At the beginning of 2020, I made a difficult decision to leave my secure job and the City I love and have lived in for over 10 years. The reason was I wanted to start aligning my work and my values, I kept finding myself getting drawn back to the topics that fascinated me so much during my studies, such as designers who used their skills to create a better future. I wanted to begin to understand how I could use my skill set and designer mind to contribute to the planet in the same way.
The challenges that have arose since that fruitful day when I plucked up the courage to say it was time for the long-awaited change. This year has been an internal journey of ups, downs and understanding. It seems many of the unexpected challenges came down to really beginning to understand myself and rebuilding my confidence and trust with myself. I have been working for others for over the last ten years and all of a sudden when it is back to just you and your decisions, everything can seem very daunting. Every day is filled with something new to learn and discover. I have to keep reminding myself that as much as I would like I cannot physically do it all at once (as much I would love to be able to). This is a lesson that it feels we are all experiencing with Covid; if things slow down you can’t speed it up again, you have to surrender to the flow.
I have been really trying to understand how I can use my skills to help create healthy environments that support connection; Connection with self, Connection with others and Connection with nature.
Connection with Self
When I say creating an environment to connect with self, really, I mean keeping things simple. Trying to create spaces that can take people away from all the noise of their busy day-to-day lives. I take inspiration from ancient philosophies such as Feng Shui; where they look at balancing energy and flow within the space. The below article (courtesy of the Italian blog Casaomnia) explains Feng Shui basics and some simple steps people can follow in their home. Feng Shui techniques have been known to positively impact our sense of wellbeing in our home.
Image from Taylor Simpson
I have always been curious about playing around with our more subtle desires such as connecting fond memories to provoke strong feelings to a space and palette. I’ll give you a personal example here to explain what I mean; in October 2019, myself and my sister took a road trip around California, we began in LA and travelled through Death Valley, Yosemite and San Francisco. During our adventure, we arrived at the mountainous landscape of Mammoth Lakes, I remember my sister taking a deep breath and saying how she felt more peaceful and cosier here, it was more like home. I noticed my sister was connecting the feelings she had of growing up in a certain landscape to the colours and textures currently around her. These are subtle associations between memories and visual surroundings. I found this observation fascinating; I have curiously been diving deeper in order to understand how these connections can be brought into the space where we live and work. I would love to hear if you have already carved out a special place, where you can go and connected with yourself.
Connection with Others
Back in March when I was taking my first few steps into the waters of entrepreneurship, I began looking at where I could direct my focus. Thankfully, I came across a UK Government and RIBA competition to design the ‘Home of 2030’. I looked at this brief through the lens of developing social housing. This was a wonderful opportunity to dive deep into a side of design I had less experience in, yet it is a sector that has always fascinated me and is so crucial to our society. During my research and development, I looked at aspects of our lives and really tried to understand what makes a whole. Everything I uncovered always came back to our connection with others. To achieve this connection, I looked at ways of creating spaces;
Where old and young could connect and learn from each other.
Having places people could put their energy into building and being creative.
Facilitating spaces for people to connect, be seen and heard. Where support is provided through relationships and accountability.
…. Really, I was looking at how I could build an environment that could support and nurture a community.
I was using nature as a key contributor to support growth and I looked at building materials and methods that worked hand-in-hand with our planet.
Social capital, co winner; Igloo Regeneration with +Home. Photograph: Picture Plane Ltd
Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify for the competition but the six finalists who did, have produced fascinating concepts along similar lines of designing beautiful spaces with the end users future in mind. I am sharing this story with you as I believe these companies are worth following. They have produced wonderful examples of innovate design concepts for practical and well thought out design solutions for our housing crises.
From looking at the examples above, what are the ways that you encourage connections with others?
Connection with Nature
Sometimes it feels a little like we are losing our connection with nature, for example, in cities, you can go for days without really connecting to nature, spending hours commuting and sitting in traffic, relying on fast food to get you through a hectic day, living in small-overpriced accommodation with little to no outdoor space. Over the past year especially, it is evident that many people, including myself are becoming increasingly aware of how valuable nature is and how much we can learn from it:
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein
An increased amount of Biomimicry is now being used in design. Simple examples of these are the shapes of aeroplanes or if you can think of the shape of a high-speed train. You can see it in architecture and how it is being used frequently in the development of new materials. These designs are based on what we have observed and understood from nature, here is a link to the Biomimicry Institute, which is a wonderful resource centre for information about biomimicry.
Kingfisher and Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train)
We can learn so much from nature and from human relationships with nature. The work by Julia Watson is a great resource that illustrates how Indigenism has developed design solution working with nature. Earlier this year, Julia published a book called Lo-TEK Design by Radical Indigenism, here we see example of how tribes and communities have worked with nature to create natural solutions to arising issues such as increased population and climate change. There is an example of a city that uses a natural water filtration system to provide clean water for tribes that have created functioning floating cities.
We can look at our connection with nature on a more close-range scale too; by becoming conscious of doing small things each day such as stopping and listening to the bird’s songs or having some plants in your office or home. Just having nature around us and acknowledging it through our senses can relax us and really bring a bit of joy into our lives. Some fond memories for me are the mornings when I was cycling into work and passing over London Bridge, catching the sunrise coming up over the Thames and reflecting bright beautiful light over the ripples of the water and up onto the encompassing buildings. It was really a glowing ray of beauty. This sight would literally set me up for the day, I would feel so grateful and so at peace to have witness such beauty on my commute in and before my day had even fully began, talk about a free and easy dopamine hit, thank you nature!
Do you get these moments during your day, where nature can give you a big gift of loveliness?
Sunrise behind Tower Bridge on the river Thames; Picture sourced from the Telegraph
This year has brought a lot of uncertainty and I have learned so much throughout this time. Not knowing what will be coming around the corner, my biggest take away has been that the only certain thing in life is being able to adapt to change and having the ability to let go and flow with the waves. No matter how choppy and crazy everything may feel we can always connect back into ourselves, with others all across the world and with our planet to gain support and grounding. I believe we will all come out of this year stronger, softer and with a much deeper understanding about ourselves and our relationship with the planet. I am really looking forward to seeing where all these learning will take humanity.