Connect with Nature: An Introduction

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”    Albert Einstein

THE BASICS

Our health and happiness are dependent on nature. Design should connect our living environments to the natural world.

As we spend more time in our home away from our daily routines, we are reminded of the necessity and luxury of connecting to nature. Parks, beaches and walks in the woods where possible, have become the way we can make this con nection today, albeit cautiously, shying away from others. When this is all over, will we go back to the way things were and continue to take our environment for granted, or will we hold on to the longing we currently feel for being outside?

To feel the connection to the natural world, we can experience the same psychological, physiological and emotional benefits by being in our own space through carefully curated spaces that invite the outside in.

The Upstate Glass House by Ramona Albert

NHAPS life cycle chart
NHAPS Percentage Time Spent

Where do we spend our lives?

A 2001 NHAPS study has determined that we spend  90% of our lives inside but it is proven that simple things like the presence of natural light enhances our mood, increases performance and creates greater comfort.  

When designing or renovating a space, natural elements become a driving force.

There are a multitude of ways to achieve integration with nature.

This document is an introduction to a sensual and elegant approach to design, one that combines a set of carefully curated connections based on a minimal and well informed aesthetic.  The series to follow will provide design strategies that tackle each aspect of the design process in detail.

                                                                 

THE SENSES

Imagine the effect of a comforting material, texture or smell. Imagine walking through a natural environment where there are multiple layers of textures and colors  in constant transformation.  Think of the perfect temperature or a crisp smell in the air and its effect on your body.

When spaces explore the tactile and sensorial qualities of materials, they have a  positive healing effect.

Kokedera Moss Garden, Kyoto. Photo by Ramona Albert

The choice of earth toned colors enhances mood, and has a calming effect, and natural materials like wood, stone and leather and other natural fabrics have a positive healing effect. These materials display the beautiful  imperfections of the natural world, and age beautifully, forming a lasting patina leading to a sense of the passage of time. ‍

Gam Fratesi Restaurant in  Manilla, Photography by Gam Fratesi

THE ORDER OF SPACE

Simple phenomena can create complex interactions, and simple systems can produce complex results.

Nature has an amazing capacity to create beauty from chaos, and most of it is driven by necessity.  Patterns of organization found in nature  are ways in which nature can teach us how to build, how to live in a functional way as nature seamlessly blends engineering with design. 

Park Vijversburg pavilion by Junga Ishigami, Photograph by Iwan Baan

Design provides a segway into the connection to the natural forms and organizations, and can provide inspiration for sustainable lifestyle and environments. The inspiring relationship between space and order in nature can be embedded in our own world  through careful articulation of the connection between two distinct spaces, the creation of views into the landscape, and organizing the environment in ways that offer security and comfort. 

Light in Water, Project and photography by DGT Architects and Takuji Shimmura

THE IMMEDIATE CONNECTION

Good design should master the blending of boundaries between indoors and outdoors.

There is no comparison to being physically surrounded by natural elements. The presence of a living system in our interiors, is one of the most powerful connections to nature.

Ecological constructs within a space need to be designed carefully so that they blend the boundary between indoor and outdoor.

It is not enough to think of this connection via a singular element, but rather as  part of a larger system through the abundance of green space and rooted  into the specific local ecology. 

Entryway at Naoshima by Tadao Ando, Photograph by Ramona Albert

THE INTEGRAGED FOOD ECOLOGY

Green environments have the ability to provide sustainable food systems that improve human nutrition and health.

The current pandemic we are reminds us of the urban dependence on the rural environment, a call to study further the integration of urban life with nature.

Scientists point out that agriculture currently uses a third of the Earth’s land, but there are ways in which we could grow all the food we need on less land. We can then imagine a world in which our agriculture is also integrated with our everyday life, similar to how Singapore is treating their urban farming today.

Through existing technology our homes can grow their own vegetables and provide a large portion of a nutritious healthy diet at all times of the year.  With the use of advanced lighting technology and hydroponic systems, our homes can become part of the greater green urban structure, unplugged from dependency on outside sources to a great extent.  ‍

RESOURCES AND TERMS

design - A creative  and aesthetic strategy by which a building, space, garment or product is generated.

‍engineering - A mathematical strategy by which a building, space or product is generated.

‍nature - The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations. nature seamlessly combines design and engineering.

‍NHAPS - The National Human Activity Pattern Survey, a Resource to Assessing Exposure to Environmental Pollutants.

‍sensorial - Relating to the sensation or senses

‍patina - The change in a material’s appearance produced by the passage of time.

‍ecosystem - A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

‍sustainability - The avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.

‍urban farming - The practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in and around urban areas.

 

Connect with Nature: An Introduction