International Student Workshop "Tactual Senses"

International workshop of 400 years canal houses by means of 400 one minute movies about the tactile qualities of living, working and staying on canal houses from an interior architectural perception. Not a standard recording of reality, but for example a special view of a detail, a shadow, a worn staircase, a completely renovated floor, wrongly restored window frame, the real canal green; in short, a visual story that gives a new insight in canal houses of the last 400 years in 400 minutes told.

Somerset Maugham, the British novelist, playwright and travel writer, once wrote, “the writer cannot afford to wait for experience to come to him; he must go out and search for it”.


In his book The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard quotes a passage from the novel L’amourese initiation by Oscar Milosz that clearly shows that spatial sensation also depends on one’s cognition and is independent of the scale. Without tactility and considerations for the human body and its senses, spaces become unreal.

A study of 400 years of canal houses by means of 400 one minute movies about the tactile qualities of living, working and staying on canal houses from an architectural perception.
The workshop of two weeks will have an international flavour with students from different countries and cultures. The international character is an opportunity in a short time (10 days) to change the image on canal houses and give them another dimension.
Topics covered during the workshop to be addressed:
• Knowledge transfer by tutors and lectures* (*Possible lecturers):

  • John Lonsdale (UK), architect, material expert
  • Henri Snel (NL), architect, researcher, Head of ArchitecturalDesign, Gerrit Rietveld Academie
  • Juhani Pallasmaa (FL), architect, researcher on haptic issues, writer
  • Richard Sennett (US), sociologist, writer
  • Sophie Leferink (NL), director The-One-Minute organisation
  • Jan Peter Wingender (NL), architect, lector brickwork
  • Carolyn Strauss (US), director SlowLab
  • Erik de Jong (NL), Professor of Culture, landscape and nature at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam
  • Dorine van Hoogstraten (NL), Architectural historian, Chair of the Monumenten advise commissie at WZNH, writer
  • Onno van Nierop (NL), colour expert, TU Delft
  • Jaap Evert Ambrahamse (NL), art historian

• Field research in the city of Amsterdam, there are about 4000 houses. Every 10th house would theoretically be eligible for a one minute movie. Random order.
• Workshop making 'one minute' movies provided by the one-minute organization (
• Feedback sessions on the research
• Materials Research
• Production and editing 400 one minute movies
• Evaluation at the end of the workshop
According to professor of neuropsychology Edward de Haan:
“The senses are peripherals”. Often a single sense is predominant: the tongue of the chef, the skin of one who touches something, and the nose of the perfumer.
But which is the most strongly developed sense of the spatial designer? The prevailing wisdom holds that it is the sense of sight, in order to create “a feast for the eyes”, that one moment that evokes an experience of transience, while haptic perception is more about the experience of a temporary succession of senses. And that is precisely the focus of this research: How can we help people to experience ‘space’ differently to our present fleeting perception?

The spatial designer translates his ideas into shape, space, materials, light, etc. All these aspects have a direct link to the senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, balance. Some material can light or shine, but how does it feel, what sound does it makes, what are the properties of that material and what effects has it on people?
Materials and surfaces have a rich and complex language that evolves and changes over time. Stone speaks of her distant geological origins, its durability and inherent symbolism of durability, brick is reminiscent of earth and fire, gravity, and the timeless traditions of the building, bronze calls the extreme heat of manufacturing, the old processes of casting and passage of time as measured in the patina. Wood speaks of her two existences and time scales, his first life as a growing tree and the second as a human artefact by the caring hand of a carpenter or cabinetmaker.

Final result:

400 one-minute movies, the result of this research. Not a standard recording of reality, but for example a special view of a detail, a shadow, a worn staircase, a completely renovated floor, wrong restored window frame, the real canal green, in short, a visual story that gives a new insight in canal houses of the last 400 years in 400 minutes told.

Dates workshop:
08-14 April 2013

Download the poster
Application Requirements: 

  • Studying on a Bachelor or Master of Design, -architecture, -interior architecture, -fine or applied arts or cultural studies.
  • Experience with video/editing final cut pro is recommended
  • Digital HD camera
  • A laptop with Final Cut Pro/10/X is welcome but not required
  • Send a Letter of Motivation (exactly 400 words) to

Organisation: Gerrit Rietveld Academie

Location: Amsterdam, Gerrit Rietveld Academie
Contact: Henri Snel
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