If a race evolved in underground caverns, and had no eyes or vision whatsoever, how would they design buildings and cities for navigation via touch? They have technology for tunneling through and working with stone much like we do. The buildings are both a mix of hollowed out tunnels, and regular building made of blocks, inside caverns (preferred).

I assume there would be some feature of adding guide rails with braille symbols which everyone would walk around with one hand on, but I'm very interested in practical details, or plausible alternatives, especially in relation to crowd movement and intersections.

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    $\begingroup$ Do they use echolocation at all? $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Oct 6 '19 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't planning on it, but if it would result in some weird specialty architecture I could consider it.. $\endgroup$ – Innovine Oct 6 '19 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ I'd imagine indoor floors as well as roads looking very much like this $\endgroup$ – Backup Plan Oct 8 '19 at 13:23

There are big limiting factors. Our buildings differ greatly by the materials property we can produce (technology), climate, ideology and purpose. For example, look up eastern vs western buildings throughout the history.

Some points you may consider:

They have to be able to navigate effectively without any external aids, otherwise they wouldn't have survived. Touch would be quite limiting, sounds is a better option. Gongs and bells and other, automatic and periodic sound producing "road signs".

Practicality above all, no need to look cool. Maybe Soviet block buildings.

Similar to their original environment. Narrow cave like tunnels, nicely echoing chambers. If you go with touch instead of hearing, than everything covered in soft, nice feeling (for them) material.

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    $\begingroup$ Wind chimes are fairly low tech and have the useful property that they don't require active intervention to trigger. $\endgroup$ – Zwuwdz Oct 7 '19 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ They might use sonar. $\endgroup$ – Richard Smith Oct 8 '19 at 1:03
  • Ropes and strings with various knots, bells. They can horizontally span intersections; you can cross by moving them from your path once you ran into them, but you'll have them in your way and won't be able to miss their message. These can be used to create "soft barrier avenues" like police tape or velvet ropes that alert some people away from an area, but still allow other people through.

  • Changes in floor height, for traffic control, or near walls and other obstacles to alert before collisions.

  • Fabrics with different textures on the walls, maybe on the floors if the difference in textures is significant enough to note when walking on them. If your guys aren't always able to note when they're approaching a wall, you might like to use fabric to pad exterior walls. Some tapestries and embroideries can convey quite a message through touch.

  • Squeaking floors, for all of the above.

  • Elaborate carvings (why limit yourself to little braille symbols)

What you might like to do is try and walk around your house or neighbourhood with a blindfold. That's one way to simulate how sight-impaired people get around.

  • $\begingroup$ >What you might like to do is try and walk around your house or neighbourhood with a blindfold. That's one way to simulate how sight-impaired people get around." — Eh, not really. Just like it takes a while for people who just got sight to learn how to get around, it takes a while for people who just lost it to figure it out. Immediately jumping from one to the other would generally be too overwhelming to be especially informative. $\endgroup$ – CAE Jones Oct 7 '19 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ I like the combination of knots and bells. If they're efficiency-minded, they could be combined in more complex ways - ex, a string of beeds, shells, etc that produce a distinct sort of chime, and can be examined more closely by touch for the fine details. If these would work like signs, they'd need to be somewhere with a reliable airflow, so the architecture and furnishings would be designed around that. $\endgroup$ – CAE Jones Oct 7 '19 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @CAEJones you're right about the blindfold of course, a longer duration will allow for better experience $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz Oct 7 '19 at 12:09

Since you specifically ask about touch:

Tactile architecture could use texture of the surface they navigate in order to direct flows of traffic.

If they always walk, and are always barefoot, that's a pretty convenient way to constantly be "reading" where you are.

As far as avoiding other pedestrians, maybe they talk constantly, or hum while they walk to help others avoid them.

Other thoughts to consider:

Ultimately all organisms navigate their surroundings my absorbing energy from the environment, and interpreting those energy signals.

Sight is electromagnetic energy. Sound and touch are mechanical energy. Taste and scent are chemical energy.

Ultimately, these senses are for avoiding predators, or finding prey.

Others have gone into solid suggestions about Sight, Sound, Taste, Scent, and Touch.

One I would also offer is the sensation of heat or cold from the environment. If that is sensitive enough, a hypothetical mole person might be able to sense the radiant energy of its environment with enough resolution to be as effective as sight. Heat can also be reflected off of surfaces, meaning that a creature that can use radiant heat as its "light" could also effectively use it to see around corners in the same way that a bat can listen to echos to map its surroundings.

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    $\begingroup$ Aiui, Japan uses textures as navigation aids for blind people, so there's an RL precedent. If they have reason to not be barefoot, shoes or other wearables / holdables can be designed to optimize tactile information (for real life examples, compare the numerous types of canes and cane-tips blind people use, although you'd need someone who tested all of them to do a thorough writeup to get very far. Anecdotally, coin tips and pencil tips on single-piece canes communicate better than marshmallow or roller tips, leading me to imagine some odd-looking shoes.). $\endgroup$ – CAE Jones Oct 8 '19 at 12:21

People have mentioned touch and sound, but smell / taste could be insteresting to explore as a signalisation method. Think of ant colony pheromones, tracing paths across large buildings like the coloured lines you can find in some large corporations or train stations / airports / etc


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