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The Touch book by Norm Architects and Kinfolk: Copper House

Norm Architects and Kinfolk select six sensory projects from The Touch

Norm Architects and lifestyle magazine Kinfolk have authored The Touch, a book that explores sensory interiors and architecture. Here are six of their favourite projects from the title.

The Touch – published by Gestalten – is divided into five elements that Norm Architects and Kinfolk see as the "building blocks" for creating sensory spaces: light, materiality, colour, nature and community.

As well as giving readers an insight into 25 visually-striking architecture and interiors projects, the book also includes interviews with leading figures in "human-centric design" including John Pawson and David Thulstrup.

"It is often said that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. In The Touch, [we] present an alternative: that good design is not only visually appealing but engages all of the human senses," the two authors explained.

Norm Architect's co-founder, Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen, talks us through his studio and Kinfolk's picks:

The Touch book by Norm Architects and Kinfolk: Tomba Brion
Photo by Christian Moller Andersen

Tomba Brion, Italy, by Carlo Scarpa

Tomba Brion – that translates as The Brion Tomb – is hidden away in the tiny Italian village of San Vito di Altivole.

Measuring over 2,200 square metres, the site comprises of a sequence of contemplative concrete volumes linked by gardens, water features and ring-shaped walkways slowly being taken over by creeping plants.

"Contemplating the idea of community for The Touch, Tomba Brion came to mind – it might be a mausoleum but it feels very welcoming," said Bjerre-Poulsen.

"Ever since I started living in Copenhagen at the age of 19, going to the cemetery to walk, talk and think has been a special thing for me."

"Also, Carlo Scarpa's amazing project has always held a special place in my heart. I spent a full year in architecture school studying his work," he added.

The Touch book by Norm Architects and Kinfolk: Bijuu Residence

Bijuu Residence, Japan, by Teruhiro Yanagihara

Kyoto's three-room Bijuu Residence hotel occupies the 100-year-old home of a once-successful pickle merchant family.

The building's storied past is what came to inspire architect and interior designer Teruhiro Yanagiuhara's material palette: surfaces throughout are rust-coloured to mimic the hue of the original red-brick walls, complemented by mud-dyed curtains and wooden furnishings.

"Experiencing the Bijuu Residence as a physical interpretation of the city, but in a very colourful, contemporary and still natural manner was a big discovery for me," explained Bjerre-Poulsen.

"It was inspirational to see how you could turn natural materials into a colourfully contrasted space that still has all the haptic, tactile and human-centric properties of a space designed for the senses."

The Touch book by Norm Architects and Kinfolk: Yakuma Saryo

Yakumo Saryo, Japan, by Simplicity

Situated just 15 minutes walk away from one of Tokyo's bustling metro stations, Yakumo Saryo is an intimate invitation-only restaurant that offers kaiseki – a form of Japanese haute-cuisine where diners are presented with a sequence of small, ornate dishes.

The interiors of the building, which was once a private home, aptly feature a number of skylights and full-height windows that help illuminate the culinary craftsmanship that goes into each plate of food.

"There are parts of this [project] that make you think of Jun'ichirō Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows: there are some very dimly lit dining areas, while other parts have big glass facades that let in an abundance of daylight," said Bjerre-Poulsen.

"Now, more than ever, there is a need for natural and haptic interiors that can connect modern urban dwellers with a sense of nature in big cities."

The Touch book by Norm Architects and Kinfolk: Copper House
Photo by Alexander Wolfe

Copper House II, India, by Studio Mumbai

Slim timber screens help shade living spaces inside this Indian home, which is nestled amongst a luscious mango grove.

The property perches up on a sloped platform that, during heavy downpours, channels rainwater to a stream that runs nearby.

"I see the residence as encapsulating several key elements of haptic design explored in The Touch," explained Bjerre-Poulsen.

"Its mashrabiya-style external walls filter and play with light throughout the day, its material palette relies heavily on local laurel wood and it has an internal courtyard that welcomes in surrounding nature."

"I like the idea that being inside the home would feel like sheltering from a storm," he added.

The Touch book by Norm Architects and Kinfolk: Hoshinoya Kyoto

Hoshinoya Kyoto, Japan, by Azuma Architects & Associates

A traditional Japanese cedar boat is the only mode of transport that can be used to reach the isolated Hoshinoya Kyoto hotel, which lies along the forested shoreline of the Ōi River.

Clocks and televisions are also omitted from its communal areas to further distance guests from the chaos of everyday life.

"The journey [to the hotel] instils guests with a real sense of departure from the city, but the fact that it does not display any clocks means there is never really any sense of arrival; the intention is for guests to escape the concept of time," said Bjerre-Poulsen.

"Without schedules or distraction, it's much more likely that you'll pay attention to your surroundings which, in the case of Hoshinoya Kyoto, are ancient trees and ryokan architecture."

The Touch book by Norm Architects and Kinfolk: Louisianna Museum

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, Wohlert Arkitekter

Situated just north of Copenhagen, The Louisianna Museum of Modern Art overlooks a sound of water that separates mainland Denmark from Sweden.

At the centre of the site is a 19th-century villa, from which extends seven contemporary buildings. Each one features dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows that direct views towards the verdant grounds dotted with sculptures by artists like Henry Moore and Alexander Calder.

"When I first moved to Denmark, I was told to make a trip to the museum by so many people – I hadn't expected for the building itself to be as memorable as the art on display, but it unfurls slowly and in such a way that often steals focus from the exhibits," said Bjerre-Poulsen.

"It's a real masterpiece of Danish modernism."

Images courtesy of Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen unless stated otherwise.