REFLECTING ON THE EMBODIED AND SENSORY EXPERIENCE OF ARCHITECTURE AND COMMUNITY _ We explored the atmosphere of Claremont Court, considering how this is experienced by residents, and how it contributes to a sense of home and community. By atmosphere, we are referring to the feel of the place: the meanings attached to it, but also the interactions between persons, objects, buildings and spaces. We focused on two aspects, namely the residents’ embodied interaction with Claremont Court and their sensory experiences of the place.

Residents interact with architecture with their bodies, and this interaction contributes to whether Claremont Court feels inviting or uninviting, but the buildings and spaces also affect residents’ experiences. These embodied dimensions of the Court differ significantly: sometimes, the communal spaces are experienced as inhospitable or even dangerous, while at other times they are associated with relaxation and human flourishing.

Credits: Stephen Hicks 2017

Residents almost uniformly experience their dwellings as comforting spaces, but with some degree of complexity and contradiction. Attending to sensory experiences also brings to the fore the different ways in which sights, sounds and smells contribute to the felt atmosphere of place. Residents mostly speak in positive terms about the views offered by the building. Sounds and smells are sometimes experienced as unwelcome invasions into privacy and as signals of antisocial behaviour, but here too sensory proximity may also contribute to the sense of community.

The research revealed how important architecture and its upkeep are for the felt atmosphere of place, and also how this atmosphere can vary between different groups of people and across time.

Related publications and presentations:

Hicks, S. & Lewis, C. (2018) ‘Inequality, place and stigmatisation on a modernist housing estate’, Stigma, Health and Inequality: A two-day workshop, Cardiff University, 11-12th Jan. 2018.

May, V. & Lewis, C. ‘The use of sensory methods to study atmosphere and place’, Exploring Sensory and Material Methodologies seminar, Department of Social Sciences, Media and Communications, Brunel University, 5 May 2017.