Developing Nature in Architecture
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Published: Mon, 30 Apr 2018
Nature is not what it used to be. Or at least that is what we may think, when we look at the way humans and their technologies have treated nature. When we speak of “nature”, however, we are essentially talking about our relationship with nature, never nature itself. What we refer to as “nature” or “natural” has always been as much about what we see, as it is about what we think is “out there”. And trying to bring nature into view is equally ambivalent. Images of nature cannot be taken at face value either. It is not the straightforward case of “what we see, is what we get”. What is at stake are our cultural perceptions of nature. In viewing “nature” we can only talk about what we call “nature”.(Michiel Schwarz,2005)
To the extreme, to differentiate what is nature and what is not is always a matter of contention. Of course, nature will always be something that can be looked at, literally. The relationship between nature and culture can catch the attention of human in which the opinions and requirement of human towards nature are being changed and distorted. Thinking of arbitrary designing method is available in architecture; people actually play a passive role in their own space.
Firstly, we must refuse the arbitrary imparting of uprooted greenery in design, then regain and give back the original characteristics to nature by creating a pathway in between inside (architectural) and outside (environmental) for humans to play an initiative role in approaching nature. Nowadays, people are more likely to stay in the architectural interior space than in the nature. Because of that, architects and designers just simply apply the greenery into the space and create so-called green architecture. But that is actually a kind of artificial design, and it will mislead the human to the perceptions of nature.
‘Nature doesn’t have a design problem. People do. Instead of using nature as a Mere tool for human purposes; we can strive to become tools of nature that serve its agenda too. What would it mean to become, once again, native to this place, the Earth – the home of all our relations? (William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle-to-Cradle)
It’s a challenge for designer to design a habitat for people and create a rich communication with surrounding natural sources within the living space. People will have to evaluate what nature actually is, in order to have a common view on that, it tends to give a justice to space instead of adopting the ideas of arbitrary design by imparting uprooted greenery into interior space. If not, ‘nature’ will just become an object as part of human design in this age of genetic engineering, artificial beaches, virtual environment or uprooted greenery for decoration purposes. Regrettably, people will soon forget about the spirit and the value of the real nature and occupied by all the fake surface of nature.
Sometimes, people will loose the idea of the original and change according to human perception. It may be hard to draw a line between these two boundaries. It is interesting to combine these two things together and have a discussion over it. Nature’s open-ended completion by architecture and the landscape’s fundamental openness to architectural rewriting indicates unfolding of nature into culture through landscape, architecture and technology is the move from ‘first’ to ‘second’ nature.
It may be seen as unfair to the human and nature itself when everyone imparts the artificial greenery in the space and that is so called sustainable green design. (Fig.1,2) Those small countries with limited space like Japan, architects try to maximize the interior living space and creating interior garden within the house. People tend to stay in the space and seldom approach to the outside world. An alternative approach is to differentiate between natural and artificial processes. Some processes can take place as a result of human action; but not others. For example, water flowing is a natural process; bathing is an artificial one. In this view, cultural processes are the clear result of purposeful human action; invention and control of the human will result in the culture.
Some question may be pop out: Will there be any needs for functional buildings or spaces that aimed to be success as a decorative nature objects? The feeling of the users will be influenced by the concern for the nature and artificial green object directly. But, does such an aesthetic response show us the responsibility of the designers or do justice to either beauty or design? A beautiful world is what a human being pursues in their mind. So, it did urge us to design for the dwellings and tools are seemed as old as humanity.
The problem is that the real aesthetics of nature are being forgotten by human being and only stay inside the spaces and play with the uprooted greenery. This becomes a requirement of people instead of the original meaning of the nature and the interaction between human and environment itself. The deeper side of beauty is the knowledge of living truth as an ongoing process of creation that is hard to understand. This is the beauty of inner purpose that emerges to our amazement because we try to discover those new things.
The perception of an old nature is just getting more and more basically nurtures. Another question for this: Whether opposite equal to possible or impossible? The optimistic thinkers will probably believe that the control over the nature will continue until we get used with that and cannot waive it off. On the contrary, we can have our own dominant nature and the way people imparting nature in the spaces is an illusion. Nature will keep on changing with the footstep of human governs nature. The boundaries between nature and culture will never change. Thanks again to the science and technology, which blurred the line between nature and culture and abandon the real nature and separate them with the human being.
