Curating City Intensities

The unravelled sensory experience of the urban public realm

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In the eighteenth century, the city centre of the metropolis of London was the most chaotic due to its immense industries and excessive noise and smell. This sensorial overstimulation brought and still brings potential unsustainable health and well-being effects on its urban participants.

This research explores the redefinition and mapping of city intensities and follows the process of creating an urban sensescape through different scale levels in London. The root of the problem lies in the experience of city intensities as perceived by the senses of its drifting participants. It appears that there is an imbalance between vibrant public spaces and more tranquil public spaces in the contemporary city of London. This disparity in space, together with the ocular-centric view of society, will result in an imbalance in the sensory systems of its drifters and thus a disregard for their bodies and senses. This research is guided by the following main question:

How can the design of a sensescape in the urban public realm evoke an inclusive, embodied, and multi-sensory experience for its participants, achieving balance in the perceived city intensities?

The implementation of a sensescape in the urban public realm could create an inclusive, embodied, and multi-sensory experience in order to curate a balance within the vibrant and tranquil public spaces on the spectrum of city intensities. The design recommendations made through the different scales will constitute a critical reframing of architectural design concerning an user experience (UX) centered society within the urban public realm of London or other large cities in economically developed countries. This will allow the overemphasis on the intellectual, aesthetic, and conceptual aspects of architecture to disappear, making room for the tactile, sensual, and embodied essence of architecture to emerge. The knowledge gap between the built environment and its impact on society is being narrowed by designing for the balance between vibrant and tranquil public spaces with a sensorial and empirical design approach.

The foundation for future research and design into the interdisciplinary link between psychology, urban design, and inclusive sensory architecture is laid by this thesis in which the city intensities of London are being curated with and for the senses.