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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Flow and Immersion

Flow and Immersion

For “optimal” experiences in an exhibition space, immersion experience can be considered an important element of communication between an exhibit media and visitors. I am  interested in a theory which is called ‘Flow theory’. In detail, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi(1992), an eminent psychologist, defined the concepts “Flow” and “Optimal experience”. After read books and papers related to soft architecture, flow experience elements (interactive media, sensory experience and narrative space etc.) which can arouse furthering of achievement, growth of a sense of satisfaction and extending self-esteem of visitors can be good elements and also have strong connections with soft architecture. Thus, the article will explain my own opinion about soft architecture based on readings, projects and Flow theory in detail.


1.Feedback loop with sensory experience

Walk through rain without getting wet / Rain room at MoMA

A video explaining the project which is included sensory experience

It is generally accepted that multisensory media rather than sinfar-sensory media could provide much more spontaneous behaviors, ideal conditions as well as positive emotions of visitors in an exhibition because sensory experiences can extend visitors’ strong impression and emotional satisfaction. (Csikszentmihalyi and Hermanson, 1995, p.37, Aimilia Kritikou, 2013, p.12) Additionally, communication between visitors and projects can make visitors’ immersion experience in a very short time because of their concentration as well as various feedback and reactions of media with their six senses: vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell and brain. (Fiona Zisch, Stephen Gage and Hugi Spiers, 2014, pp.215-216)

Reef / Taubman Museum of Art and Storefront for art and architecture,NY

A video showing soft movement of the media and visitors’ viewing behaviors.

Especially, in my opinion, moving elements in an exhibition can draw visitors’ attention, and the contents make visitors stare at a much longer time, such as connection between kinetic media and visitors’ viewing time. As a result, multisensory media which included immediate feedback and sensory experience can produce immersion experiences and touch positive emotions of visitors.


  1. The role of designers and visitors

Essentially, roles and attitudes of both artists, architects and designers would be considered as the most crucial elements for visitors’ immersion. “The 21st Century designer will have to be fluent in automatic, reactive and interactive design.” Like the argument, the role of designers has developed and they should provide a valuable research and efforts. (Ruairi Glynn and Sara Shariei, 2009, p.166-169)

Fluidic / sculpture in motion

A media will be completed by visitors’ participations and movements.

Not only the role of exhibition designers but also attitude of visitors would be also significant because an exhibition could be completed when people who enter an exhibition participate actively. Thus, visitors should prepare to experience their diverse immersion states with pre-experiences which are in their memories if the people are interested in the exhibit space. (Fiona Zisch, Stephen Gage and Hugi Spiers, 2014, p.215) Moreover, visitors who participate actively can get chance more to experience expansion of immersion state than visitors who have a passive attitude. (Mortensen, 2010, p.325) Overall, harmonizing between the active and conscious preparation of visitors and researching and creating the better media which can lead immersion experiences by designers could be required.

The elements which are based on psychology and architecture aspects of human being could have limitations, for instance, subjectivity and a lack of clear standard. Nonetheless, these elements could provide much better positive aspects of visitors’ consciousness in soft and interactive architecture and media. In addition, their positive state in the space will keep for a long time after leaving. The most important consideration is studying and researching the importance, necessities as well as possibilities of the immersion experience in every space.



Aimilia Kritikou, 2014. Construction the Experience.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. and Hermanson, K., 1995. Intrinsic Motivation in Museums: What makes Visitors want to Learn?. Museum News, 74(3).

Fiona Zisch, Stephen Gage, and Hugo Spiers, Navigating the Museum, in Nina Levent, Alvaro Pascual-Leone (editors) The Multisensory Museum: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Touch, Sound, Smell, Memory, and Space, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Mortense, M. F., 2010. Designing immersion exhibits as border-crossing environment. Museum Management and curatorship, 25(3), pp.323-326

Ruairi Glynn and Sara Shariei, 2009. Digital Architecture: Passages Through Hinterlands, p.166-169.

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