The natural setting in our world make the space become compelling, it is because that it provides such a rich source of these properties, and the site specific architectural design takes advantage from each of the part. Interior materials, colors, patterns, textures, and artwork will draw the qualities and features of the architecture and landscape inside enhancing a seamless interior/exterior sensory experience. But, it is not telling us to use the same materials, but rather materials that consist of the qualities and features most derived from the architecture and the landscape.
By integrating the natural elements of the site into the form of the architecture itself, human being will have the chance of experiencing the unique relationships between inside and outside from multiple perspectives as we move from space to space within the space. Furthermore, the boundaries of indoor rooms and outdoor spaces among visual and physical can be dissolving into a mosaic of inside-outside spaces. By using the walls and wings of the space to define “outdoor rooms,” the experience of living is extended into a sheltered natural environment. For this, both distant views and views of nearby nature are essential. Distant views link us with the nature of the site, while nearby nature links us to the confusion and immediate sensory pleasures of the design instead of move the nature into the space to approach the human being.
‘We have no longer an outside and an inside as two separate things. Now the outside may come inside and the inside may and does go outside. They are of each other. Form and function thus become one in design and execution if the nature of material and method and purpose are all in unison.’ (Wright 1954 p.50)
By the way, world and nature can be seeing as in the same level; there is no still form. Every form in becoming alive should move Man. Nature is the only source for architecture to keep on moving. Living architecture is used to enhance the spirit of human being and change the architecture into a ‘living being’. There are many ways of imparting nature to architecture, it is necessary to differentiate between two approaches: one which uses nature as a composing element and one favors leaving nature as much as possible untouched or as element of worship. This first result in ignorance and bring down the characteristics of nature; the second approach will influence directly to the separation among the built and unbuilt environment, or to stimulate human feeling and thinking by the organic architecture.
When we discuss about imparting greenery into space and design, we will link to Biophilic design, which coined in 1984 by a Harvard biologist, Edward O. Wilson, to elaborate what he thought the inherent human attraction to nature:
Incorporates real or simulated natural elements in an effort to promote well being. It is a quirky, lesser-known cousin of green design, and is concerned more with “speaking to our emotions, our ancient genetic predilections, probably fundamental, for interaction with a natural world.” Unlike green design, it is more focus on energy and protects natural resources, but not focuses on sustainable building practices. In another hand, Biophilic design is more concerned with appearances and natures relaxing effect. (Edward O. Wilson, 1984)
Biophilic architecture is a part of a new concept in architecture, that work intensively with human health, ecology and sustainability precepts, such as integral part of architectural formation which must be in optimal proportion with other buildings material. However, the interpretation and final implementation of Biophilic design must have a regional dimension with regard to environment and culture. In accurate, there are twelve attributes identified, including color, water, air, sunlight, plants, animals, natural materials, views and vistas, façade greening, landscape, habitats and fire.
Human design has made nature more natural than natural: it is now becoming kind of hypernatural. Actually, this will never exist. It has surpassed the real thing; hypernatural nature is always just a little bit prettier, slicker and safer compared to the old kind. Let’s be honest: it’s actually culture. The more we learn to control trees, animals, atoms and the climate, the more they lose their natural character and enter into the realms of culture. So, next nature will be start from cultural products that is complex and we can only integrate them with man-nature relationship. (Stephen R. Kellert)
The basic dimension of Biophilic design is a place-based or vernacular dimension; it can be described as buildings and landscapes that connect to the culture and ecology of a locality or geographic area. Sense, spirit of place, underscoring how buildings and landscapes of meaning to people are the dimensions that become integral to their individual and collective identities, metaphorically transforming inanimate matter into something that feels lifelike and often sustains life.
‘People want to experience the sensory, emotional, and spiritual satisfactions that can be obtained only from an intimate interplay, indeed from identification with the places in which they live. This interplay and identification generate the spirit of the place. The environment acquires the attributes of a place through the fusion of the natural and human order.’ (Rene Dubos, 1980,110)
Human always connects theirs sensory such as physical, visual, material between interiors and nature. Compared to nature, most of the built environments support somewhat shallow and limited experiences, while Biophilic design can fulfill all of the senses fully–for example like walking along the beach, camping in the forest, or watching sunrise. It is an active experience that awakens us every moment that we are living and going on with our daily life.
Distinction between sustainable design (or green design) and Biophilic design can be considered as a challenge for the designers as it indicates how they can address the method to incorporate into our spaces. There are two primary reasons for Biophilic design in architecture; first, the clear ideas of benefits link with human performance, emotional well being, learning, stress reduction and healing. Secondly, from the environment viewpoint, it is an effort to eliminate pollution and greater protection to support clean environment.
