By connecting architecture with nature, one can create an architectural work that generates experiences with the full embodiment of physical and spiritual presence. To achieve this, first, it is necessary to understand nature. As American lecturer, poet, and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay Nature, “To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.”
This article analyses the space of nature through four key points: Unity, Movement, Shape and Materials.
If we start analyzing nature from a distance, from a biological point of view, we can see that nature is one complex, balanced whole, one system consisting of a countless number of different species. All of those species have integrity, individual identity, and respective systems. Although quite differentiated from each other, those elements of nature are still strongly connected and influenced by each other, so any change of any organism reflects on the whole system.
Moving through the space of nature, one has the feeling that there is no wrong way; all paths lead somewhere; all of them are connected and continue one after another in natural transitions. There is no real border or space limit. Space is fluent; and elements – no matter whether they are horizontal or vertical, above or beneath, next to us or in front of us – are at the same time divided and connected wholly, transitioning unnoticeably from one to another. Divided just enough to have their integrity, and combined sufficiently to make one unified space. Different elements in nature and diversities in their connections produce various ambiences. This induces a spectrum of emotions in the being who is moving through this space.
Moreover, passing from one place to another in nature happens spontaneously, without the organism being aware of borders. Every ambience offers a new experience and new enjoyment. So, in the end, it is not just about reaching the final destination, but it is about the entire journey itself. The whole process of movement in nature becomes an adventure, full of new unimaginable opportunities and dimensions.
As a result of this kind of movement, our self-awareness is growing as much as our imagination. All of our senses are awake. With every new step, we are becoming wealthier in terms of spirituality and all that we had considered a limit before is now the beginning of something new.
All creatures of nature develop their form in accordance with the amount of sun and water they can get in their living area (climatic characteristic) or in accordance with the type of the ground they move or stand on. Depending on their function, they will be more or less in interaction with other beings, so they will adjust the shape to their role and quantity of communication with the surrounding. There is no regular style, regular shape or material characteristic for a being in nature. Still, natural systems have to be in balance in order to exist in nature. The idea is that you take but also give. Even the smallest details in nature have a purpose and a specific function. The beauty of the natural creation comes with its simplicity, mystery, sense and energy; and an ability to produce positive emotions.“In their (sky and woods) eternal calm, he (the tradesman) finds himself…and is a man again.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson – Nature).
Every natural creature has a skeleton, circulation system and envelope. All of those systems are working closely together and make a creature alive. The circulation system is not visible. We receive information about this system indirectly; we feel it. Here, it’s more about the energy of the body than about being a visible part of an organism. The skeleton is the structural part of all creatures; it is a fundamental part of physical appearance. The envelope is the part which directly communicates with the surroundings by receiving information from outside and emitting information from inside. Materials of these systems depend on the surrounding in which they are and on the functions they perform. They are entirely functional. Regardless of whether it is some material with a characteristic colour or texture or whether it is completely neutral, it is this way for some specific reason.
Architecture – a product of nature
Humans are natural beings who can produce creatures of nature, giving birth, making life. Consequently, since art and architecture are created by humans, they, too, can be natural. And being natural could mean having energy and being spiritual. In order to bring architecture onto a spiritual level, one has to create it with one’s feelings and to invest a part of one’s self in it. At the same time, we have to consider the way the architectural design should communicate with the surrounding and with its users, as well as the question which emotions it should evoke. Last but not the least, the design should be in harmony with the nature that encompasses it. Throughout history, there were many works of architecture with physical and spiritual features that had similar characteristics as those of different elements of nature. Examples include the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, or works by contemporary architects such as Peter Zumthor and Tadao Ando. Moreover, some examples can be traced back even further, such as the Erechtheion temple, the Pantheon, Florence cathedral, Machu Picchu, or the Taj Mahal.
Finally, as Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa wrote in his book The Eyes of the Skin,“Architecture is essentially an extension of nature into the human-made realm, providing the ground for perception and the horizon of experiencing and understanding the world… Architecture strengthens the essential experience, one’s sense of being in the world, and this is essentially a strengthened experience of self.”