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Emotional architecture

Posted by Bath Bespoke on 5 November 2020

Initially brought on by isolation fatigue in the cyber age, and more recently enhanced by the current pandemic-sensitive world, architects and designers are increasingly seeking to imbue spaces with deeper sensory resonance.

Courtyard with Orange Wall, 2017
James Casebere, Courtyard with Orange Wall, 2017

The term ’emotional architecture’ was first coined by Mexican architect Luis Barragán and sculptor-painter Mathias Goéritz as an antidote to the perceived cold functionalism of twentieth-century modernist architecture. They strove instead to create spiritually uplifting buildings and “to make works whose function is to produce emotion”, embracing space, colour and light to create buildings that engendered warmth, meditation, and reflection.

It is an approach that bears as much relevance today as it ever did in the face of mid-century innovation, almost 100 years ago. In an increasingly digital era that has a tendency to create a sense of isolation, architects and designers are recognising the intimate relationship an individual has with his or her immediate physical surroundings. Architects are increasingly creating memorable spaces that calm, energise, uplift and create happiness.


At home. 

Encouraging every building to be imbued with life allows us to see that architecture should communicate with us on an emotional and intellectual level. And it does, but we often overlook it. There is no emotion in us without a place and the basis of all our emotions is always held and contained within a habitable space.

Therefore, it is essential that we empathise and sympathise with the place we call home; the infrastructure of the house we inhabit will contain us when we fall and when we change. It is the architecture that unfolds into a story, as the shape and angles of your surroundings influence the way you interact with the space and people around you.

Beyond our four walls.

Beyond the four walls we call home, emotional architecture can be viewed as a form of collective wisdom, charting the marks we have made on this planet and in buildings that move us, lies the evidence that we care. Here, the focus is not whether a building makes us feel good or bad, but that it strikes an emotional chord and makes a personal connection, generating a sense of intensity, passion and involvement.

There is an optimism that is lodged in every gesture of architecture, it relentlessly looks to the future and evolves much as our own lives do – it starts from excavation, from nothing, and has only a plan that, in time, gradually comes to fruition. No matter how sad, how tragic a site might be, how abused by history, architecture has the notion of a future and a sense of hope and redemption. It begins and ends with emotion.

Come inside. 

Set within the context of emotional architecture is the complementary notion that what lies within should also continue to elicit an emotional response – while the architectural structure provides the backbone and the broad canvas, within these spaces details must be filled in.

Our immediate surroundings and interiors become crucial components of our daily support systems on a variety of levels, and the forms and design schemes we choose to surround ourselves with become part of our personal history, legacy and life story. It is logical then, that we should look to enhance the emotionally-charged architectural spaces we inhabit with interiors that have an emotional resonance which speaks of how we wish to lead and live our lives.

This emotional viewpoint on design and architecture encourages us to consider every aspect, and invest time in refining these elements, to allow our spirits to be raised and the warmth, meditation and reflection Barragán and Goéritz championed to be welcomed in…