From 13th to 17th February 2023, students from the first year of the Master’s Degree in Interior and Spatial Design at Politecnico di Milano were called upon to study, observe and analyse the interiors of Piazza Grace, an integrated Day Care Centre in Figino (Milan). The Sensing and Emotions workshop, created by Valerie Mace, senior lecturer at the University of the Arts London, and Alessandro Biamonti, associate professor at the Department of Design of Politecnico di Milano, engaged the students to document the sensory phenomena and corresponding emotional qualities that they considered most significant as designers.
Although changes to the senses occur through the ageing process, people with dementia can also experience acute sensory challenges, which in turn, impact on the way they feel about their environment. According to Agnes Houston (2017), these challenges may include impaired spatial awareness through seeing, difficulties with loud noises, changes in taste, smell or temperature perception. This means that people with dementia can process sensory phenomena in a different way compared to people who do not have dementia. This can pose challenges when designing spaces for people with dementia. Accordingly, this project investigates a simple yet important question:
How can young designers better understand the sensory world of elderly people with dementia? While it does not claim to solve this challenge, this week-long activity introduces practice-led research methods that can provide a starting point towards a better understanding of the sensory world of people with dementia.