Space, Place and Atmosphere


Peripheral perception and emotion in architectural experience


The richest experiences happen long before the soul takes notice. And when we begin to open our eyes to the visible, we have already been supporters of the invisible for a long time.[1]

Gabriele d’Annunzio





The quality of a space or place is not merely a visual perceptual quality as is usually assumed. The judgement of environmental character is a complex multi-sensory fusion of countless factors which are immediately and synthetically grasped as an overall atmosphere, feeling, mood, or ambience. ‘I enter a building, see a room, and – in the fraction of a second – have this feeling about it,’ Peter Zumthor, one of the architects who have acknowledged the importance of architectural atmospheres[2], confesses.

[1] Gabriele d’Annunzio, Contemplazioni della morte, Milan, 1912, pp. 17-18. As quoted in Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter, The Pegasus Foundation, Dallas, Texas, 1983, p. 16.

[2] Peter Zumthor, Atmospheres – Architectural Environments – Surrounding Objects, Birkhäuser, Basel • Boston • Berlin, 2006, p. 13.