Embracing Fire, Earth, Water and Air
Now that it has been over year of being told to ‘stay at home’, it has allowed us to discover the comforts of our home. Our homes this year have not been only a place we live in but a place for protection, refuge and shelter during a world pandemic. With that being said we are all now wanting to create a home that improves both our physical and mental wellbeing. This can be created through biophilic design which provides your home with both physical and mental wellbeing benefits such as;
- Improved air quality
- Enhanced productivity and creativity
- Sense of calm and serenity
- Feel more energised and awake
- higher self – esteems and feelings of happiness
Living in modern times with the latest technology, hasn’t stopped us from going back to the key fundamental elements and returning to the origins of design.
In this blog let's review my favourite projects that incorporate the classical elements of water, air, fire and earth; all key elements to improving our wellbeing.
Did you know that the four elements water, air, fire and earth all originated from ancient Greece, where Aristotle made the statement “he believed all matter in the universe was made of these four elements.” When it comes to applying these elements to biophilic design and architecture it can help us to remember our roots in the relationship between people and nature that can be formed in built environments with multi-sensory experiences.
I have to admit nothing replaces the calming softs sound of real raindrops falling on to the skylight windows or a roof of a balcony. This could be created through raindrops sounds being played through speakers in your home or the natural sound of rain when it is raining outdoors.
Water within the home can be used for climate control, which is all about creating a microclimate through the process of evaporative cooling. Although water can have physical benefits for us, it can also have mental wellbeing benefits due to the sound of water which creates a sense of comfort and serenity.
When it comes to the element of water being incorporated into design, I always think about the Mexican architect Luis Baragan and his last project Casa Gilardi. This project displayed a beautiful indoor swimming pool that reflected the vivid colour off the surrounding walls. This is an excellent example of a non-residential building incorporating water.
Air is all about when you step outside for the first time each day and taking that deep breath of the fresh crisp air in the morning. I believe that air is the most vital element to be used within design. Air is all about keeping internal spaces healthy, via controlling humidity and temperature, and being able to filter out the air particles which can contaminate the spaces we live in. Good airflow is a great sensory feature to incorporate into your design through evoking a sense of suspension and lightness within a space. Air allows you to blur the boundaries between bringing the outdoors in and being a symbol of renewal through good airflow variability. Good air is vital to our well being.
We can improve the airflow within our homes in many ways through biophilic architectural design such as creating openings on opposite sides to create cross ventilation. This is beautifully demonstrated in the Cavalcante house and the FVB House.
Good airflow can be created in so many different ways throughout the home through lattice panels in the Pier House or screen blocks made from ceramic in the viewing back house. Air is all about create a pleasant cool breeze flows through your home.
Fire is that feeling your face flush with the heat of the fire while gathering as a family in the living room or outdoors in the garden, with the sound of crackling wood burning. Did you know that for over 2 million years, people have been gathering in front of a fire which is why it symbolises a place of meeting, unity, and safety?
In this glorious project Liptgas Refuge, you can see that fire is one of the main elements of this design. The structure of the cabin has been preserved through original textures. The biophilic element of refuge features within the cabin through the unique position of the fire place that has been spotlighted by a cleverly placed skylight; air and light together, creating a unique space.
Liptgas Refuge creates an intimate and individual experience within the design through fire, whilst Midden Garden Pavilion and B Garden use fire as a place in space which is ideal for gatherings and meetings. In particular Hotel Plesnik, fire pit features both an indoor space around it and a beautiful outdoor space that is framed by the snowy mountains. Overall, in all of these designs fire has conveyed the idea of warmth and togetherness.
The element of fire can also be displayed in design through a barbeque grill, as although it is known for its cooking purposes, it also symbolises a place of gathering. Which has been beautifully conveyed in the Vineyard Pavilion.
The last of the four elements is earth, the fresh texture of damp earth when walking barefooted across the garden is a sensory experience that evokes eons gone by. When we come to think about the element of earth within interior architect design, our minds automatically go to green gardens or indoor or outdoor spaces with large terraces that are full of plants or a natural landscaped that has been untouched. Although gardens, terraces and patios are great examples of earth within an interior space, we should also considering using earth as a material. For example, House Among Trees in Ecuador and the Villa – Loboshouse in Brazil displays earth as a material as well as a garden.
The biophilic element of refuge can be created by bringing texture and warmth into the design through ceramic and clay which are materials that age and leave behind a history through imprints and marks. Ngamwongwan House and Shikor Country House use natural clay brick throughout their design to form amazing architectural structures that allow for natural light to flow through into the space.
The wonder of Biophilic Design is that you can use one or several elements in your interiors - Water, Air, Fire, Earth, these four elements combined can create thousands of design ideas. As you consider the world of Biophilic Design for your projects, remember to incorporate your individual preferences with natures designs and you will be sure to have a home that is your own perfect sanctuary.