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Bob Harris

Beauty, Place and the Environmental Imperative

Posted by on 2/22/13 at 12:21pm

Our minds are pre-programmed to read and respond to certain patterns and elements found within the natural world.  However, in contemporary society we more and more often find ourselves living in nature deprived conditions, in places divorced from the nature context we subconsciously desire.  Perhaps designers of the built environment can learn to reconnect people to the patterns of nature triggering aesthetic responses that speak to our inner spirit and our innate sense of beauty.

While we are relative novices in creating dwellings as we know them today, evidence suggest that we are experts at survival in the natural world having learned how to adapt and thrive for over 100,000 years. Noted biologist E.O Wilson suggest that such survival traits are so deeply woven into our biological history as to have become the basic underpinnings of our sense of who we are to this day. Examples from the world of architecture of the past century suggest that certain individual designers possess a particular bio-intuition that manifest itself in what has become known as biophilic elements of design. Could this explain why such works of design universally appeal? It may be that through a better awareness of our own cognitive wiring we might learn to reconnect to a beauty in nature that we have forgotten and build places that speak to the soul. In our pursuit of a better built environment, a deeper understanding of beauty may be the missing factor in the sustainability equation.

  • Lovely Ted Talk, Bob. I’ll certainly walk more slowly next time I’m in the woods.