Frankly, health and healing are the clear ideas of benefits that are given by the Biophilic design. In advance, contacting with nature involves exposure to natural light or sunlight, yet another pain-reduction mechanism may come into play. When these advantages are known and agreed by the human, they will just have to try to impart greenery in the design as much as possible.
From an environmental viewpoint, to inspire interest and appreciate nature, to incorporate Biophilic design features and elements in spaces are essential. This appreciation can be explained as a motivation for people to care for the environment and at the same time to protect it. Coming to the resolution of conflicts and achieving balance of Biophilic design link the connection with nature has been found to enhance healing and recovery from illness. Likewise, it also reduces health problems as well as social problems. Even the presence of limited amounts of vegetation such as grass and trees has been regarded as an adaptive behavior.
The missing link in current sustainable design is a basic that will narrow down the focus on avoiding harmful environmental impacts. Low environmental impact design fails to address the critical needs equally of diminishing human separation from nature, enhancing positive connection with environmental processes and this important objective of Biophilic design.
Human being may neglect some of the part in terms of modern architecture and construction, a condition the eminent architectural historian Vincent Scully described in this way:
‘The relationship of manmade structures to the natural world, has been neglected by architecture. There are many reasons for this. Foremost among them, is the blindness of the contemporary urban world to everything that is not itself, to nature most of all.’ Lacking of experience is the main cause for this blindness; it indicates and reveals the illogical and self-defeating results of designing in oppositional relation to the natural environment. (Vincent Scully, 1991:11)
So, by creating the element for example likes windows, doors, voids, and opening, those elements can support the space and connect it to the outside environment. Windows are very important for the interior spaces; they ensure access to views, daylight, sunlight, fresh air, outdoor spaces and activities, seasons, nature’s sounds, smells, and life. Windows help to connect building occupants with a richness that may be critical to the individual and at the same time, they also offer those outside building with a level of transparency, oversight, and contact with life’s activities that is critical to community. While a direct connection from the indoors to the natural diversity of outdoor places may be critical for human health and inspiration, the direct connection from outdoors to inside is equally critical.
Windows reveal the spirit of place, as an important element for the spaces window act as a mirror of nature. The view of the nature outside or even the reflection of the environment being created by human is in a way non-arbitrarily defined as in between inside and outside. It incorporates a threshold whereby a strong dialogue between the inside and outside occurs with a unique in-between experience as the result.
In human relationship with nature, we can also gain invaluable models from non-arbitrary architecture for current design education by showing an architecture that derives from and speaks to human beings’ existence in the world. By using this method, it shows a great planning and developing for the content of site, many opportunities can be get and created for human to view and approach the outside nature. Instead of applying greenery in the interior space as design tool, the in between transition space of inside and outside enhance the relationship of architectural spaces and environmental nature surrounds. By the way, the natural symbols can help us to think about how our buildings might be made more thoughtful instead of telling us on how to build. Moreover, a deep understanding is more important when come to the question of creating a non-arbitrary architecture grounded in human being-in-the-world.
The philosopher Karsten Harries writes that a key task of architecture is “interpreting the world as a meaningful order in which the individual can find his place in the midst of nature and in the midst of a community”. Harries argues that, too often, buildings don’t respond to the needs of human dwelling because they are made arbitrarily instead of being let to arise out of the real-world requirements of particular people, places and landscapes. To give an annotation to human life, design both listen and incorporate nature and culture can be part of a non-arbitrary architecture. Harries claims that one need in creating a non-arbitrary architecture understands what he calls natural symbols:
The underlying patterns of experience that mark the essential qualities of human nature and life, for example, qualities of direction, of weight, of materiality, of light and so forth. Natural symbols often express themselves in lived dialectics like up and down, vertical and horizontal, and center and boundary. (Harries 1993)
Thus, architects and designers play an important role to explore the nature symbols in between the living spaces and environment, which will provide and enhance the dialogue between human and nature. The creation of an inside automatically shapes an outside, which then relates to inside into a dialectic relationship. Inside establishes physical security and safety from nature’s elements and society’s demands and also facilitates a sense of identity for the person and group.
