Ships in Bottles – A Bit of the History and Lore

Ship in a bottle — 1784

A Facebook video by my friend Frank Hanavan showing him inserting a ship in a bottle (after the page break) got me thinking about, well, ships in bottles. When, where and why did sailors start putting ships in bottles? After looking into the history of ships in bottles (or SIBs, as the aficionados refer to them), I don’t claim to have all, or even most, of the answers but I have come across some interesting lore.

The first mention of objects in bottles dates back to 1719. A German artist, musician and magician, Matthias Buchinger, built models, although not necessarily, of ships inside bottles. He was also well known as an illustrator and engraver, all of which was remarkable given that he was born without arms or legs. He was also quite the lady’s man, having married four times and having at least 14 children by eight women.

As described in History of Ships in Bottles – by Bob de Jongste: The oldest surviving ship in a bottle dates to 1784 and is a Turkish or a Portuguese three-masted warship. It is put in an egg­-shaped bottle, which is placed upside down over a wooden stand. It is now part of the collection of the ‘Museum fiir Kunst und Kulturgeschichte der Hansestadt Lubeck’ in Germany.

The oldest SIB in the Netherlands is dated 1795. It is a so-called POON-ship, a one-masted freighter with lee-boards, ranging from 16 to 60 tons. It was also used for regular passenger service. This SIB can be found in the Maritime Museum at Rotterdam.

The SIB became very popular after the fast sailing ships like the clipper were put into service. Consequently most of the antique SIB’s which can be found (very scarce) are dated later than 1840.

To learn more about ships in a bottle, check out The Ships-In-Bottles Association of America (S.I.B.A.A.)

To watch Frank’s artistry, check out the video below:

New Chinese Weapon Can Launch Suicide Drones from Trucks and Helicopters

The China Academy of Electronics and Information Technology (CAEIT) has released a scary new video that is bound to give you uneasy dreams. The clip shows a swarm of explosive drones being released from the back of a truck and from helicopters and the South China Morning Postsays they are meant to attack targets.


The video also shows the drones being directed remotely from a tablet-like device. A People’s Liberation Army insider who requested anonymity told the South China Morning Post that the truck was commissioned as part of the government’s military-civilian fusion strategy.

Source: Thomas Ybh/YouTube


“They’re still in the early development stage and the technical problems are yet to be resolved,” the insider said. “One of the key concerns is the communications system and how to stop it from getting jammed. The military has found that the artificial intelligence it uses is too slow to react.”

Meanwhile, The Times reported that the drones are being made to target troops, tanks, and other armored vehicles. This is not the first time CAEIT carries out such tests.

Back in November of 2017, the research institute undertook what is believed to be the largest of such experiments. It featured 200 of the small fixed-wing aircraft.

The South China Morning Post says the unmanned aircraft seems similar to the CH-901, China’s first tactical attack drone that measures 3.9 feet (1.2 meters) long and weighs 20lbs (9kg). Don’t let its small size fool you though. The drone can travel at a speed of 93 miles per hour (150km/h).

It can also fly in the air for 120 minutes before detonating. Pretty scary stuff! None of the media outlets mentioned what the new drones were for and if other countries should be worried. However, these types of drone swarms can be very dangerous as they can overwhelm air defense systems.

The software development practitioner attitude

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Every good developer out there, any person out there who surprises you because they work in a dream company, at some point, demonstrated many signs of determination, if not to say they have demonstrated their skills to some scale. I will not cease to say that the person who would like to give you their money or opportunity would always make sure you have the required intellectual caliber or skillset.

People usually wonder how I can usually foresee how a project can be structured after hearing just a little about the idea. Well, it’s practice. I have surely done such a thing before or something similar to it.

So, I will keep this simple and straight forward. I don’t care about my page bounce rate. I want you to read this as quickly as possible and gain time for your day. Or maybe you can go ahead later to read this or that.

There is no professor or doctor out there who merited such a title without undergoing some years of deliberate practice and studies of their field.

It bothers me a lot when I see new learners wasting so much time looking for easy frameworks and technologies, new trends, source codes to download, and any other things that can make it easy for them to write “some software”, sell it, and become a millionaire. Always ask yourself if everyone was into the same thing you are doing, would anyone ever find what you are looking for? Because nobody would have not created anything.

All the people you follow as your models or mentors have suffered too practicing hard to become the mentors you love.

