Stories of structures, spaces and bodies: towards a tectonics of well-being

Tenna Doktor Olsen Tvedebrink, Andrea Jelic, Sarah Robinson

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Architect Jørn Utzon is known for his devotion to human well-being and his ability to integrate architectural and structural ideas. Yet, discussions in scholarly circles often emphasise his tectonic genius related to sublime formgiving and structuralmaterial experiments. Less attention is given to how his sense of empathy and concern for the well-being of users infuenced
his design process. To address this absence, we explored how training students in a user empathic design process can be integrated in an architectural and engineering design approach.

First, we outline a theoretical framework grounded in the 1) scholarship on tectonic thinking by Jonathan Hale and Marco Frascari and 2) cognitive-neuroscientifc understanding of how human beings interact with their surroundings in an embodied and emotional manner. Architectural experience is thus co-produced in an on-going meeting between structures, spaces,
and human bodies. Secondly, we present a case study of an experiment with storyboarding as a technique to visualize the intangible aspects of designing for well-being and emotional experience. Placing the ‘body’ and ‘experience’ at the center of the design process calls for greater sensitivity to diversities within user groups. We argue for an adjusted tectonic design toolbox focused around translating experiences, emotions, and behaviors as a means of joining user-oriented, architectural, and engineering principles in the early design phases.

This paper intends to spark a debate about ‘tectonics of well-being’ and to discuss whether storyboarding as a narrative design tool can help join structural-material genius with socio-cultural realms of human experience in tectonic design.
TidsskriftArchitecture, Structures and Construction
Udgave nummerDecember 2022
Sider (fra-til)661–674
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2022


  • Tectonic design
  • Human well-being
  • User diversity
  • User empathic design
  • Storytelling
  • Storyboarding


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