Unlocking the beneficial effects of nature can happen at different levels that go deeper and deeper with different types of nature experiences. As designers of the built environment, it is important to consider how architecture and urban constructs work to harmonize and synergistically connect with nature. I believe that architecture can bring people to experience and understand nature at much deeper levels – even those aspects of nature one can take for granted – such as light.
When I was in my twenties, I had the unique opportunity to explore a cave for many hours. Within this very amazing environment I experienced new types of light (or absence of light), new kinds or air quality, and new types of acoustics. It was an incredible experience. But one of the key moments of this caving adventure that I remember most was when exiting the cave after the adventure was complete. You see, at that moment the light of day felt completely new. After being in the darkness of the cave for so long (while also trying to maneuver through the cave within this darkness), the light of day seemed extra bright, extra warm, and extra vibrant. It was as though I was feeling the sunlight in a way I had never felt it before. It was a sunlight that felt wonderful, and renewed.
This extraordinary experience of journeying through a cave helped me to realize how environments can re-present nature in ways not experienced before. And this is a direction that my current design work explores as I pose the question: How can architecture help people to experience and feel nature in new ways? I believe the answers to this question, through design, will yield amazing discoveries.
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