Sensory Environments


Kevin Thwaites

University of Sheffield

Sarah Payne

University of Sheffield

This network is created in response to growing expertise, interest and knowledge on the perception, design and representation of sensory cities. A particular feature of this new network is an intention to reach across to the work of other IAPS networks (initially, but not exclusively, Restorative Environments and Place Attachment and Place Identity) to develop opportunities for cross-network collaborations from the specific focus of the senses. This network will additionally link into an existing growing external network – the Ambiance Network ( as outlined in further detail below, and in so doing help to expand international awareness and membership of IAPS.


  • To establish an international network of academics, practitioners and students researching sensory environments in cities specifically, whether from an individual sense perspective (e.g. soundscapes/ sonic environments, smellscapes, foodscapes, thermal environments) or an inter/multi-sensory perspective (e.g. experiential landscapes)
  • To promote interdisciplinary debate and knowledge sharing on theoretical and methodological innovations relating to sensory urban environmental perception, experiences, design and representation
  • To cultivate diverse methodological capabilities, cross-disciplinary practice and international engagement
  • To bring together currently dispersed research groups across Europe and beyond


  • Human sensory perceptions and experiences of urban environments and how urban designers, architects, landscape architects and other built environment academics and disciplines might draw from this information in delivering more sensory cities in the future.
  • To explore ways to expand and enhance the experiential and sensory diversity of urban realms as an essential component of the socially sustainable city.
  • The interactions between different sensory information and how this information might be incorporated into design practices.
  • Tools, techniques and processes for improving the sensory environments of cities including sensory categorisation
  • Methodological challenges and innovations in sensory environments research including technological innovations such as the use of sensory walks and/or sensory measuring equipment, and the effective use of Sensory notation systems
  • Sharing knowledge on the development and delivery of effective research and design collaborations between academics and professionals in sensory environments e.g. acousticians and urban designers, architects and perfumers etc.

The type of work to be generated by the network

This network will bring together, and link with, a number of diverse research teams currently exploring sensory environments but from a mode specific (sound, smell, touch, taste etc.), particular professional/disciplinary perspectives (acoustics, architecture, arts etc.) or national perspective (e.g. Vienna’s Tastduftwien [taste-smell-Vienna]) project. See overview network diagram below.

The new network include those members already within IAPS and including presenters from the IAPS22 (2012) Symposium entitled ‘Sensory interactions in the City: Experiences and Design’ (convened by Victoria Henshaw and Sarah Payne). This network will compliment directly that work undertaken by two of IAPS’s existing networks: the Restorative Environments network, and the Place Attachment and Place Identity network, providing an opportunity for debate on sensory environments specifically. It is anticipated that, from these foundations, commonalities will also be able to be forged for collaboration with other current networks, eg Urban Morphology and Representation, and Children, Youth and Environment, especially.

Furthermore, the new network aims to link into and to compliment the work of the International Ambiances Network, an expanding network originally established by colleagues in France and the wider French speaking world but with an increasingly international focus. The proposed network shares a common interest in sensory environments with the Ambiances network and plans to work in close co-operation with the network in delivering a series of joint workshop, symposia and discussion events and in targeting the Ambiances journal as a key target publication for the outcomes of Sensory Environments network events.