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Ur Dream Home Article 1
Over the millennia there have been countless design and building styles from simple earth huts to classic timber cabins to modern so called ‘intelligent’ structures. No doubt there will be many more as our technology continues to provide a platform for our apparently insatiable and indeed appropriate desire to express and create. We are in a constant dance with the elements of our environment, and as we transform it, it transforms us. What we construct and inhabit literally informs not only our biology but our psychology and our resulting behaviour. We experience an alliterative continuum of building, biology and biography. You may have heard the much used expression – ‘you are what you eat’, which poetically encapsulates the reality that what we consume and indeed how we consume it, forms the basis of our physical, mental and emotional makeup. The same is true with how and where we live.
In recent years there has been a growing awareness of an increasingly prevalent health condition which has become know as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). It manifests in many ways depending on the individual and the specifics of their environment, but ‘symptoms’ include lack of energy, headaches, irritable bowel, skin irritation, nausea, insomnia, restlessness and many other debilitating physical and psychological reactions. The results of such environments lead to a literal breakdown in the integrity of the immune system of the occupants, which in turn affects every other aspect of their lives. There are a plethora of conflicting conclusions and beliefs as to what may be causing this, ranging from chemical off gassing, poor air quality, lack of adequate ventilation, negative effects of some man made electro-magnetic fields to the adverse influence of just plain bad design.
Most of us have spent some time in buildings that may feel as if they are indeed ‘sick’ buildings, and we may have felt a deep survival based desire to leave, or ‘escape’ the toxicity of the environment. There is a literal stress on our bodies that when left unchecked can lead to dis-ease, or slow disintegration of biological function. It has been said that biology ‘invented’ pain as a way to show us where to place our attention. I like this concept and it does of course make sense – when our finger touches something hot, a sensation of pain triggers an almost instantaneous physical response which affects the rapid removal of the digit from danger. This is a simple and obvious example of the continuous biofeedback we engage in with our environments.
Our bodies wish to be healthy and vital, representing a strong natural desire rooted in the genetic imperative to remain biologically ‘viable’. Each cell in our body is independently able to detect and respond appropriately to both positive and negative influences in our environments. In simple terms a cell will move towards any source of food and energy, and away from any source of toxins or danger. When all the cells in the multi-cellular communities we call our bodies (approximately 50 to 70 trillion cells) get together the effect is massively amplified, resulting in a remarkable innate ability to detect sources of energy and information which will support the community as well as affording the awareness to detect toxins or danger. In effect we have the skills in our very bodies to know when a space is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for us. However, sometimes the negative stresses we experience are more subtle and less obvious to us, affecting us over time, making awareness and perception less likely to kick in.
Modern society does not actively support or encourage the idea or understanding that we are completely energetically integrated with our built environments. It could be said that to do so would ultimately lead to its ‘destruction’, as people became more aware of the adverse effects and stresses bombarding us everywhere we go. So to some extent there is an opportunity to take greater personal responsibility for our own education, our own health and our own built environments.
It is worth saying at this point that I know we are capable of so much beauty and life supporting expression. When we operate from a place of awareness, integrity and open creativity we discover ways to manifest timelessly beautiful spaces which support our bodies, uplift our minds and nurture our spirit. Rather than focus on the many ways we do not do this, evidenced by the structures most of us live and work in, I intend to concentrate on and present ways that we can develop the awareness and the skill base necessary to design and build with more beauty in more sustainable equilibrium with our environment. This information is for everyone, as we all play a part in the creation and maintenance of our built biology.
To paraphrase Albert Einstein – ‘we cannot solve the problem with the same mind that created it’. We could benefit from a new language, a new understanding and a new philosophy that is based as close as possible on the pure principles of natural emergent living design. The opportunity now exists to really study and emulate how nature creates and expresses sustainably, with ease and elegance.
I am not advocating just surface level bio-mimicry, or inducing pseudo organic forms just for the sake of it, or indeed the myopic and ultimately limiting focus of some ‘green’ architects and designers - such as the target of zero carbon emissions (perhaps a classic case of not seeing the wood for the soon to be cut down trees). As an exercise in expanding our mind, it is worth considering that the green colour of plants is perceived by us because it is the very colour that living organisms ‘spit’ back or reflect, in other words, the one colour of visible light that plants ‘reject’ is green – the colour that we use as a phrase and metaphor for all things living.
I am suggesting a pure principle set of natural ‘rules’ or algorithms based on those observed at every level of natural expression. When we rediscover the structure, nature and essence of LIFE and what conditions optimise its emergence and expression we can apply this understanding in the creation of truly sustainable and beautiful environments. I am not claiming that I or my associates have the final cornerstone of truth on this vast subject - far from it. We continue to learn, practice, assess and express and as we do so our understanding and awareness increases – this is the very underlying principle at work in all emergent life systems.
We call this design philosophy and practice Biologic Architecture, and invite you to explore our individual and collective potentials.