Building with Nature

by Gillian Holl

As spring comes round there is a newfound interest in nature, I have found. Nurseries are busier than usual with people looking for trees, plants and flowers to reconnect with nature after winter. People are yearning for more greenery in the home or at the office all year round, which just amplifies the fact that nature is part of our DNA. We need it to function optimally, just as it needs us to survive. 

Over the past few decades there has been a massive influx of people into urban areas because, naturally, this is where a lot of the jobs are. Technology, trends and other forms of entertainment also consume a lot more of our time, meaning less time to spend outside in nature.

In a perfect world, nature shouldn’t be something you should have to travel to in order to connect with. It should be right there on your doorstep at home. It should surround you on your way to the shops and also at the office. It might sound unrealistic, but others are getting it right.

 

Like this Contemporary Art Gallery in the city of Paris, designed by Jean Nouvel and built in 1984.

It is essential to reconnect people to nature through architecture, and here’s why:

 

Nature exposure is linked to improved health

Countless studies have been done and the facts speak for themselves: nature heals. Of course we all know this. We can feel an instant physical and emotional change during a hike in the woods or while dipping our bare feet in a cool stream. Nature makes us happier, more peaceful and allows us to think more clearly. Exposure to nature has been linked to a reduction in amongst many recovery time after surgery, ADHD symptoms in children, cardiovascular disease, stress, anger and fear.

Nature exposure links us to each other 

Studies done by the Human-Environment Research Lab and the University of Illinois showed that people with trees and green spaces around their buildings knew more people, had a stronger connection of unity with neighbours, and were more concerned to support and help each other. Further investigation measuring fMRI brain activity showed that the part of the brain associated with love and empathy lit up when people were shown scenes of nature. 

Nature exposure could encourage an ethical relationship with nature

Global warming is an incredibly important issue we all need to be aware of and take action against within our circles of influence. The hope is that through improved exposure to nature and reconnecting with it on a daily basis more ethical relationships with nature will be encouraged.

Am I suggesting we all move out of the city? Or move to a city closer to beaches or parks? What a lovely thought, but no. I’m suggesting that we rethink the way we design any new building and encourage innovative ways to bring nature to urban areas like for example through green roofs, and other sustainable initiatives. Because at the end of the day it will be a win-win.

Architects have a leading role to play in the built environment, but it all starts with you. Not all architects have sustainable, nature-inspired designs at the heart of their mission and vision. That’s why you should choose an architectural firm that will connect your building to nature, preserve the natural topography of the site and do so sustainably with tomorrow in mind.

At Veld Architects this is what we do best. 

Let’s chat.

Email me on gillian@veldarchitects.co.za

 

Love,

Gill

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