Cherry Tree Design Intentions

july 2008 

There is a realm of design that goes beyond expertise, be they architectural, interior design or landscape architecture. real design exists when it explodes beyond current dimensions.

Talking about scale, proportions, materials and finishes and textures, or talking about greenery, colour, flowers and lawns, or about form and structure, is important, but will never be as fundamental and elemental as ” the feeling, and the smell, and the sound, and the taste, and the lightness, and the art” of the design.

I wonder if designs would look different if we decided, not on what the courtyard would look like, but how the wind would feel on your face. Not on what the texture of the wall finish is, but what light and shadow patterns would convey movement, or perhaps serenity, to the watcher.

What colour the flower of that tree is, is as much important as what sound it makes against the wind, or what bird sings on it.

Is this view of this courtyard evocative of a notion or a feeling?”

Does a wet floor, or a wet grass have a unique smell? what does it remind us of, and would we like it in our homes?

Does the sky change with the season, or with the day, and can we bring that sky into our homes, on our floors?

What we need are “cherry tree design intentions”. I say cherry tree to draw attention to Bill McDonough (Cradle to cradle – McDonough and Braungart) who mentions the cherry tree, and uses it for an amazing design comparison. The comparison describes two buildings, both big energy saver. One of them is an airtight glass clad building of yore whose energy saving strategy is based on not letting any air out, or the sun in. So the windows don’t open and are tinted black.

The other one is more interesting.

It ‘opens up’ at different times of the day, allows night cool breeze to cool down the system. It opens up to views. It makes use of sunny courtyards where it can. And the roof is used as a medium of ecological continuance. The most interesting part is the commentary on the second building. He says that the building “is a side effect of a broader and more complex design goal: to create a building that celebrates a range of cultural and natural pleasures- sun, light, air, nature even food…”

The “cherry tree design intention” does not calibrate a design by what it is, but by what it reveals about you; you the designer, and you the user. It calibrates the design by what it does to you. How it informs you about who, where, what and how you are. These are good parameters of design. We don’t need new designs and new looks today nor do we need new posturing. we need happy optimism. We need new intentions.

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