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Haptic perception (from Greek: 'haptikos' = 'tangible'; colloquial also 'sense of touch') is defined as a sensory perception, with which certain mechanical stimuli can be sensed. Haptic perceptions in their entirety enable the brain to localize and evaluate touch, pressure, and temperature. The sense of touch communicates to the brain all the necessary information to identify form, weight, direction and speed of movement, as well as the surface properties of objects.

Institute for Forestry and Nature Research (re-named Alterra), Wageningen/The Netherlands, south façade, industrial greenhouses; © Behnisch Architekten
Institute for Forestry and Nature Research (re-named Alterra), Wageningen/The Netherlands, south façade, industrial greenhouses; © Behnisch Architekten

In addition to this, it also serves proprioception, e.g. the perception of pressure at the soles of the feet feeds information to the brain about the position of the center of gravity of the body. In the skin, there are several different types of receptors, specializing in various functions. They react optimally to different stimuli like pain, temperature, touch, stretching, movement and vibration, and transmit these stimuli to the brain using separate pathways. Compared to other parts of the body, hands and mouth draw upon a disproportionately high number of neurons in both the somatosensory as well as in the motor cortex. It is a prerequisite for the most fundamental human behaviours, like eating, speaking, and feeling objects, that mouth and hands be highly sensitive to touch. The skin of an adult covers, depending on height, a surface of 1.5–2 m² (1.8–2.4 yd²), it weighs one sixth of total body weight, on average 10–12 kg (22–26.5 lb). The importance of the skin as a sensory organ can also be seen in the fact that the brain regions, which are responsible for processing the signals from the skin, are relatively large. For example, the nerve fibers, which transmit tactile stimuli from the skin to the brain, are usually bigger in diameter than nerve fibers, which transmit stimuli from other sense organs to the brain.

Institute for Forestry and Nature Research (re-named Alterra), Wageningen, wintergarden; © Behnisch Architekten
Institute for Forestry and Nature Research (re-named Alterra), Wageningen, wintergarden; © Behnisch Architekten

Institute for Forestry and Nature Research (re-named Alterra), Wageningen

Stefan Behnisch

  • Client: Rijksgebouwdienst Direktie Oost, Arnheim
  • Architect and general planner, building and interiors: Stefan Behnisch
  • Energy concept: Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, Stuttgart
  • Gross floor area: 11.250 m²
  • Volume: 70.200 m³
  • Competition: 1993 — Completion: 1998