“Fewer and fewer people, and especially children, have daily contact with nature, an ongoing alienation termed the “extinction of experience”
-Masashi Soga, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment Journal
Infographic from “Extinction of experience: the loss of human-nature interactions” by Masashi Soga
For years, scholars and doctors have been writing about the rising human detachment from nature. Modern day amenities, including air conditioning and television, have been decreasing people’s time spent outdoors.
Research on the restorative effects of nature and the negative health impacts of indoor air shine a light on the frightening reality of our retreat from the outdoors. It is not only our job as designers to enhance the human condition indoors, but to also maintain a connection to surrounding context and encourage a healthy lifestyle.
Case Study: Blurring the Lines Between Indoor and Out
In the middle of a sprawling, traffic-clogged city, this home provides a needed connection to nature. Rather than bringing the outdoors in, or mimicking natural forms and patterns, this space blends the two together seamlessly.
“By keeping the front and back gardens at the same elevation as the living area, Kogan created one giant living space. A large overhang means that even on a rainy day, the Cósers can live practically without walls”
Framed views to the outdoors replace the typical flatscreen TV and celebrate what is just a few steps away.
With recent computer programs such as Grasshopper, there has been an explosion of futuristic//organic//downright bizarre building facades and ceiling canopy designs.
Most popular appears to be the use of fractal geometry to generate patterns. This approach mimics the generation of crystals and cauliflower. I have seen this image below of Romanesco Broccoli on numerous inspiration boards in studio…it seems to be the go-to parametric veggie.
Photo courtesy of Wired Magazine
ArchDaily terms this parametric approach “Scriptism” or “computational design.” These designs can be very successful, and create a responsive architecture that reminds us of patterns in nature. It is important; however, to make sure these designs are purposeful…and not just created randomly and for the sake of ‘looking cool.’
ITKE University of Stuttgart, Germany
The Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE), together with students at the University of Stuttgart developed this temporary structure in order to explore bionic architecture and computer-based fabrication methods. The pavilion is created by ultra-light plywood “shells” held together by finger-joints. The design of the modular units was inspired by the sand dollar, a sub-species of the sea urchin (Echinoidea).
The modules morph and “grow” according to a natural pattern programmed into the computer.
“The cell sizes are not constant, but adapt to local curvature and discontinuities. In the areas of small curvature the central cells are more than two meters tall, while at the edge they only reach half a meter”
If used intelligently, fractal geometry and parametric modeling can create spaces that not only enhance the human-nature connection, but also generate less waste and function efficiently.
What is up with this trend of undulating wave-like ceiling canopies? They seem to be everywhere from hospitality…to education…to healthcare.
Image courtesy of Design Boom Magazine
The answer could be hydromimicry:
~emulating water’s natural patterns, rhythms, and behaviors in the design of human products, technologies, and management strategies~
Water has been recognized for its healing, therapeutic properties for centuries. It has been attributed to lowered blood pressure, mental health, and assisting with sleep cycles. My younger brother has insomnia, and depends on his “sound machine” which produces wave like sounds throughout the night to help him rest.
“The presence of water can be healing. Human beings love to see water, and even better, hear it and feel it”
-Nikos A. Salingaros, Terrapin Bright Green
Case Study: Ocean Medical Center ED
Image Courtesy of Healthcare Design Magazine
Patients in the Emergency Department at Ocean Medical Center are immediately put at ease with a quiet marine-inspired palette, soft lighting from wave-like sconces, and curved forms. Cove lighting curves in soft lines to act as wayfinding in the space, and gently guides visitors through what is often a traumatic and stressful experience.
Image Courtesy of WHR Architects
Patient rooms have high clerestory windows to give unobstructed views to the sky.
“Views of nature reduce post-operative hospital stays by 8.5%.”
-Scott Seckel, ASU Now
It is no surprise that hospital interiors are adopting characteristics found in nature to inspire their spaces. Nature is not only healing, but recognizable by all generations and cultures.