Architects are trying to save the world — or so goes the theory of one of my professors in school. The underlying assumption is that architects are in essence problem solvers. I find it fascinating that many famous "rock star architects," once established, channel their energies into helping the world at large. If I had to choose one problem to solve, it would be humanity’s lack of connection with each other and with the environment.
Guardians of Public Safety, Creators of Comfort
Our need for connection is why we need quality architectural design today. Architects do more than draw up a building; we can connect on a higher level with each client on each project in a special way. Meeting financial goals is important, as is increasing the enjoyment of life. Ultimately, we as architects are guardians of public safety. This can mean many things. Safety is security and security is comfort. Living in the present moment helps us exist in peace individually, together, and with our natural surroundings. When you’re in a space that lifts your spirits, you’re more likely to engage with others in a positive way.
For me, I’m not looking for a one-size-fits-all solution. I’m looking for someone who has a specific need or challenge. To help with that, I realize people are spending more time indoors, and I believe biophilic design and 5 Senses Design™ can re-establish connections between people and the world around them.
Bringing the Outdoors In with 5 Senses Design™
Photos of landscape views and selfies with a beautiful sunset in the background are trending. Unfortunately, many people will see that picture but not venture out to experience it themselves. Perhaps they feel it’s out of reach, or after they scroll, that they’ve already experienced it. Yet 5 Senses Design™ creates multiple connections to an event — a true experience happens when we see it, yes, but also hear, taste, smell, and touch it.
Many people spend time sitting at desks looking at photos, rather than diving into to an experience. Marketing furthers the idea that the home is safer. The way sunscreen is advertised, it’s as if the outdoors is dangerous, and cleaning products are positioned to make us think subconsciously that the outside is dirty. Through my 5 Senses Design™, I want people to feel both safe in their homes and connected to the outdoors … and motivated to go out and experience it hands on.
This balance of safety and comfort with motivation and movement is key. Comfort zones can be extended beyond four walls. Forest bathing is a great example — natural therapy guides bring groups together for mindful walks through the woods, where they savor the taste of a wild berry, the texture of a leaf. Studies show that walking is productive for conversation, and stimulates creativity.
Extending the Home to the Community
I know I feel most engaged when I’m walking or sailing. As I come up with architectural solutions, I don’t consider design as starting at the front door and ending at the back door. The sensory and biophilic home connects to the site, considers how to frame views, welcome the daylight, orient to the sun and the shadows, and how to expand spaces to take in that enjoyment of the outdoors. We can transition from the indoors to a porch, to a pool, then a path that leads to the garden and eventually extends to the neighborhood. Good architectural design links us to our environment, and to each other.
My work naturally erodes that boundary — it welcomes the outdoors in. That sense of teamwork happens at the grassroots of the design process. When you bring together an architect, with a landscape architect, interior designer, structural engineer, and mechanical engineer, those five people can coordinate to meet the client’s needs as well as the world’s desperate need for connection.
Our planet population is 7.6 billion people (and counting). The built world of cities, homes, and neighborhoods influences how, and if, people create meaningful connections with each other. Walls can serve as separators or connectors. At the zoo, floor-to-ceiling glass walls allow humans to be on the same level as the animals. A little girl can play inches away from a tiger. She may see the tiger sleeping, grooming, gazing, and it may pounce suddenly; all the while they are both safe. Apply that concept to a home or office. The occupant can have nature at his fingertips. It doesn’t have to be a tiger on the other side, maybe it’s a beautiful landscape that you’ve cultivated. Perhaps an outdoor shower ceiling opens to the stars, providing what would otherwise be an unattainable connection. A good architect can give that balance of comfort and adventure — transitioning spaces that excite and soothe the senses