Anja Humljan
4 min readJan 21, 2022
Photo: Return to Senses by Anja Humljan

Contemporary urban environments aim to look stunning, technologically and digitally advanced, and people- and environment-friendly, but still often fail short of actually supporting their citizens’ health & wellbeing. Research shows that they either over- or under-stimulate our senses causing physical, mental, and emotional stress.

Did you know that the WHO lists stress as the biggest cause of exhaustion, depression, and illness in the developed world?

More than 70% of our health depends on our environment and behaviour. Paying attention to behavioural habits, such as eating well, being physically active, and training the mind, etc. is good, but not enough to actually nurture and maintain our wellbeing. We also need to consider the effects and influences wrought by our immediate environments, namely our homes, offices, and the public spaces we frequent.

So, what is the future of urban living?

The future is living in touch with ourselves and the environment. It is as easy as be, sense and retouch. By mindfully observing own senses and mind, as well as suitably retouching our immediate environments, we can bring more wellbeing and less stress into the future.

Before heading there, let’s take a moment and answer the following questions:

Do you enjoy walking barefoot?
Do you avoid keeping your eyes closed?
Do you go stop to smell candles, flowers, food?
Do you find it difficult to work with background noise?
Do you avoid carousels or taking rides on roller-coasters?

If you were to ask your friends answer the same questions, you would learn that, even though we are all sensory beings, we all have different ways of reacting to sensory experience. It is very personal and varies from individual to individual how long it takes the brain to respond to what we touch, see, smell, hear, taste, and feel when we move and when we seek our balance.

Professor Winnie Dunn, a leading authority in sensory processing, created the following model: we can be either seekers, bystanders, avoiders, or sensors for each of the senses. For example, after completing a sensory assessment, Kim learned that she is a seeker for touch and movement, a bystander for visual input, an avoider for sound and smell, and a sensor for taste.

How can Kim achieve greater wellbeing and reduce stress in her (work) life?

SEEKER for touch and movement
Seekers need excitement and always want more. Kim thrives in a work space with furniture varying in materials and textures. Being exposed to a diverse tactile stimulation enhances her focus for a given task. A standing desk meets her need for movement, elevating her levels of work engagement and productivity.

BYSTANDER for visual input
Bystanders easily miss cues that others notice. Open shelving that vary in colour, shapes and sizes helps Kim notice the right material/document faster. This saves her time and helps her avoid irritations that would occur if her furniture were monochromatic or having fronts. She needs to be surrounded with unusual design features to increase her attention span.

AVOIDER for sound and smell
Avoiders strive to distance themselves from sensory “assaults”. Kim’s brain responds to sounds and smells quickly, which makes her feel agitated and distracted in an open-plan office with people constantly chatting away. She loses her focus and often makes mistakes. She feels calmer and is more efficient in an enclosed office or cubicle.

SENSOR for taste
Sensors are picky, precise, and vocal. Knowing that she is very particular in what type of food she likes, Kim’s workspace is advised to have a pantry where she can make or reheat her own food. She would rather not eat than go to a cafeteria, causing her energy levels drop significantly during the working day if she can’t whip up something quick in the kitchen.

By completing a sensory assessment and receiving a personalised retouch manual, you give your architect/interior designer the insight they need to help you redesign your home & office into spaces that complement your inborn nature. You will avoid both over- and under-stimulating your senses, making sure that your experience is free from physical, mental, and emotional stress.

Living in touch with ourselves and the environment results in infinitely better wellbeing and less stress in urban landscapes ­– retouch manual helps us reach that state by transforming the spaces we live and work in.



Anja Humljan

human architect @ retouch | artist @ the urban yoga | retouch space 🏠 & de-stress mind 🧠