Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mindfulness in Design: Bringing body, form and function together



As interior decorators, designers and architects, we work to create spaces that balance form and function with the comfort of the inhabitants. In these practices one of our greatest assets is not our mind, but our body. It is our sense perceptions that provide the phenomenological information of the qualities of light, temperature, color, smell and feel of the setting and materials. The mind can then interpret that information and design solutions, drawing on our training and experience.  So a practice that develops mind/body synchronization in the present moment could only be of benefit to these professions.  Mindfulness practice offers tools for synchronizing mind and body through the simple act of resting the mind on the sensations of the breath.

I have found that integrating a mindfulness practice into the design process accesses subtle layers of information through open awareness, which can then lead to an embodied response to the space.  Sitting in contemplation with open questions like; how do I feel in the space? what attracts my attention? what feels uncomfortable? can provide feedback vital to the design process. By cultivating a connection to the present moment through sitting practice, sense perceptions are heightened and more space is available for the less obvious reactions to arise. This then provides more information on which to base any design.  

Mindfulness to our inner dialogue without judgment makes active listening to a client without bias possible.  This opens the possibility of dialogue with all the forces at work; natural, aesthetic and interpersonal.  Out of this awareness, options offered and decisions made embrace things as they are rather than imposing a conceptual response based on previous experience.  The result organically grows from the fertile intersection of people, place and materials, so that the final design is a natural outgrowth uniquely suited to the client’s needs, fresh and alive.

In my own practice, each design begins with synchronizing my mind and body, to be fully present with heightened awareness; open to the specifics of site, client and function. My role is as sensor, facilitator and conduit for the design to be born through skillful engagement with all the interdependent elements of the space.  This is not about my personal creative expression, but an opportunity for the client’s vision to be exposed and realized.

The initial meeting is spent actively listening to the client’s perceived use of the space, interests and what needs are currently unmet.  I then take my own reading of the specific site and greater environs, noting details of placement, color, light, smell, sound, furnishings and functionality.  Through the felt sense of my experience I identify what needs adjustment in light of the client’s input. 

From this thorough assessment, I prepare an initial design proposal, with priorities set based on budget and time frame.   Throughout the process, feedback and engagement is encouraged, as I work together with the client to transform the space.

Dialogue and collaboration are key as we work together to create a place where one can settle the body, rest the mind and uplift the soul.

1 comment:

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