Many studies have shown how shapes, forms, colors, tones, textures, materials, etc. have a direct influence on human behavior and response towards the environment. The spatial configuration and design alter and define our response as a society towards each other and ourselves. While millions and billions of us spend time indoors working in our offices, having a day off at home, and now due to the pandemic, it is evident that there is a tremendous change in our behavioral efficiency. Not only do we get frustrated, but we also miss the outdoors.
Being confined in these concrete or brick walls takes away the openness and freedom of our thoughts and activities while providing us security and protection. One, however, misses the fresh air, the velvety sand of the beach taking us away, and the foam of the ocean kissing our feet. The thoughts linger on to the dewy grass tingling at our feet, the soft leaves creating an aromatic garden, and the hardened old brown bark of the tree where lovers engrave their love for eternity. Tracing our way back to those good old memories, we realize that all of our nostalgia is built on the senses and perception. Even if we think about our loved ones, it is their smell, their touch, their presence, that we miss the most. We, as humans, hold on to our senses to assess how a person or a thing made us feel.
Architecture is a social art that shapes the world around us. It gives us what we need to nurture as a society. Our well-being, abilities, responses, efficiency, are all formed by the spaces we work, eat, sleep, and enjoy in. The critical choice comes when one has to choose the material to sculpt those spaces. Without ‘material,’ we cannot bring life, originality, and character to our spaces. It is, therefore, necessary to be aware of which material triggers what part of our brain, which material is suitable for which milieu, and which material functions better in a certain setting. Greatest architects of all times have dealt thoughtfully with the type of material they chose for their buildings to support their purpose, philosophy, and responsibility as the pioneer of building society or a nation.
Let’s dig in a little deeper and see what we feel about some of the materials being used in our buildings commonly. For instance, concrete gives a bold overpowering impression. It suggests unidirectionality, focus, rigidity, uniformity, etc. It could be best suitable for a work environment where one needs little maintenance and no distraction. The extension of Cornell university’s architecture department is a remarkable example of it. How the architects designed a dynamic space out of a monotone material inspires us to explore our horizon of creativity.
In contrast, wood gives a homely feeling of warmth and comfort. There are more than a hundred species of wood. The diversity in wood grains, textures, and tones can manipulate the emotions and productivity levels accordingly. They can also be used to create an aromatic space that welcomes you and relaxes you as the day goes by. As for the use of stone, it gives a raw, confident, natural feel to the occupant while bringing the outdoors to the indoors.
The need to choose materials sensitively has become crucial than ever before because of the current pandemic. The architects should consider it as their obligation to select materials that soothe, relax, and re-energize one’s mind, soul, and body. Mental health is now on the brink of stability based on how every place seems alienated today. The architects should consider the demand to practice such materials in a design that promotes positive social and personal attitude. A fact to be acknowledged is that the crime rate, health factor, suicidal rate, well-being, and progress of a society is dependent on how our spaces are designed.
Bamboo as a happy material
A study conducted in 2017 at Sichuan Agricultural University suggests that viewing bamboo can help calm a stressed mind, decrease anxiety, and improve concentration span. Bamboo has broadened the possibility of sustainable construction and flexibility in creating organic and calm interiors with the basic human comfort level.
“Nobody can escape architecture and its effects.”
– Günter Hertel
Designing efficient spaces that reduce the psychosomatic system, anxiety and stress level, fatigue, or any other sort of physical and mental discomfort can be encouraged by using materials like bamboo. According to some scientists like Tanja Vollmer that contribute to the field suggest that the more insecure we are, the more sensitive we are to our surroundings. The use of such materials can help stimulate a positive attitude, raise self-esteem, and improve mood and behavior.
Here is another example of how one can use materials to build a ‘happy place.’
Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse
Location: ShiQiao garden, Yangzhou, China.
Architect: HWCD Associates
“If tea is an art and architecture is a way of life, then the bamboo courtyard is the portrait of both worlds.”
– Emilie Chalcraft
The project takes the viewer on an enchanting journey of how China perceives tea-making as an art and tradition. The vertical and horizontal construction of the bamboo amplifies the psychedelic sensory perception of depth. The experience of layering in tea is abstracted through the use of bamboo in layers in the courtyard. The material blends in with the natural environment making the space appear elegant.
The asymmetrical corridors giving the semi-obstructed view of the surroundings and the lake lying in the center of the bamboo courtyard creates an ambiance that builds a spiritual experience to connect one with nature and their primitive being.
The contrast of the brick wall with the smooth layering of bamboo brings duality to the theme. The choice of materials brings forth the sense of a firm ground of one’s soul that embraces the delicacy of a calm mood.
This project portrays the perfect example of how one can create a space that has a positive effect on mood, while it takes you on a journey through the cultural realms of a place.
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- HWCD Associates, 2012. Bamboo Courtyard Teahouse By HWCD Associates. [image] Available at: <https://www.dezeen.com/2012/09/08/bamboo-courtyard-teahouse-by-hwcd-associates/> [Accessed 13 June 2020].
- Hassan, Drahmad. (2017). Psychophysiological Effects of Bamboo Plants on Adults. Available at:<https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321937629_Psychophysiological_Effects_of_Bamboo_Plants_on_Adults> [Accessed 13 June 2020].
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