Truth, Goodness and Beauty

Cover. Sanzen-in's Ojo Gokuraku-in Temple, Tokyo, Japan [circa 1963]. Photographer. Brian Brake.


'I believe the world will be saved by beauty.' 

- Prince Lev Nikolyaevich Myshkin1

The preceding collection of essays explores the spiritualisation and despiritualisation of nature, architecture and human culture in both antiquity and modernity, rather than how architecture and urban space is generally conceived - designed - and realised - built - in response to an existing set of conditions.2 These conditions may be purely functional in nature, or they may also reflect the ideological and psychological themes within the present milieu - the people, physical, and social conditions and events that provide the environment in which someone acts or lives.In any case, it is assumed that the existing set of conditions - the problem - is less than satisfactory and that a new set of conditions - a solution - would be desirable. The act of creating architecture and urban space, then, is a problem-solving design process.4

This is concept design and concept art.But what is a concept? In it’s rawest form, it implies an idea, or range of ideas, a development approach, and a design intent. It resolves the issue of 'what' and 'how much' and begins to set the stage for understanding 'how'. It is here, through a series of iterative explorations that the form, space. and order of the building is modified, adjusted, and narrowed down from a 'broad-brush' approach towards a more precise, well-illustrated guiding concept that both encapsulates the spirit, form, principal aesthetic and technical principles of the overall project within its urban context; and is capable of being meaningfully discussed, not only with the client, but also with external partners, planners, engineers and other interested parties.6

As a result, the designer's time commitment often gets stretched trying to understand a client's evolving requests as well as brainstorm, plan, build and craft the architectural concept. Consequently, designers inevitably and instinctively prefigure solutions to the problems they are confronted with. I shall refer to these ideas henceforth as the conventional wisdom: familiar, acceptable, highly predictable, and limited solutions to a problem. And so, too often, 'the bland lead the bland'7 and its consequences have been a disaster for our cities and towns. We see, for example, our urban sky and land wrecked by insensitive, crude, and mediocre high rises and outdoor spaces which are truly, marvels of dullness and regimentation, sealed against any buoyancy or vitality of life between buildings - and leaving its citizens prey to a degree of ugliness that serves them poorly.8, 9, 10

And what now drives the construction of such anti-architecture more than anything else is simply the lust for financial gain.11 In mainstream Western culture, designers aren't encouraged to be integral to the social, environmental, or spiritual life of the community. They do not train to engage with real-life needs and problems of people. Instead they learn to be competitive in the marketplace with their products. We live in a society in which all our products and institutions are defined and measured by this market ideology - none escape.12 And throughout the corporate and academic structures supporting this system, otherwise decent people lead a life of continual lying, in order to achieve a level of economic comfort.13 They merely swim in it like fish in water.14

The ten concepts on this page, broadly referred to as 'principles,' therefore focus on broadening and enriching a vocabulary of design through the brief exploration of a wide array of solutions to architectural and urban problems developed over the course of human history.15 The principles were selected from a variety of cross-cultural design disciplines - interior architecture and the remodelling of existing buildings, 'passive building design', 'garden and landscape architecture', 'biophilic' design - and based on several factors or critera, the most important of which, are concepts that clearly reveal a unique integration of nature, architecture and human culture, and are therefore the most satisfying: physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Use it as a resource to increase your cross-disciplinary knowledge and understanding of design, promote brainstorming and idea generation for design problems, and refresh your memory of design principles that are infrequently applied.16

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Fyodor Dostoevsky [1869]. The Idiot.
2. Francis D.K. Ching [1996]. Architecture: Form, Space, & Order [Second Edition], John Wiley & Sons, pp. introduction, ix.
3. Cambridge Dictionary [2024]. Milieu.
4. Francis D.K. Ching [1996], pp. introduction, ix.
5. ' Typically, stages that precede the concept, such as 'feasibility' or 'appraisal' studies, are not considered to be 'designs', even though they may contain drawn ideas'; Mike Davies [2022]. Concept.
6. Mike Davies [2022]. Concept Architectural Design.
7. John Kenneth Galbraith [1958]. The Affluent Society
8. Jane Jacobs [1992]. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Vintage Books, pp.4.
9. Jan Gehl [2011]. Life Between Buildings: Using Public Spaces. Island Press.
10. David Brussat [2018]. The Uses of Preservation
11. Mark Anthony Signorelli; Nikos A. Salingaros [2012]. The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism. New English Review. pp. 6.
12. Suzi Gablik [2004]. Has Modernism Failed. Thames & Hudson, pp. 12.
13. Mark Anthony Signorelli; Nikos A. Salingaros [2012], pp. 6.
14. Suzi Gablik [2004], pp. 12.
15. Francis D.K. Ching [1996], pp. introduction, ix.
16. William Lidwell; Kritina-Holden; and Jill Butler [2003]. Universal Principles of Design: 100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach Through Design. pp. 13.

Above. Mahatma Gandhi [1931]. Photography: Elliott & Fry.


Civil Disobedience

Artistic modernism and its consequences, geometric fundamentalism and tabula rasa urbanism has been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in 'advanced' countries, but they have destabilised society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread physical and psychological suffering and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. Consequently, the first duty for every designer at this moment of history is to do their part through passive resistance: a Gandhian refusal to participate in and be manipulated by the corrupt system, and a willingness to mistrust 'experts' who have for years promoted creations that disdain life and human sensibilities.