Consistency creates identity

When you are set to learn a new skill, it’s only deliberate and consistent practice that can help you become an actual artist. Listening to motivational talks 24h/7 and going to conferences would not develop your ability until you sit down and do it on your own. You must go through the process of mistakes and discoveries. Anyone can become an expert on anything they wish. Just study that thing to the extreme. And as you continue to dirty your hand in the craft, you create an identity of an expert in the field that follows you everywhere you go.

Hard work is what sets people different from the crowd. Follow the crowd and you will be a piece of it. Go beyond it, and you will be exceptional.

Since we are in the era of easy gain mindset, let me make things clear for that category of people. I do understand that we are not all born to suffer before we become successful. But, life in its default algorithm requires a minimum effort in everything. In physics, it’s called energy. We call it effort, you know?
So, what you might think was easily given to you has been someone else’s effort somewhere.

My fellow developers and learners, drop every dream for now, and get to work. Write the code every day, create projects even if you will throw them away after. Create projects even if they will not be lucrative now. Give time to the system, it will come back to you just like a revelation.

Show HN: Pingr – Lightweight Pingdom Alternative

Customize requests

We offer full request customization, including setting headers, request types, response timeout and many more…

Status Pages

Display your sites on a public page. Useful if you want to ensure to your clients that their sites are online

Monitor the speed

We check response times from different locations, so that you know which is the fastest and which the slowest

SnapRAID – a backup program for disk arrays, recovers from up to 6 disk failures

SnapRAID is a backup program for disk arrays. It stores parity information of your data and it recovers from up to six disk failures.

SnapRAID is mainly targeted for a home media center, with a lot of big files that rarely change.

Beside the ability to recover from disk failures, other features of SnapRAID are:

  • All your data is hashed to ensure data integrity and to avoid silent corruption.
  • If the failed disks are too many to allow a recovery, you lose the data only on the failed disks. All the data in the other disks is safe.
  • If you accidentally delete some files in a disk, you can recover them.
  • You can start with already filled disks.
  • The disks can have different sizes.
  • You can add disks at any time.
  • It doesn’t lock-in your data. You can stop using SnapRAID at any time without the need to reformat or move data.
  • To access a file, a single disk needs to spin, saving power and producing less noise.

SnapRAID has also a SourceForge and a GitHub page. If you need support, ask it in the Forum.

Now go to Download.

News! Version 11.5 RELEASED!

Stealth – Secure, Peer-to-Peer, Private and Automateable Web Browser

Tholian® Stealth is the automateable Web Browser for the Web of Knowledge.

Its design goals are increased Privacy, increased Automation, adaptive Semantic Understanding and efficient bandwidth usage, no matter the cost.

It is built by a former contributor to both Chromium and Firefox, and is built out of personal opinion on how Web Browsers should try to understand the Semantic Web.

Stealth empowers its Users, not Website Developers that could (,will ,and did) abuse technologies to compromise the freedom and rights of Web Browser End-Users.

Downloads / Releases

Stealth is currently in the Prototype Stage. Non-Developing Users won’t enjoy it much, as things are quite buggy and incomplete for the moment.

However, due to the concept of using node.js and focussing on a privacy-oriented audience, Stealth will initially be released for MacOS and GNU/Linux.

(Download Links will be inserted here once the Stealth Releases are ready for the public)


Stealth is both a Web Scraper, Web Service and Web Proxy that can serve its own User Interface (“Browser UI”) that is implemented using Web Technologies.

  • It is secure by default, without compromise. It only supports DNS via HTTPS, and uses explicitely https:// first, and fallsback to http:// only when necessary and only when the website was not MITM-ed.

  • It offers intelligent Error Page wizards that guide the user through scenarios when things are broken, from no domain resolved to download snapshot via web archive.

  • It is peer-to-peer and always uses the most efficient way to share resources and to reduce bandwidth, which means downloaded websites are readable even when being completely offline.

  • It uses blacklist-based Blockers that is on feature-parity with AdBlock Plus, AdGuard, Pi-Hole, uBlock Origin and uMatrix (in the sense of “all of the above”).

  • It uses Optimizers to render only the good parts of HTML and CSS. These Optimizers make sure that no Client or Peer ever receives any malicious or unwanted content, and it is written on-filesystem-cache (which is shared later to other peers) to ensure that particularly. All Optimizers are applied across all Site Modes, and the Site Modes decide what content or media is included.

  • It uses whitelist-based Site Modes that decide what to load, with incrementally allowed features (or media types). By default, Stealth will load nothing. The Site Mode next to the address bar decides what is loaded.