In fact, eye catching interior spaces in the built environment often appear to have a connection with the outside environment. These areas indicate the changing of nature with culture. Furthermore, impressive design forms in the built environment that shows its quality in terms of porches, foyers, atriums, and interior gardens. So, the relationship within inside and outside bound of the areas is the criteria that we need to take into consideration. As a result, it makes the continuity linkage for it strongly. To show the familiarity and predictability, the connection to the geographic of an area must be secured.
An example is the case study of Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright, which creates a powerful sense of insideness and is expressed in roughly; cladded stonewalls to melt the architecture space in the nature outside. In a contrasting way, the transparency of glass windows opens inside to outside and thereby connects the two spaces. In-betweeness involves a place neither inside nor out. It incorporates a threshold whereby a strong dialogue between the inside and outside occurs with a unique in-between experience as the result. (Fig.3)
The fusion of interior and exterior-the cave and the clearing- so that the two melded and flowed together was Wright’s great achievement, so of his contemporaries worked with the same way of opening the house to the outside world. In spite of his own rhetoric, Wright knew that an architecture that ignores the images of both cave and clearing is invalid, and he incorporated this knowledge into his finest work.
The other example will be the famous house designed by Le Corbusier near Paris, Ville Savoy. The visible wall is at the other side of the interior courtyard. The ambiguity between the functional wall of glass and the visible wall is confusing and inharmonious. The developing technology of the twentieth century was regarded with a peculiar romantic fervor by architects. (Fig.4)
By using nature as a component and mostly invisible, abstract one if a residential or urban complex is in the chaos of the city’s built environment and borrowed nature if the building is embedded in unspoiled, open sites. The spirit of the nature will not appear itself automatically. Nature is an addition when it comes to unite the human and natural worlds and pay attention to revealing nature’s will as well as human souls embedded in nature.
‘My goal has not been to communicate with nature as it is, but rather to try to change the meaning of nature through architecture by rendering nature abstract through architecture. All of my works are trying to create the confrontation between architecture and nature.'(Tadao Ando)
On account of the boundary of spaces, people will also shows their strong feeling over it where they cherish the delineated spaces within the build environment, it helps to enhance the knowledge of clear and consistent boundaries and place demarcations. For that reason, how can the design itself create a pathway in between inside and outside so that the architectural space offers people to approach the outside nature instead of impart greenery arbitrarily? Architects should maintain a certain ambiguity and an unwillingness to entirely dissolve the boundary between culture and nature. It does so, not only through its visual identity, through a negotiation between emergence and disappearance, but more particularly through the contrast between the visual and the spatial realm, where one is simultaneously part of and distanced from the external environment.
In advance, comfort can be gained through transitional spaces within and between built and natural environments by providing access from one area to another; hence, thresholds, portals, doors, bridges, and fenestration are the main factors of a built environment. Therefore, the transitional area in the space will be the boundaries among the interior space with the outside environment. Positively, people are showing their concern to the natural and built environments when variability has been united by integrated and patterned wholes. Moreover, people prefer in natural and built environments the feeling that breaks apart including an overall emergent property consisting of to the sun of the individual parts.
The threshold not only separates and binds human beings; it also connects the private, intimate realm to an outside, public, workaday world. Interior space can be described as a magnet that can be found around us in any of the direction to which they can bring home with their gathered experience. The threshold that both disjoin and integrate an “inside” and “outside” sets in exercise a momentum of leave-taking and homecoming that sets the temporal rhythm of work and play, of an active and ruminative life. An interior space can be shown from that and it cannot exist apart from the path leading from its doorsteps to the doorsteps of another space and another realm. This pathway not only connects to interior spaces but also links a to a world that we know. (Fig.5)
Human beings can interact with nature only if the urban geometry permits such interactions. In addition to visual line-of-sight, we pay attention to pedestrian access and the in between transition spaces. Having some uprooted plant life available is only first step: we need to make it accessible to pedestrians and design an environment in which such an interaction can be maintained and connected. Frequently, ornamental plants may be seen but not approached. We must create gardens that are physically hostile environment for the pedestrian. Pathways are exposed in the middle of this space, between the interior spaces and the forbidden green lawn. Private lawns are out-of-bounds, while any bushes and trees form a protective wall around a house, instead of belonging to the public land. We have to question this habit, breaking up outside environment into inside architectural spaces crisscrossed by paths.
