Commentary: Create healing
work, biz environments
Source: Northeren Colorado Business Report
Author: Terrence Schlesinger
Do you recognize that your energy level,
your physical and emotional well-being, your productivity and financial
success all are influenced by exposure to sunlight and colors and
shapes, time spent in natural settings, exposure to ambient sounds
and silence, contact with toxic and allergenic substances, and exposure
to microwave and computer radiation?
Many of these elements have much more impact than is commonly recognized.
We take for granted that office buildings, cubicles and furniture
are square; walls are neutral pale colors; lighting is adequate as
long as it is bright enough; and artificial materials are unavoidable
in new and renovated buildings.
Even with all the publicity about sick-building syndrome, our building
and interior-design cultural norms have not become appreciably healthier,
nor more responsive to individual sensitivities or to a value system
that says that personal well-being is important to productivity and
As an architectural consultant, I see gratifying improvements from
simple, often inexpensive changes in lighting and paint colors. I
have years of construction experience, and know what is possible with
building, electrical, mechanical and landscaping materials.
Being very intuitive, I know beyond logic the changes that can upgrade
environments. With a history of allergies, I believe people when they
say they feel awful in certain environments and cannot work well.
Increasingly, I can pinpoint how environmental factors enhance or
detract from productivity, energy levels, morale and health. I can
see how new buildings should be laid out in harmony with the land
and with the function of the buildings. I balance priorities and organize
renovations so the greatest improvements occur with the initial changes.
This helps clients to budget and make effective, realistic commitments.
The underlying premise that guides my vision is that nature creates
balance between all its elements: plants, animals, soil, water, weather
and light. When all these elements are in balance, harmony and synergy
prevail. When we human animals live and work and learn in natural,
balanced environments, then harmony and synergy prevail, as well.
The more our buildings and landscapes mimic natural situations, materials
and processes, the healthier, happier and more productive we are.
It's inevitable. People will want to frequent your restaurant or store
if they feel comfortable, enthusiastic and expansive there. And naturally
they will spend more money. Clients will feel safe and in good hands
at your dental office, chiropractic clinic or massage-therapy space
if you create a soothing, yet competent, ambience. You will go home
at night with energy to spare if you have less exposure to toxins
and more pleasant interactions with employees, co-workers, customers
How can you begin to upgrade your environment, especially in a sick
building full of toxins, an old building with mold, a cramped space
you have outgrown or a leased space where you are limited in the changes
that can be made? Holistic solutions exist. Naturally, some problems
are more challenging and expensive to deal with than others, but through
an initial consultation a realistic and honest appraisal can be offered,
along with an estimate of cost and time investment. Many decisions
can be made without my having to visit your environment at all. I
have worked with clients via e-mail, Internet and phone, using photos
and drawings. Clients choose the level of involvement they are able
to afford and feel comfortable with.
Here is a possible scenario for redesigning an existing environment.
In the initial consultation the basic concepts and client requirements
are established. Next to be considered, based on problems with the
space, are: Color and lighting schemes; ideas about reorganizing and
opening up spaces and radiusing (curving) wall corners; plants and
outdoor landscaping; indoor and outdoor water features; air cleaning
systems; acoustic treatments; the subtle but powerful balancing of
energetic elements of earth, air, water, fire, wood and metal; and
the visual impact of embedded graphics like I Ching symbols or runes,
your business logo, and sacred geometry proportions.
I provide suggestions and the client chooses what appears feasible,
attractive and "right." Often the changes are instituted a step at
How do you know if changes in your environment would help? Let me
give a few examples from a recent trip where I know changes would
help. I visited a huge atrium of one of the most expensive office
buildings in a large and moneyed city. Everything was brown, gray
and taupe except for the $8,000 of real and silk plants that looked
equally lifeless in this dead environment. The building is only half
occupied and the atrium was empty and silent except for a bored security
Next example: I went into a new restaurant because it was convenient
and I was in a hurry. The owner had designed the environment himself,
I suspect. The walls were gold, spring green and red-purple, a combination
not enhanced by black and white photos. The ceiling was high and black
with exposed metal girders. The cement floor had a folksy design hand-painted
on it in gold and brown. I had to sit at three tables before I found
one where the ceiling lights were not glaring straight into my eyes.
I could not wait to eat and get out, the place felt so hard and inhospitable.
I won't go back there.
Also, it was empty throughout my visit.
Third example: I stay with a friend when I go to this city. A month
ago we cut down a dying evergreen with black bark and prickly, bare
branches. It opened up her front entrance amazingly. She had been
having some problems, she said, with the neighbors, and I felt the
problems would disappear with this hostile, prickly guardian of the
house gone. Well, I returned to find she had placed by her front door
a black wrought iron spiral-shaped shelf stacked with fat, spiky aloe
vera plants. I had to walk around the arrangement to get to the front
door, while having a startle response that my eyes were going to be
poked out. She recreated the energy of that dying tree without, I'm
sure, any awareness.
Each of the creators of these environments did the best they could
and had hopeful intentions. But they were not skilled at environmental
design, and their choices are going to cost them more than the money
outlaid. Designing healing environments takes practice, intuition,
objectivity and wide experience with materials and buildings. With
nature as my model, the elements I use have an energetic integrity
independent of temporary styles.
Terrence Schlesinger is an architectural
consultant living in New Mexico. He can be reached at 520 445 4800
or by e-mail at balance@LightYears2.com.