  • It uses whitelist-based Site Beacons that allow specific elements on a Site to be extracted as Knowledge – which in return help to train the Browser to understand future similar Sites on the web more easily. This can be seen as a learning mechanism that is similar to the “Reader Mode” in other Browsers, but whilst delivering the cleaned content to all connected Clients and Peers (including Smartphones and Tablets).

  • It never requests anything unnecessary. The cache is persistent until the user tells it to refresh the Site manually (or a scheduled Download task runs for that URL).

  • It uses trust-based Peers to share the local cache. Peers can receive, interchange, and synchronize their downloaded media. This is especially helpful in rural areas, where internet bandwidth is sparse; and redundant downloads can be saved. Just bookmark Stealh as a Web App on your Android phone and you have direct access to your downloaded wikis, yay!

  • It can double-function as a Content-Auditing and Content-Filtering Web Proxy inside other Web Browsers, which allows corporate-like setups with a shared peer-to-peer Cache and a local Web Archive of the Internet.

  • It has intelligent error handling. In case a website is not available anymore, the stealth:fix-request error page allows to download websites automagically from trusted Peers or from the Web Archive.

  • This ain’t your Mama’s Web Browser. It completely disables to load ECMAScript in order to improve Privacy. Stealth also does not support Web Forms or any Web API that could potentially send data to the website.

  • Stealth can be scripted as a Web Scraper inside node.js. The Browser is completely free-of-DOM, so every single task and interaction that the Browser UI does can be implemented in an automateable and programmable manner, even remotely through trusted Peers using Stealth’s peer-to-peer network services.

Stealth Guide (for Hackers?)

The Guide is currently meant for Developers that are new to the Project. It explains all necessary topics to quickly get started to hack around with Stealth and modify it to fit your needs.

A User’s Guide probably will arrive at a later point in time, as Stealth currently has no public release yet.


If you don’t wanna deal with the native build toolchain, this is how to get started as quickly as possible:

  • Install node.js version 12+.
  • Install Ungoogled Chromium version 70+.
  • (Only MacOS) Alternatively Install Safari version 12+.
  • (Only Linux) Alternatively Install electron version 8+.
  • (Only Linux) Alternatively Install gjs and WebKit2 GTK version 4+.
git clone;
cd ./stealth;

# Make everything
node ./make.mjs;

# Start Stealth Service (optional debug flag)
node ./stealth/stealth.mjs --debug=true;

# Open as Progressive Web App
node ./browser/browser.mjs;

IMPORTANT: On Android, Stealth can be used by visiting the URL and bookmarking it as a Web App. The Stealth Icon will appear on your home screen, and it will behave like a native offline-ready mobile app.


The current roadmap is a mixture of the /issues section on GitHub/GitLab and the features that are going to be implemented in the near future which are put together in the file.

As this project in its current form is highly experimental software, those features can change very rapidly; and lead to at least partial refactors of the codebase as well.

If you have Problems, Suggestions or Ideas that would fit into Stealth, please open up an Issue and we’ll be happy to talk about it 🙂


Usage of Stealth, including its Browser and Browser UI is licensed under GNU GPL 3.

(c) 2019-2020 Tholian(r) Network

Types of jobs you should never accept

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photo credit: Thomas Guest via photopin (license)

As a web designer/developer, sometimes you have to handle things by yourself. You need to go out there and try to get jobs in order to make some income. That’s normal, we all do it.

Although we know ourselves as good talkers, sometimes it happens that you meet clients who are beyond you and more troublesome. Here I will be sharing with you some sign which can help you detect what job to take or not based on your contact with the client.

1. A Job-like…

This is the first sign and the most often. When you get in touch the client will present a website or a list of websites asking you to make something similar or pick up ideas out of it.

At first, this may look normal or probably a way for you to push your curiosity a bit further or to different horizons, but it’s not usually good for your business for some couple of reasons:

  • You will waste a lot of time trying to get something that will fit your client’s need.
  • You may lose focus due to the type/number of information you meet during your researches
  • You may never satisfy your client
  • The projects he is comparing his goal with might have been developed by teams, so it took more brains, time, and money to make it, what he can’t afford. You will be doing a team work alone for a single person’s price.

So, for such jobs make sure you send your client back. If he can rectify those things for you, then take the job, otherwise, my advice for you is not to accept.

