top of page

Dr. Doreen Balabanoff


University College Dublin




reimagined architecture, embodied experience, birthspace design,
phenomenology, sensory design, experiential design

Thesis Title

Light and Embodied Experience
in the Reimagined Birth Environment


Light in the Reimagined Birth Environment

This thesis presents a transdisciplinary architectural design research praxis seeking a reimagined architecture for birth: one which privileges the embodied experience of the birthing woman.
The artistic praxis focuses on exploratory ‘empathic observation’ and physical and virtual making, seeking emergent insights for a needed paradigm shift. The intent is the development of new theoretical concepts for birthspace design. Natural light (light-darkness-colour ) in architectural space is proposed as a key affordance for birth processes and for a sensitive, sentient and soulful birth experience.

The thesis argues and demonstrates that artistic and phenomenological design methodologies can bring insights of value for human flourishing. An annotated visual record of the process work offers a contribution to the field of architecture in its movement towards sensory and experiential spatial design.
In linking the theories of two foundational embodiment theorists – philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty and ecological psychologist James J. Gibson – a supporting argument is formed concerning light and embodied experience/perception. The thesis argues that we can do more than make birthspace more ‘home-like’ – we can develop spatial and sensory birth environments that support more sensuous and satisfying, less medicalised birth experiences. The design work offers evidence that natural light, understood as the inseparable trio of light-colour-darkness, is not a neutral participant in our architectural experience. As natural light affects our awareness of nature and cosmos, it affords our sense of orientation and well-being. Light (light-colour-darkness) can be sensitively designed to provide multiple architectural affordances that enhance embodied, atmospheric and soulful experience. These are important aids to a positive birth experience. The thesis addresses an existing gap in knowledge about light in and for birthspace – a fundamental place of human being and becoming. It contributes to the study and practice of architecture as a poetic and phenomenological enterprise.



I am interested in the resonance of colour and the meaning of light.
Light's repetitive and profound journey through our lives is delivered to us through the 'apertures' in our built structures.

In my architectural projection pieces, the colour 'illuminates', helps us to see and understand, the movement of light in space, whether projected or ambient.

Colour is not passive or static - a coloured surface gives off coloured light. That coloured light emanates into space/air/ is reflected, refracted, absorbed, transformed by various materials.
In all of my work, whether architectural or autonomous, the psychological and physical impact of colour and light in space/form/time is a key preoccupation.

bottom of page