Connection to Nature is a No-Brainer...But...
I am fortunate to have found a profession that connects people and nature. Landscape+Architecture…simple, right? But that doesn't mean that I actually get to spend a lot of time directly connecting with nature in my daily work. Instead, as with most working professionals, I spend the majority of my day in an office, either at my desk, in a conference room or in front of a computer. Seniors spend more time indoors because access to outdoors becomes more challenging as they age. Children have electronic entertainment keeping them indoors, and many haven’t really learned how to play and enjoy the outdoors. People who grow up in highly urban areas may be afraid of nature. Yet, we inherently know that nature is good for us, we feel it in our bones. It’s been proven with extensive research. We are a part of nature and it’s good for us to interact with it in whatever ways we can, even if it’s a view out a window (more on that later!).
Views to an inviting space are an important connection. The bird bath also helps draw wildlife into the view. (German Township Library, South Bend, Indiana)
So how do we as designers connect all these people who spend their days in buildings back to nature? We have an opportunity to influence this, more than most people on this earth. As a Landscape Architect, I work with the outdoors and outdoor spaces all the time. Nature is a no-brainer and an inherent part of my work. But I am striving to become more deliberate about making these connections. Frankly, Architects and Interior Designers have the biggest influence in making direct links to nature from inside buildings, and we (LA's) need to step up and advocate for those connections wherever opportunities arise. Most Architects don't bite...I'm not so sure about Interior Designers though (kidding!).
If a nice outdoor patio is being developed – work with the Architects to ensure large windows are well-placed to capture those views. Coordinate with the Interior Designers to ensure signage is in place to direct and welcome people to it. Push for these connections early in the process.
And whatever you do...make sure there is a window in the door to the patio!
Such a simple thing – a line in the specification - but such a huge impact to how inviting the connection is to the outdoors. This is a particularly personal issue with me, as I missed this on an otherwise well-connected project and every time I visit the space it crushes me. That solid door stops people from going out, even with the nice little sign on it that says they can. A lovely garden path and arch is on axis with this door, except no one can really see it until they actually open it. Ugh, such as missed opportunity. If only I had coordinated with the Architects about this door. The relationship to the view from the door was such an integral part of MY thinking that I didn't stop to think that Architects do not read minds and therefore may not have picked up on it. So, I live and learn… and try to avoid further missed opportunities wherever I can. Hopefully others are doing the same too.