2. Use your creativity to give me something

Oh my God! At least the first one gave you some resources for you to have an idea of what you would be doing. This one doesn’t even know where to start from and wants you to do that job before starting your own. Hahaha.

Definitely, you are never going to complete this one for some reasons: – The client will realize what exactly he needs on the way, and now start asking you to do what he thinks he wants – There won’t be a precise date to finish the project. It’s a life project. – You will never be paid for the quantity of work you are going to accomplish

3. Content not available

Yes! This usually happens when a client contacts you explains what he wants, but he doesn’t have any content in the hands. He’s expecting you to get it for him with the help of some plagiarism.

Clients forget here that we may not know much about their field. We can help organize your content, but generating it can require some good mastery of the particular field.

This is definitely going to waste your time again. If you insist and make it, he will come back, after his friends saw the website, to ask you to change/remove some parts. You may even have to remove some pages or modules, which may have cost you some time already to make it.

4. Clients who communicate less with you

I personally like when I am in constant contact with the client so that I can easily ask any questions. But, when it comes that the client is always away/lost, it becomes a big problem. Whenever you are blocked somewhere you have to wait for some while/days before getting his feedback.

This usually consumes a lot of time and the client might not be focused on the project. Another waste of time process.

5. Clients who bargain a lot the price

I don’t know much about the outside, but, here in Africa, we bargain everything, everywhere… Even in malls. Hahaha

As I usually say it, you cannot get a quality thing and pay it cheap. The price we give is used to conduct your project not to just put it in our pocket. Yes, our food money is also inside, but that’s why we are actually working. If your workers have to work with an empty stomach I am not sure you will get the best of them.

So, those clients are ready to go and look for someone else for a difference of $2. Be very careful with them. They never loose, therefore you will always loose for them. They will never have mercy on you. They will make you work like a slave for the money they are paying you. They can really be hard to handle sometimes.

This may take you days and weeks to conclude the deal, and their terms can be very complicated. After they make the first payment they usually start with a hard pressure: I want the work done in two days.

These jobs, likewise the previous waste your time and give you a lot of pressure.

6. The client thinks he knows the job

You know and you are not doing it yourself.

These are clients when they come to you they always try to make you understand that they know more or less the job, therefore they minimize every task in front of you in order to gain a lesser price. They will start putting useless protocols on your way to prove they know: I want you to use Java(He means JavaScript) to make the website very dynamic(He’s talking of animations*)…

The biggest problem with them is that they are kind of the ones conducting the project for which you can influence your normal workflow. Plus, you will have to teach them stuff in order to get them on the same track. Believe me, I met many of such type. Very disturbing.

Bottom line

Since this is 1st April I think it will be good we say what we think without fooling ourselves. These are some jobs I had the chance to deal with in my small period of a career as a web dev. I am certain many among you had met some too, or probably in a different format. I think at a point in time you really need to sort jobs before taking and reduce your stress level.

You can also share other kinds you think can be arranged in the same drawer.

Patterns of Biophilic Design

In the two decades since Wilson published The Biophilia Hypothesis, the body of evidence supporting biophilia has expanded considerably. The biophilic design patterns in this paper have, in the words of Wilson, been “teased apart and analyzed individually” to reveal emotional affiliations Wilson spoke of, as well as other psychophysiological and cognitive relationships with the built environment. The descriptive term ‘pattern’ is being used for three reasons:

The use of spatial patterns is inspired by the precedents of A Pattern Language , Designing with People in Mind and Patterns of Home , as well as lectures and compilations on form, language and complexity (; ). Christopher Alexander brings clarity to this intent with his explanation that patterns

“……..describe a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.”

Alexander’s work built on the tradition of pattern books used by designers and builders from the eighteenth century onward, but his work focused on the psychological benefits of patterns and included descriptions of the three dimensional spatial experience, rather than the aesthetic focus of previous pattern books. These fourteen Patterns of Biophilic Design focus on psychological, physiological and cognitive benefits.

While informed by science, biophilic design patterns are not formulas; they are meant to inform, guide and assist in the design process and should be thought of as another tool in the designer’s toolkit. The purpose of defining these patterns is to articulate connections between aspects of the built and natural environments and how people react to and benefit from them.

Tanner Springs by Atelier Dreisetl demonstrates at least one pattern from each of the three categories of biophilic design. Image © Fred Jala/Flickr.

