Immersive Spaces: Shaping Profound Experiences Through Architecture and Art

Immersive Spaces: Shaping Profound Experiences Through Architecture and Art

Immersive Spaces: Shaping Profound Experiences Through Architecture and Art

Immersive spaces are heavily sensorial environments meant to create impactful experiences crafted through intentionally curated architecture, light, imagery, sound, and sometimes even smell. To “immerse” oneself is to be wholly enveloped in a world shaped solely by immediate sensory input. Using digital tools to craft these environments to showcase art, create compelling exhibitions, and feature performance events has become increasingly popular. Evocative experiences like these can offer a respite from the inundation of personalized digital content and foster shared, grounding encounters. The design of these can exist at the intersection of architecture, graphic design, visual art, lighting design, music, and performance. They underscore the power of interdisciplinary collaboration to craft memorable moments. So, what role does architecture play in shaping these?

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Using sensory-stimulating architecture to create powerful experiences is not exactly a new trend. The fresco paintings on medieval churches, mixed with light streaming through their stained glass windows and the smell of incense, were meant to give church-goers feelings of transcendence. Their imagery, combined with ritual and other sensorial aesthetic activations, was intended to curate ethereal religious moments. A contemporary example of immersive design is the Jewish Museum in Berlin by Daniel Libeskind. The architecture is designed as a way of storytelling, with rooms meaning to convey coldness, emptiness, absence, and confusion. Tall and narrow rooms with small slivers of skylights induce a sense of confinement. At the same time, areas with slanted floors make you feel unsteady and disoriented.

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New research indicates that these aesthetic encounters created by active spatial engagement have the power to generate impactful instances that can actively alter people’s brains. Neuroarts is an emerging psychology field that studies how the arts and aesthetic experiences can change the body, brain, and behavior. At the intersection of arts, science, and technology, their research shows that artistically captivating instances can improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities. Spaces that evoke a sense of grounded presence and encourage an active connection to the environment through feelings of curiosity and awe can create transformative experiences.


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In recent years, immersive spatial encounters facilitated by digital tools have revolutionized how art is perceived, understood, and experienced. Although often criticized by art critics, immersive art rooms, such as “Immersive Van Gogh,” have proven successful in attracting thousands of visitors. In these exhibits, Van Gogh’s artworks are animated and projected onto walls, making his work spatial. TeamLab, an interdisciplinary art collective, takes this concept to a new level by creating multisensory experiences using physical environments that actively engage viewers through spatial artwork that responds to sensor-gathered information. Located in Japan, “Sculptures of Dissipative Birds in the Wind” allows visitors to experience data collected about birds flying by. Movement is reflected in real-time, creating artwork that continuously changes. Its transformation of gathered data to graphics projected into the physical environment allows visitors to view and understand the botanical garden in new ways.

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Ideas for immersive event spaces, developed collaboratively across disciplines, have also been recently explored by prominent architecture firms in the past year. Last year, architecture group BIG unveiled a new stage design for the world tour of the Danish band WhoMadeWho. Working in collaboration with flora&faunavisions, EyeMixStudio, and Christopher Mulligan, the design included digital projections on a giant inflatable sphere, responding to the music in real-time and creating an immersive audio-visual experience aligned with the band’s music genre. Ricardo Boffill Taller de Arquitectura also recently released the design of a monumental immersive event venue, Utamo. It is planned to be a monumentally tall stone-clad space that would immerse people in the performance through projected visual art augmented by a mix of sensory experiences.

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The proliferation of this type of immersive environment reflects people’s desire to share profound, artistic moments. Architects have much to contribute to these environments, and there is also much to learn from them. The popularity of experiential design speaks to the power of compelling architecture and the power of our built surroundings to captivate people. By fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, architects can harness the potential of engaging spaces to enrich public life and foster meaningful connections. In a world yearning for social infrastructure that nurtures moving artistic instances, architects can play a pivotal role in realizing this vision.

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