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Restoring Nature: A Holistic Design Approach In Architecture

Updated: Sep 9




The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown us yet again how designers need to do constant rethinking and bring changes in construction practices with time and circumstances. While there are architects working on 'emergency architecture' re-imagining spaces and temporary structures to be turned into corona isolation camps in the time of crisis, the rest of them are gearing up for the repercussions. Lockdown gives us time to reflect, form, and present our ideas and solutions to combat the era of self-isolation and challenges it may bring.


Quoted by American psychologist Maslow, "Man is ultimately not molded or shaped into humanness, or taught to be human. Role of nature is ultimately to permit him or help him to actualize his own potentialities; not its potentialities." This regard was reflected in the advancement of the holistic health care movement in 2009, moving away from dependence on pharmaceuticals, and taking an integrative approach to incorporate the mind, body, and spirit. Holistic health care takes into consideration the emotional, economic, physical, social, and spiritual needs of an individual in a manner that requires a biopsychosocial tactic, a method that combines the studies of physiology, psychology, and sociology.


Holism (Holistic) is a theory that the universe and natural organisms are interacting wholes and not just a series of isolated parts. Aristotle said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts". It goes beyond problem-solving to integrate all aspects of the ecosystem.


After the industrial revolution in the 1760s, society gave in to the easiness of machine-based production, despite its depreciating effects on the environment. A rejection of nature became the trend. Designers moved away from vernacular style to seeking universality, making design techniques standardized for any environment, culture, or location.


Postmodernism in the 1960s, further challenged the universal style of modernism. The result was a design and architectural style that no longer saw an individual as a machine, but as a part of a complex ecosystem. The acknowledgment of the complexity of an individual and its need for cultural and psychological representation had also been upheld by holistic design expanded upon by the sustainability movement.


Holistic architecture is a humanistic approach that integrates the mind, body, and soul. To accomplish this, concepts of sustainability, energy, and physics, introducing physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being into the built environment are incorporated. Holistic architects begin with a site evaluation and are concerned with the natural energies emitted by the site. The location of the structure is chosen based upon an analysis of these energies, also called an environmental magnetic map, to maintain the natural harmony of the energies of the site. The topography of the site is also analyzed and is used to determine the shape of the structure. It is critical that the structure and landscaping integrate with the natural setting.


Simultaneously, it emerged holistic interior design, a practice rooted in physiology, sociology, and psychology with a goal to improve the quality of the indoor built environment and the overall well-being of occupants. It is an energy-based practice with a focus on clearing, balancing, and maintaining the subtle energy field that helps in the healing of occupants' physical, emotional, and spiritual state. The common practice involves Vastu Shastra & Feng Shui with the integration of nature, light, aromatherapy, color therapy, sound management, and sustainability. We are pivoting to a time where we want to dwell in spaces that help us rejuvenate and accentuate our creativity and spiritual journey. Holistic design is the future.


As architects, dire need of the hour is to address the environmental and medical challenges we are facing and structure a robust community to tackle the pressing issue with construction practices that focus not just on aesthetics and functionality but overall sustainability.


Source: Judson Willoughby Faircloth, Florida State University Libraries

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