Monday, October 14, 2013

Design in the flow

I know few who live outside the tyranny of speed.  I lament that despite my efforts, I am continually holding myself back from what I would rather do, because I am compelled to drudge through what I "should" do.  Speed in all its forms: efficiency, responsibility, performance, financial stability all scream their threats should I consider interrupting work for lunch with a friend, talking too long with a client on personal terms, or going for a mid-day hike.  Occasionally I rebel and I am richly rewarded with increased inspiration.  As a struggling student myself, I offer these thoughts.
It is not natural to think in terms of speed.  This way of thinking disconnects us from nature and hinders us from connecting with one-another.  Nature, including humans, is inclined to move in terms of rhythm as opposed to measured beats (I think this is why the ticking clock drives me crazy, and music and dance energize me).  When we move rhythmically, when we think rhythmically, when we breathe rhythmically, indeed, when we live rhythmically, we flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, noted for his work in the study of happiness and creativity, coined the term "flow."  He describes this state of being as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.  Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."  

When in "the flow" we feel truly alive.  In contrast, Austrian philosopher and social critic Ivan Illich laments, "speed is in conflict with aliveness.  It is a crude example of historical congeries gratuitously attributed to nature. It comes out of a bodiless lust that lies deeper than the major assumptions on which the modern world is built."

I relate this very natural need to remove oneself from the observance of the ticking of the clock to connecting deeply to a place.  We feel "at home," and somehow, we know it despite the fact that it surprises us that we know it.  We happen upon "home."  But how many of us truly become the creators of home?  How many of us utilize our sort of sixth sense to feel that we have, if for just moments, found ourselves in harmony?  How many of us understand how important it is, and I would argue even essential to create a place that enables a life of harmony where we can rhythmically experience our world?

As a designer, I am compelled to join my clients with a place of harmony, where they feel at home, where the clock ceases to click away.  I feel I have achieved success when I can help my client through place tune into rhythm which leads them to "the flow" which in turn leads to connecting with, indeed sensing, primal energies with a sort of sixth sense which leads one to a feeling of true aliveness.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Energy of a Space

Everything is energy, therefore "energetic."  Imagine the world and everything in it composed of vital energy or a life force which vibrates at different frequencies.  This energy moves through space and around every living being, having originated from the sun, the earth and the air.  When the energy is dense, we can see it.  More fluid, less dense, ephemeral energy, often touches us without conscious awareness of how we have been touched by it.  Some of us are more inclined to sensing this more ephemeral energy, while others can learn to tune in to this energy.

I sometimes enter a garden, or a home, or an urban space, or a forest, or a cathedral and I can strongly feel the energy of the space.  Look at these images for example:

Looking through this obscured doorway invokes my curiosity.  My energy level rises as I wonder what is on the other side, and I am drawn through the portal.

This natural scene is peaceful, serene and contemplative.  My energy level relaxes and I feel soothed.

This lively city space is high energy; I feel activity in every corner of the space.
 It is important to take this energy into consideration when getting to know a space and planning for its transformation.  The space will have an existing energy inherited from the existing plants, wildlife, furnishings and surfaces.  It will also bear the energy of former residents, and past events that took place in the space.  This energy may be beneficial and should be retained to add to the garden transformation.  Other energy, such as neglect or harshness should be transformed.  

It is also important to consider the future intended energy to occupy the space.  Is the space intended for entertainment and activity?  Or is it instead intended for finding peace after a busy day of life.  The elements that we bring into the future garden should reflect the intended future energy.  Although we do not naturally understand a space in such terms, we are affected by it whether we recognize the effect or not.  Each garden that I get to know and create anew receives such consideration during my design process.  It is equally important as the aesthetics and the functionality as it is essential to the excellence of both of these realms.