Active Sensing in Soho Square

Symbols used for the cocumentation process in the workshop

Facilitated by Valerie Mace – Friday 25th May 2018.
Participants: Students from the MA Narrative Environment course at Central St Martins.

In this workshop, an introduction to active sensing, you are invited to document sensory impressions across an environment defined as the dynamics of the physical space and people within it. The tools used in the workshop are designed to help you quickly familiarise yourself with the environment and become more conscious of your sensory impressions.

Learning objectives:

  • Understand the relevance of active sensing in environmental cognition.
  • Unlearn sensory inhibitions, learn to sense information in space.
  • Explore impressions that emerge from sensory information.
  • Be inspired by the sensory environment.


1pm. Lecture: Active Sensing
1:20pm. Workshop instructions
1:45pm. Travel to Soho Square
2:15pm. Workshop
3:30pm. Debriefing


Research toolkit
A4 sketchbook, a few sheets of tracing paper and 1 bulldog/foldback clip to secure the tracing paper to the sketchbook. Different colour pen.

Process guidelines

You will be working individually within a site pre-selected by your tutor. Work quickly: document your initial impressions as they occur and allow the flow of sensory impressions to guide you.

Discover-Walk through the site to immerse yourself into its sensory environment(space and people) and to familiarise yourself with it. Don’t just look, use all your senses: smell, taste, touch, listen and notice how you move. Use the Active Sensing Annotation Sheet to capture key impressions.

Document–Find a vantage point. Complete the sensory flow diagrams. This will increase your familiarity with the site and you will start to develop more precise mental images.


Document–Map sensory impressions using the 2D line drawing provided as an underlay. Place a sheet of tracing paper on top of the map and use symbols to record sensory impressions onto your map. Use the symbols provided and include annotations if required.

Indicative content:
What do you see, smell/taste, hear, touch? How do you and others move through the site? Can you identify perceptual thresholds and boundaries? Are there any sensemarks? Don’t try to document everything. Capture the essence of how the space resonates with your senses.


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