Aesthetics of air by Malte J. Wagenfeld

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Air envelopes us in sensual effect. It can warm or chill us, it carries smell and sound; breezes stimulate the skin, and wind can literally move us; sometimes we can even taste the air.

‘Aesthetics of Air’ is an investigation into sensual and perceptual atmospheric encounters and how these can lead to a new design typology of air for interior spaces.

This research project questions the now widespread practice of controlling and standardizing interior climates, the consequence of which has been the construction of interior spaces that are hermetically sealed from their atmospheric geography and related phenomena, and largely neutralized in terms of any complex physiological experiences. The origins of this practice and the prevailing notion of ‘comfort’ are interrogated and alternative approaches, and relationships to climate and interior atmosphere, contemporary and from across history and cultures, are discussed. The project then proposes how we can form an alternative relationship to interior atmospheres and the design challenges and opportunities such an approach presents.

A key hypothesis is that the qualities of air we experience in a ‘pleasurable’ outdoor environment hold important clues as to how we can shape interior atmospheres. Through a series of projects, atmospheric phenomena and our physiological and psychological relationship to atmosphere is explored. Revealed is a surprisingly complex and dynamic atmospheric system of phenomena, which is in constant flux. It is argued that it is precisely these transient and highly randomised phenomena carrying perceptual effect that are the key to designing interior atmospheres, which are sensuous, pleasurable and engender delight.

Year: 2013
Examiners: Stephen Loo, Stephen Neillle, Richard Goodwin  Supervisors: Professor Mark Burry, Assoc Professor Paul Minifie


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