Firing is Wiring

5 November, 2017

" The area of the brain processing touch is very well defined, and the part of the context that receives signals from the fingers has a much larger processing area than that of other parts of the body."

Harry Mallgrave, Architect and author

There's a reason why you feel safer and more alive in the world when a loved one clutches at and holds your hand.  At the Workshop we try to place more emphasis on the things people touch in our spaces.  Through the help of neuroscience and the narratives by Harry Mallgrave, I now know that when your fingers touch something in a space I've designed, an area of your brain processes and compares it to all the other handrails you've touched before and compares it to all the other handrails your ancestors touched embedded within your biological memory.  Clay display was an important concept in our Porcelain Gallery project.  For the external staircase, we designed, in collaboration with our ceramicist, a textural surface.  The hues and colours of the handrail are deeply contextual and are influenced by the surrounding bricks and conservation area palettes.  The grit, texture and void of material are also  influenced deeply by the human body.  During the ascending, the clay handrail speaks to your thumb and following experiments, we know that your thumb positions itself on the top of the handrail during ascending.  The processing of this texture communicates directly to your brain from your finger tips.  The texture reminds your thumb that you are ascending, on the penultimate top step, the texture fades and the top of the handrail becomes smooth. The communication to your brain at this point tells your hand to move into a different position - on the horizontal surface - we know that your thumb wants to position itself on the inside face of the handrail because the relationship of your body to the thing has changed.  At this moment, we changed the texture of the thing to be on the inside face of the handrail, allowing for that texture to continue communicating itself to your brain.  It may seem like a subtle difference and even an unimportant one compared to other scales of things, but for me, this decision is as important as the plan or section of the site.

Our handrail fires into your finger tips and wires into your brain, that then fires and wires into memory, movement and changes your experience of the world through architecture.