Contextual Study 2.1 – Phenomenology

Critically reflect on the concept of phenomenology.

Designers have to explore and have in mind emotions different people may have in the spaces. It must require sensitivity, compassion. The designers must be able to predict how users will feel. It’s a very difficult job as everyone is different and has different experiences shaping how they feel about certain things. For example someone may love a certain smell as they would associate it with a pleasant memory, while someone else may hate it due to personal taste or not so happy memory. I believe architects and interior designers spend long time dwelling on how users will feel in certain spaces during the process of planning. I think it’s easier if it’s a private space. We can just ask future users what are their likes and dislikes. Public spaces must be so much more difficult. Not only making sure that the ‘desired’ feelings are as intended but also not offending anyone (unless offence is a goal).

When I keep writing this my mind keeps wandering back to Jewish Museum in Berlin. Daniel Libeskind designed the Void, a space that zigzags through the complex and is visible from multiple staircases opening on to it, it can be also accessed on the ground level. There are tall, smooth concrete walls, that would magnify powerful echo, everything is pretty bare and raw. The floor is laid with what looks like thousands of metal plates depicting faces, mainly screaming. Users are forced to walk on them, and every step creates unpleasant noise, that’s is magnified by echo. I can’t imagine anyone being comfortable in that space. And I think that was architects aim. If you want users to feel warm and fuzzy you add soft corners, warm fabrics, plenty of diffused lights, and natural light. Usually darker spaces are less welcoming. I think phenomenology is about whether users feel welcome, comfortable and want to be in the space, or whether they don’t like it and would rather leave. I don’t think users concentrate on their feelings of spaces all the time, we usually come somewhere with a task and don’t dwell on how we feel. But The Void intentionally is the way it is, to make users contemplate on Jewish History and its dark moments. That space surely shocks an unsuspecting user and will leave a lasting impression.

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