The other example that shows how transition spaces can define the space and function is The Museum of Modern Art in Ney York City. The Museum is an art museum located in Midtown Manhattan in New York City designed by Yoshio Taniguchi. (Fig.6)
In Taniguchi’s MoMA design, the primary elements that internalize external space are vast windows that bring aspects of the city into the building, creating a layered effect that loosens the intensity and simplicity inherent in the modernist elements, and also declares the act of viewing art to be part of a multifaceted urban lifestyle. Transition spaces as a connector in between every separated space. It is important to create a passage in between different defined function of space. These corridor or verandah design can be a breathing place for people before entering another space.
People used to be the participant in the space when there’s physical access to outside by the solid walls but everything changed after the glass being used and applied. Visually, the solid wall was replaced by glass. The consequent interaction between the interaction between the interior space and the outside world is the most striking change to be noted in the design of contemporary buildings. So, how to create a new design modular system to solve the problem of people being an observer in the space nowadays?
The very traditional layout and volumes of the house is connected and less of opening. So by creating an internal corridor/ verandah in the space can bring in the natural lighting and good in air ventilation. The principle of separating the volumes applied by the rearranging of independent volumes. (Fig.7) This figure is a diagram that experimented based on an existing house and show how the concept of separating volumes can be created by add in the internal corridor. People can enjoy different spaces and lifestyle, but not fixing the dwelling space. The volumes have a free layout but are connected by linear corridor and verandah elements.
The verandah itself becomes a transition area between volumes and rooms. It separated the volumes and creates a additional distance for people to transit. The points of transition, in the old time design or architecture, provided physical passage as well as visual access. Until recently, the windows and doors were always operable and were required for ventilation. System of mechanical air circulation made it possible to have visual access to the outside world without direct physical access, and visual access to the outside world without direct physical access, and people experience exterior/surrounding space in most apartment buildings, hotels, and office structures passively, as an observer, not a participant. For this environmental isolation we will unavoidable pay a price.
How can an architect achieve the Biophilic design by taking into consideration the elements/ structures that are placed in between interior and exterior? For example the sheltered structure is designed to decrease the direct sun coming in the interior space by creating the sun break. The very first step towards passive Biophilic design is to reflect upon the energy distribution in the building form and volume. Distribution of the energy needs to correspond to the function and activity of those spaces. (Fig.8)
The advantages of natural cooling for human comfort and long-term health should be compared to the impact of variable and constant cold air blown through diffusers. The quantity and quality of outdoor air that can be delivered through natural cooling should be compared to that delivered by a range of mechanical systems, over time.
A bioregional approach to sustainable habitat design considers local origin a fundamental to its architectural methodologies, played out especially in the types of construction materials used and the source of these materials. (Fig.9) Biophilic exposure as well as passive and active solar hear gain.
So the iterative process in sustainable development become very important for a bioregional built environment. The design related strategies included outdoor comfort/ ventilation and solar access/ sky exposure. An important consideration is user and pedestrian comfort. Studies of transition spaces assist designers in minimizing negatives wind effect while maximizing beneficial ventilation conditions.
Some of these typically wind effects and their counter strategy applied, are: tunnel effect, downdraft, redirection, tear of edges and acceleration. Real curtains are an important part of the design, to nuance the outdoor light or define indoor spaces. (Fig.10) This figure shows how the form and opening of the blocks can affect to the daily natural lighting and air ventilation within the space. The requirements for solar and light access and sky exposure can be met on several different levels-right of way width, dwelling orientation, building façade reflectivity, heights and massing, distribution of function and glazing percentage.
To create new modular principles for define the new balance between the arbitrary design and non-arbitrary design in sustainability context. By balancing the openness and refuge/ sheltered element in the living space with an increased ability to view out and feel connected to others in the environment could be the better solution.
Due to the different situation and local context, just like Singapore that is lacking of natural elements and limited possibility of natural views, we should have certain methodologies and principles to guide and achieve the Biophilic Design.
So there is many constraints and guideline for architects or designers to study and analyze before design. With well study of the site context and environment surrounded the building, can easily enjoy the benefit from the natural world.
From the orientation of the buildings, form study and even every single opening can actually create a robust connection in between human, nature and space. So, there is no other way to approach nature world within architectural space only by applying the elements and attributes of Biophilic Design. Those artificial greenery and arbitrary way of imparting fake nature will only stop people to approach nature and forget about what is the real nature.
Therefore, there is no artificial production and solution for people to approach nature within the architectural space but only a physical access/connector from inside to outside. And the transition pathway between inside and outside is the important role and the elements to encourage people approach the surrounding environment. Architects or designer should study the site condition and apply the attributes of Biophilic Design to enhance the living standard and create a robust connection between nature, people and space.
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