Responsive Environments

The course introduces students to the tools and design methods for creating responsive environments and technologically driven experiences in the built environment. By putting the human experience at the center and forefront, from the immediate body scale to the larger environment, encompassing buildings and the urban spaces, the course examines new and emerging models and technologies for the design of innovative architectural human interfaces and technologically augmented physical environments.     

The class addresses fundamental questions including: What are new and emergent ways of understanding the digital and physical environments? How can we create responsive and interactive experiences that augment the person’s experience of the physical space? What are the consequences of creating technologically augmented environments? What are the psychological, social, and environmental implications of creating such hybrids? And what are the criteria to measure successful responsive environments?  

These questions of analyzing, understanding and designing responsive environments will be tackled through both class discussions and also hands-on designing and prototyping of interactive, responsive installations. Readings and discussions will explore current and historical examples, theories of phenomenology, psychogeography, multisensory experience of architecture, body-centricity, proxemics, interaction design, installation design, and human-machine interface. Informed by this discourse, the first part of the course will engage students in measuring and quantifying the ephemeral and invisible qualities of space and human experience of space. This will form the foundation for students to design spatial and interactive interventions at various scales, ranging from wearables, interactive objects, to large-scale architectural installations. In the process, students will become familiarized with technologies that can change and augment our physical environment such as biometric sensors, electronics, processing, projections, and others.

The course will culminate with an exhibition of the students’ responsive and interactive installations of varied scales using the tools and methods discussed in class. The course will take advantage of the resources and the ongoing research at the Responsive Environments and Artifacts Lab.

No specific prerequisites are needed. Students from any background and concentration are encouraged to apply to the lottery.


This course will meet in Gund 109 for the first time on Thursday, January 26th.


Up to 12 seats are held for MDes students enrolled in the Mediums Track and Technology Area who select this course first in the MDes Advanced Course selection process.