Design impacts Art & Design impacts Health. Therefore Health = Art.

Odd title, let me explain.

In reading about the impact of design and space on our wellbeing, I have come more and more to believe in well designed homes as a source of wellbeing. Conversely poorly designed homes are bad for our long term health. Certain spaces will create stress or isolation, and others will create relaxation and communion. Healthy spaces should account for all stimuli entering the brain through all the senses.

So far so good. I imagine, dear reader, that you are with me on this…or at least you are willing to entertain the notion that a room full of comfy couches, mellow music, warm lighting and sweet lavender smells is better for our health than a damp, dark basement with odours of rat poo.

But this is where my mind makes a weird connection, so as Samuel L Jackson famously said about the dinosaurs: “hold on to your butts”.

I recently came across this quartz article which looks at the impact of headphones on media and pop music: link I found myself nodding to the words throughout the article. Media has become a certain way (mainly bass heavy music or intimate chats in the form of podcasts) because of its main mode of consumption – headphones which have tiny speakers and offer a private signal direct to your brain. The design of the headphones affects the media in exactly the same way the design of your house affects your wellbeing.

Think of wellbeing as a piece of amorphous art you need to try and shape with whatever you have at your disposal. Just like the music that is shaped by the arenas, churches or headphones in which it is played. Life is a song. Life is art. I’m sure those are old, cheesy sayings but they suddenly make a lot of sense to me.

Christmas is upon us like a tidal wave now. I have started to crank some soulful Christmas carols and hang some sweet smelling decorations for my family’s wellbeing and communion if nothing else.

Happy Friday chimps.

Friday musings

It’s coming on Christmas and Summer is here in the South. Fake fir trees with stockings and presents underneath are a Northern cultural remnant. Families head to the beach rather than play in the snow, but Christmas still works its magic with the carols, the food, the shopping and the holidays.

The generations of my family are gathered in this town and seem to stretch before me one way and the next. My old man is crippled with his leg in a cast. My mother looks after him with care and patience. She will scatter her mother’s ashes among the roses today. My own children are running back and forth trying on lipstick before eating it. What more could you want?

Happy Friday chimps.

Report cards

Yesterday my two year old got her first report card from pre-school. A glowing description of her progress made me so happy. She has done so well.

The report makes me think about how we measure progress after school. An obvious metric is money made, but that doesn’t seem enough. My daughter’s report paid attention to aspects such as social cohesion, personality and communication skills development and other “softer” measurement than her grades or her salary. Her earning power is pitiful 😉

If my own schooling was any indication, after kindergarten (which measures very interesting markers for progress) we are pushed down a narrow path towards industry and conformance. We probably need to do better.

Some ideas for metrics other than salary and position to measure progress as humans after school:

  • How do we measure our contribution to the culture?
  • How aware are we of our own true nature and personal development?
  • How much do we know about where we come from?
  • How strong is our network?

Happy Thursday chimps.

The Weekend Jungle

Weekends turn our house into a jungle. For some reason as a family we fall into chaos – dishes build up in the sink, toys scatter around the house. The garden is no better.

This weekend was particularly bad. At one stage the house and garden resembled the Amazon, and there were two doors that wouldn’t lock, leaving our house vulnerable to…..well to anyone who may have wanted to walk in.

The jungle also compounds. As things get more chaotic, the effort required to bring it back feels greater and greater, and so you just put it off which leads to more jungle creeping in.

But slowly, once the children were asleep, we managed to clean up. I managed to lock up the doors and we escaped the jungle just before bed time. It was a close call though.

Happy Monday chimps.

If you do nothing

If you do nothing then the ants and rats and algae will come. They start in the shadows, taking the grime and food and dirt that builds up around the edges. But the more they get away with it, the bolder they will get.

Soon your pool is green. Soon your house has an ant trail marching all the way into the kitchen and back to an underground nest. Soon the rats are so emboldened they find a way into your dustbins, your garage, your car.

Atrophy is the enemy. His best friends are algae, ants and rats. Fight back.

Time and birthdays

The sun rises and sets every day and we are free to do what we want in that time period. It is the most democratic system we have – time limits on a day, a week, a month. Everyone will die. These limits apply to everyone.

Today is my daughter’s birthday. Our duty as parents can be defined like this: It is our duty to get her to a point where she can make her own decisions about what to do with the time available in a day.

Til then, we organise stuff for her. I am looking forward to a party later on today with family, friends and cake! Happy birthday my girl. We love you every hour of every day.

An ode to combis

My sister left a car for me in Australia. A classic VW combi van with sliding doors and acres of space. It was very cool. But very old.

She had travelled across the top of Australia in a bigger 4×4, hit a big kangaroo, and traded the wreck in for the combi. The first time i drove it the accelerator pedal fell off in the middle of freeway traffic. I was starting my undergraduate degree at the university of Western Australia, trying to find the place on busy roads in Perth.

I was able to drive it for a few glorious weeks. Combis have so much space you can pile a lot of students in. There’s nothing quite like driving one to the beach for a surf. It made me a few friends and helped to ease me into University life. But then the registration ran out on the car, and it was so old, they wouldn’t renew the road worthy certificate without a load of work done on the car. It made sense to buy another car instead. A boring old Mitsubishi with less space, and an accelerator pedal which worked.

At the tail end of 2019 I find myself wanting to buy another combi. A wife, 3 kids, 2 dogs, and sometimes the goldfish come with me everywhere i go. Soon they will all have friends (except maybe the goldfish).

Ballet

Before this week I had never seen a ballet concert. My four year old daughter had dress rehearsals and performances all week. It was quite a production involving over a hundred girls from 4 yrs up to about 18 yrs….some thoughts:

The sheer joy my girl got from the whole week reminded me of playing in a band. The practicing, the setting up, being backstage, performing….it all gets very addictive and I could identify with it.

The makeup is weird. Part of the show, no doubt, but little girls in makeup sits uneasily in my stomach.

Music plays a huge part in dance and ballet (obviously) and it was clear to me that some girls linked the dancing with the music, while others simply did not make that connection. They were just going through the motions as if it was a sport or a exercise at the gym rather than dancing to the music. My guess is to get any good at the dancing, you need to make that simple connection.

There are some parents out there who take their ballet VERY seriously.

The whole thing was far more fun and interesting than I thought it would be. Exhausting but fun.

Buildings through different lenses

One way to view a building is through the lens of a developer. Using this lens, a building is a foundation, a frame, and finishes (interior and exterior — windows, doors, penetrations) plus the surface finishes (floors, walls, ceilings, interior doors, rest rooms, mop closets, central plant) and the HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, controls, elevator systems.

Buildings can also be linked to health and emotion. A house can be a safe space and a home full of joy, or it can be full of anger, the scene of a divorce. Creative spaces can give you a sense of freedom and purpose. Pressurized space characterized by disjunction and poor design can give you a feeling of unease – it may even make you sick.

Depending on what you want to achieve, it helps to have the right lens. For example right now I need to sort out several functional things in our old house such as the garden lawn and the crumbling driveway. Developers lens helps here. I also have to manage a big family’s needs and expectations with my own. Seeing our home as a space for emotional fulfillment, health, and personal development is perhaps the lens to use here.

Footage

I received a video yesterday from my dad. He was fronting a full on soul band. A blues brothers style suit on, he was singing on stage playing his Stratocaster next to my sister who played saxophone.

It made me think that not many families have such cool footage. It reminded me that my family roots are creative, bold, and musical.

It was such a great video to receive and I was so proud of them. Thanks dad.