by author)

In the image 1.3 we can question the materials, for instance the glass tells visitors to stay off but, allows them to observe, while wooden railings politely requests to stay off but the wooden encounters allows to touch and feel the texture. On the other hand in all images a nature centric design can be seen; trees and plants changes the atmosphere by creating a tranquil zone they direct the attention away from the physical room and towards the individual and their place in the world. In other words visitors’ actions and thoughts are mediated by the objects and spaces; they emphasize a new social dimension.

Overall all these terms are related to the experience, the main reason for that is the fact of design being related to experience. Whether it is a product and architectural space or an object, the experience of them makes the differences and affects us. I love the quote “Architecture is the art of reconciliation between ourselves and the world, and this mediation takes place through the senses” (Pallasmaa, 1996). So the atmosphere we design communicates with the senses, memory and logic and creates the cognitive world through perception and this an experience worth the journey to discover it.

Notes From the Author;

1 The term "script," comes from the sociology of technology, it refers to both the object's perception of the world and the program of activity it is expected to carry out.

2 Taking an ecological approach, I use the term "affordance" to refer to the object, to the environment and to the observer at the same time. Affordances define the variety of possible activities but they must be visible and hence perceived by the users.

3 The term "mediator" refers to the idea that objects are participants in an action that is overtaken by other agencies, which is a key of ANT (Latour 2005).

4. Engineers and designers "delegate" action to nonhumans by substituting design objects, settings, and equipment for human action and making them permanent occupants of the position of humans, allowing them to control human activity by dispersing competences and prescribing obligations.


Findeli, A. (2001). Rethinking Design Education for the 21st Century: Theoretical, Methodological, and Ethical Discussion.

Meriam Webster. ( )

Pallasmaa, J. (1996). The Eyes of The Skin.

Yaneva, A. Making the Social Hold: Towards an Actor-Network Theory of Design.

Latour, B. (2005) Reassembling the Social – An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory

For more updates, visit the Instagram handle of the Organisation.

Head Image © Saurav Bavalekar

> via AJC+

540 views0 comments
bottom of page