Design and sensory quality. Materials and performance for communication in museum spaces

  • Teresa Villani ‘Sapienza’ University of Roma
Keywords: environment communication, sensory materials, materials selection criteria, information structuring, museums


Design can provide the means to guide perceptive processes, by trying to act on the environment’s ability to provide intelligible and meaningful information. Making a space communicative by enhancing its usability entails anticipating perceptive processes and pursuing better quality for human-environment interaction. A possible solution could be using sensory materials able to provide ‘tangible’ features and new functions, thanks to technologies acting in a controlled way on the micro and nano-levels. In this regard, the results of two studies funded by Sapienza University of Rome are presented; they relate to the structuring of a database of materials that can act at the information level on the shared spaces of large Museum Hubs, and its experimentation for the Roman museums’ network Musei in Comune, supported by the Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali of Rome.

Author Biography

Teresa Villani, ‘Sapienza’ University of Roma

Architect and PhD, she is an Associate Professor in Architecture Technology at the PDTA Department. Her field concerns tools for planning and designing renovations; in building intended for community services she has conducted studies on technological innovation and the application of new materials, products and components for the design of complex public buildings, with insights on the requirements for usability and wayfinding, according to the principles of Inclusive Design.


Addington, D. M. and Schodek, D. L. (2005), Smart Materials and Technologies in Architecture – For the Architecture and Design Professions, Architectural Press, Oxford.

Agenzia Roma (2018), Relazione Annuale 2018 – Cultura e tempo libero – Sintesi dei principali indicatori del servizio. [Online] Available at: _cap_6_cultura_e_tempo_libero.pdf [Accessed 26 April 2020].

Ashby, M. F. (2016), Materials Selection in Mechanical Design, 5th Edition, Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford.

Ashby, M. F. and Johnson, K. W. (2009), Materials and Design – The Art and Science of Material selection in product design, 2th Edition, Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, Amsterdam.

Bloomer, K. C. and Moor, C. W. (1997), Corpo, memoria, architettura – Introduzione alla progettazione architettonica, Sansoni Editore, Firenze.

Conti, C., Tatano, V. and Villani, T. (2016), “Accessibilità ambientale: verso l’inclusività nella progettazione | Environmental accessibility: towards inclusiveness in design”, in Lucarelli, M. T., Mussinelli, E. and Trombetta, C. (eds), Cluster in progress – La Tecnologia dell’architettura in rete per l’innovazione | The Architectural technology network for innovation, Maggioli, Santarcangelo di Romagna, pp. 28-41.

European Commission (2012), European Audiences – 2020 and beyond. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 April 2020].

Felli, P., Laurìa, A. and Bacchetti, A. (2004), Comunicatività ambientale e pavimentazioni – La segnaletica sul piano di calpestio, ETS Edizioni, Pisa.

Ganucci Cancellieri, U., Manca, S., Laurano, F., Molinario, E., Talamo, A., Recupero, A. and Bonaiuto, M. (2018), “Visitors’ satisfaction and perceived affective qualities towards museums: the impact of recreational areas | Soddisfazione dei visitatori e qualità affettive percepite dei musei: l’impatto delle aree ricreative”, in Rassegna di Psicologia, vol. 35, n. 1, pp. 5-18.

Istat (2019), “L’Italia dei musei”, in Statistiche Today, 23 December 2019. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 26 April 2020].

Karana, E., Hekkert, P. and Kandachar, P. (2008), “Material Considerations in Product Design: A Survey on Crucial Material Aspects Used by Product Designers”, in Materials & Design, vol. 29, issue 6, pp. 1081-1089.

Laurìa, A. (2002), “La comunicatività ambientale”, in Paesaggio Urbano, n. 1, pp. 32-38. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 7 February 2020].

Manzini, E. (1986), La materia dell’invenzione – Materiali e progetto, Arcadia Edizioni, Milano.

Pagani, R., Chiesa, G. and Tulliani, J.-M. (2015), Biomimetica e Architettura – Come la natura domina la tecnologia, FrancoAngeli, Milano.

Pallasmaa, J. (2007), Gli occhi della pelle – L’Architettura e i sensi, Jaca Book, Milano.

Ritter, A. (2007), Smart materials in architecture, interior architecture and design, Birkhauser, Basel.

Scalisi, F. (2010), Nanotecnologie in edilizia – Innovazione tecnologica e nuovi materiali per le costruzioni, Maggioli, Santarcangelo di Romagna.

Schiffman, H. R. (2008), Sensation and Perception, 6th Edition, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Sposito, A. (ed.) (2009), Nanotech for Architecture – Innovative Technologies and Nanostructured Materials, Luciano Editore, Napoli.

Stanley, C., Ward, L. M. and Enns, J. T. (2004), Sensation and Perception, 6th Edition, Harcourt Brace, Fort Worth.

Thorndyke, P. W. and Hayes-Roth, B. (1982), “Difference in Spatial Knowledge Acquired from Maps and Navigation”, in Cognitive Psychology, vol. 14, issue 4, pp. 560-589.

Villani, T. (2018), “Materiali e soluzioni tecniche per il wayfinding nei musei | Materials and technical solutions for wayfinding in museums”, in Techne | Journal of Technology for Architecture and Environment, vol. 16, pp. 289-298. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 12 March 2020].

Zuo, H. (2010), “The selection of materials to match human sensory adaptation and aesthetic expectation in industrial design”, in METU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture, vol. 27, n. 2, pp. 301-319. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 12 March 2020].

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, by Pentagram Design, 2006 (credit: AGATHÓN 2020
How to Cite
Villani, T. (2020) “Design and sensory quality. Materials and performance for communication in museum spaces”, AGATHÓN | International Journal of Architecture, Art and Design, 7(0nilne), pp. 164-173. doi: 10.19229/2464-9309/7172020.
Architecture | Research & Experimentation
Share |