Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Emerging Research Conference, 3rd All-Ireland Architecture Research Annual Meeting, 24-25 Jan 2014


In the early twentieth century, informed by an educational theory that meaningful experience is deeply embedded in sensory learning, open air school reformers set about creating deep learning experiences for children. They suggested that children should be exposed to nature, in order to contribute to their health, well-being and learning processes. Bad air remained a pervasive indicator of poor health, and to support the healthy benefits of fresh air, reformers openly called on parents and teachers to become ‘open-air crusaders.’ The public pressure to give children access to fresh air was on. The debate that ensued focused on the specification of the ideal indoor environment through the scientific evaluation of ventilation. Natural environments could not compete with the certainty of controlled environments and became replaced with an ideal artificial climate expressed in quantitative terms.

Current attitudes towards environmental design can focus on control, defining measurable standards, that emphasise objective criteria for light and air. With an almost exclusively scientific emphasis, this has led to advances, but also to regression, and a lack of general concern to the holistic needs of building occupants. By using this technological approach, we narrow the breadth and depth of human sensory experiences. We so commonly think of environmental design as a series of ambient conditions that the existence of other ways of considering it tends to escape us. The educators’ preoccupations with the holistic experience of spaces strongly suggests that we need to reassess our methods; to put forward different values to avoid the path of isolated research.