Somaesthetics of Discomfort and Wayfinding

Encouraging Inclusive Architectural Design


  • Mark Tschaepe Prairie View A&M University



Somaesthetics of discomfort facilitates intentionally inclusive designed spaces for wayfinding by accounting for individuals’ distinct navigational experiences. Following the work of Richard Shusterman, somaesthetics of discomfort is a combination of somatic awareness and somaesthetic reflection centered around feeling ill-at-ease or out of place. The increased awareness of discomfort and reciprocal reflection upon feelings of discomfort enhances how activities and places are experienced, recognized, and categorized. How people experience difficult wayfinding is an element that is often missing from architectural planning and development. Considering uncomfortable somatic experiences of navigation would provide designers with tools to conceptualize and create wayfinding affordances within various spaces. Discomfort may be understood as a somatic affordance during wayfinding because it indicates that there is something problematic about the intersection of soma and environment. This paper describes wayfinding and somaesthetics as they pertain to architectural design. By using the examples of hospitals and parking garages, somaesthetics of discomfort is introduced as a tool that uses somatic appreciation and individual reflection about wayfinding experiences for improving how spaces are designed.