One summer, I went away with my family on a vacation to Cape Cod. We were there for a while, so I would work in the mornings. In my room, I sat at a table and faced the window, looking out on the green lawn and the swelling ocean. The breeze washed over my face.
And it was there I remembered my grandmother. Growing up, she would look out for me more than my mom did. “Don’t sit at the corner of a table,” she would say. “Place a mirror here, but not over there.” Through this and more significant teachings, she taught me the Eastern ways, but I didn’t “get it.”
I like science and so tried to put all of that behind me. Yet as an architect, I found these ideas once again in WELL Buildings Standards (like LEED but involves the wellbeing of the end users rather than just the environment). We know from science now, not only that we affect the environment but also that the environment has an effect on people.
From my window onto part of the Cape Cod landscape, I could know this without intellect, without science. That’s because the green of the grass, the water – its sounds and pure blue color – and the sea breeze all calmed me. They clarified my thinking. I am rekindled to what I needed to do as an architect.
The ideas I’m describing have been talked about from generation to generation in the East. We’ve come full circle now, with Western science confirming Eastern metaphysics. We have come full circle, but our environments haven’t. In fact, they’ve gotten worse.
In my practice, I put the individual back into the context of the environment. We consider all factors, not only in how they affect health but also for the sense of well-being. I call this Integrated Design. This is design of the built environment that enhances harmony with the natural world for the purpose of living and working with mindfulness.