Bibliography and footnotes
1. Mark Anthony Signorelli; Nikos A. Salingaros [2012]. The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism. New English Review. pp. 1-4.
2, Dr. Adam Kaasa [2016]. Cohabitation: Against the Tabula Rasa and Towards a New Ethic for Cities. pp.2.
3. Jan Gehl [2011]. Life Between Buildings: Using Public Spaces. Island Press, pp.31.
4. Jerry Mander [1978]. Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television. HarperCollins Imprint: William Morrow Paperbacks.
5. A. M. Meerloo [1956]. The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing, pp.65.
6. Academy of Ideas [2022]. The Parallel Society vs Totalitarianism | How to Create a Free World.
7. Mark Anthony Signorelli; Nikos A. Salingaros [2012], pp.7.


Do Not Destroy, Rejuvenate

Aim to sympathetically conserve, adapt and enhance the existing or the old for 21st century living based upon the concept of rest, contemplation, and peace. What one writer describes as the 'past, present, and future in continuum'.


 Rich Exterior, Modest Interior

Whether it be small, relatively modest projects or larger, more ambitious ones; give priority to the dead space, so that waking hours are spent engaged in outdoor activities or pastimes with a connection to nature. 


Activate a Constant State of Flow

By the use of creative demolition, strip away, remove, clarify, undo the parapet,[1] to create the impression of an effortless two-way spatial continuum between the heart of the dwelling, the garden, and nature. 

1. The parapet below a 'picture window,' being perpendicular to our line of sight when sitting, has the greatest effect as a spatial boundary. It not only limits our visual field to the far distance - so that the outer world appears to be at a distance - but more importantly, it serves as a barrier to our movement, between inside and outside.



Address 'Trigger Points'[1]

After this opening up, introduce an elegantly detailed wall - around the new door-window - that frames the light, and the view, as well as cleverly disguising high-performance internal wall insulation. 

1. Energy Saving Trust [2015]. Trigger Points: A Convenient Truth - Promoting Energy Efficiency in the Home.


Enhance [Indoor & Outdoor] Prospect[1]

Consider the insertion[2] of aesthetically-pleasing elements: fully glazed door-windows; open-air, elevated, and deep wood terraces or decks; and atmospheric visual gardens, so that interior and exterior can be easily surveyed or contemplated. 

1. The Prospect pattern has evolved from research on visual preference and spatial habitat responses, as well as cultural anthropology, evolutionary psychology and architectural analysis. The Savannah Hypothesis, for example, is a well-accepted theory that demonstrates how well human beings react to the structure of lush, natural environments. Historically, this would have provided an observable vantage point [place or position affording a good view of some object or landscape in the distance] and shelter from predators. 
2. 'Insertion, as the word suggests, is the introduction of new, built-to-fit, elements into, between or beside an existing dead space ... The insertion of a new functioning element not only provides a use for an often redundant or neglected space but also serves to enhance and intensify the building itself. The strong relationship of attracting opposites - the crisp new contemporary work and the crumbling antiquity of the existing - generates a building of a new and greater worth;' Graeme Brooker; Sally Stone [2004]. Re-readings: Interior Architecture and the Design Principles of Remodelling Existing Buildings, RIBA Enterprises, pp.102-103.


Strengthen [Indoor & Outdoor] Refuge[1]

Enhance the Prospect experience, with the introduction of elements: colonnades; low and large canopies [overhead roofs]; screens and filters, for protection from weather and privacy from prying eyes.

1. The Refuge pattern has evolved from research on visual preference research and spatial habitat responses, and its relationship to Prospect conditions. Buddha sitting firmly on the ground under a Bodhi tree, in which the open canopy overhead protects but also permits a transitory space below can be seen as a strong symbolism of this spatial paradigm.


Imitate Mother Nature

Bestow carefully composed arrangements of lush, evergreen trees and bushes, rocks, moss, water features, and gravel - that are meant to be seen while seated from a viewpoint outside the garden.


Invite People to Stop, Sit & Rest

Purposefully arrange the grouping of a number of pieces of outdoor garden furniture,[1] to induce definite activities or pastimes, such as working, eating, socialising, resting, and sleeping. 

1. Sofa's, lounge chairs, chairs, tables, low tables, sunbeds, and so on.


A Visual & Non-Visual Connection with Nature

Present a series of views when sitting, that allow the viewer to contemplate fully, with the senses,[1] the exquisite beauty of nature, its natural rhythms, and state of flow. 
1. Knowledge results from personal experience and direct observation - seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling. These are aided by several inward systems. There is instinct, for example, gathered by innumerable previous generations and carried forward in the cells. There is intuition, what Eastern religions call 'knowing without seeing.' In addition there are feelings, which may have been informed by prior experience. All of these - the five senses plus instinct, intuition, feeling and thought - combine to produce conscious awareness, the ability to perceive and describe the way the world is organised;' Jerry Mander [1978]. Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television.pp.79.


A Material Connection with Nature[1]

Advocate a simpler, more organic approach to construction, by making the most of the rich textures and character of natural materials such as wood, clay, brick, stone, the green of nature.
1. 'The Material Connection with Nature pattern has evolved from a limited body of scientific research on physiological responses to variable quantities of natural materials, and the impact of a natural color palette, particularly the color green, has on cognitive performance. One such study demonstrated that a difference in wood ratio on the walls of an interior space led to different physiological responses. The researchers observed that a room with a moderate ratio of wood [i.e., 45%] - with a more subjective 'comfortable' feeling - exhibited significant decreases in diastolic blood pressure and significant increases in pulse rate, whereas a decrease in brain activity was observed in large ratios [i.e., 90%], which could be highly restorative;' Terrapin Bright Green; William Browning; Catherine Ryan; Joseph Clancy [2014]. 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design: Improving Health and Well-Being in the Built Environment.


A Unity of Opposites

Strive to combine the simplicity of minimalism with Asian-East Asian vernacular traditions in building, spirituality, and the association between architecture and nature.
In-between Space 2024
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