Just as combinations of culture, demographics, health baselines, and characteristics of the built environment can impact the experience of space differently, so too can each design pattern. A suitable solution results from understanding local conditions and one space’s relationship to another, and responding appropriately with a combination of design interventions to suit the unique needs of a space and its intended user group and programs.

Finally, each pattern has been assessed for overall potential impact and the strength of the research on which a pattern is built. Unless otherwise noted, all examples reported are based on data published in a peer-reviewed journal. We acknowledge that some studies are more rigorous than others and that some patterns have a greater body of research to support findings of significance. To help communicate this variability, up to three asterisks are following each pattern name, whereby three asterisks (***) indicates that the quantity and quality of available peer-reviewed evidence is robust and the potential for impact is great, and no asterisk indicates that there is minimal research to support the biological relationship between health and design, but the anecdotal information is adequate for hypothesizing its potential impact and importance as a unique pattern.

The field of biophilic design is constantly evolving, and as Salingaros (2000) explains, new disciplines such as biophilic design must “abstract its patterns as they appear… building its own foundation and logical skeleton, upon which future growth can be supported.” As new evidence comes to bear, it is entirely possible that some patterns will be championed over others and that new patterns will emerge. By establishing these 14 basic patterns, we hope to encourage the widespread scientific study, language development, and design implementation of Biophilia.

14 Patterns of Biophilic Design Improving Health and Well-Being in the Built Environment

4.1 Nature in the Space

link to this section

The Experience

A space with a good Visual Connection with Nature feels whole, it grabs one’s attention and can be stimulating or calming. It can convey a sense of time, weather and other living things.

Roots of the Pattern


Naturally Occurring:

  • Natural flow of a body of water
  • Vegetation, including food bearing plants
  • Animals, insects
  • Fossils
  • Terrain, soil, earth

Simulated or Constructed:

  • Mechanical flow of a body of water
  • Koi pond, aquarium
  • Green wall
  • Artwork depicting nature scenes
  • Video depicting nature scenes
  • Highly designed landscapes

The Visual Connection with Nature pattern has evolved from research on visual preference and responses to views to nature showing reduced stress, more positive emotional functioning, and improved concentration and recovery rates. Stress recovery from visual connections with nature have reportedly been realized through lowered blood pressure and heart rate; reduced attentional fatigue, sadness, anger, and aggression; improved mental engagement/attentiveness, attitude and overall happiness. There is also evidence for stress reduction related to both experiencing real nature and seeing images of nature. Visual access to biodiversity is reportedly more beneficial to our psychological health than access to land area (i.e., quantity of land).

Visual preference research indicates that the preferred view is looking down a slope to a scene that includes copses of shade trees, flowering plants, calm non-threatening animals, indications of human habitation, and bodies of clean water (Orians & Heerwagen, 1992). This is often difficult to achieve in the built environment, particularly in already dense urban settings, though the psychological benefits of nature are suggested to increase with higher levels of biodiversity and not with an increase in natural vegetative area (Fuller et al., 2007). Positive impact on mood and self-esteem has also been shown to occur most significantly in the first five minutes of experiencing nature, such as through exercise within a green space (Barton & Pretty, 2010). Viewing nature for ten minutes prior to experiencing a mental stressor has shown to stimulate heart rate variability and parasympathetic activity (i.e., regulation of internal organs and glands that support digestion and other activities that occur when the body is at rest) (Brown, Barton & Gladwell, 2013), while viewing a forest scene for 20 minutes after a mental stressor has shown to return cerebral blood flow and brain activity to a relaxed state (Tsunetsugu & Miyazaki, 2005).


Autumn wine vineyard near Blenheim, New Zealand. Image © Daniel Pietzsch/Flickr.

Parallax arises with a change in viewpoint occurring due to motion of the observer, of the observed, or of both. The human brain exploits the parallax to gain depth perception and estimate distances to objects.

Viewing scenes of nature stimulates a larger portion of the visual cortex than non-nature scenes, which triggers more pleasure receptors in our brain, leading to prolonged interest and faster stress recovery. For example, heart rate recovery from low-level stress, such as from working in an office environment, has shown to occur 1.6 times faster when the space has a glass window with a nature view, rather than a high-quality simulation (i.e., plasma video) of the same nature view, or no view at all (Kahn et al., 2008). Additionally, repeated viewing of real nature, unlike non-nature, does not significantly diminish the viewer’s level of interest over time (Biederman & Vessel, 2006).

Working with the Pattern

The objective of the Visual Connection with Nature pattern is to provide an environment that helps the individual shift focus to relax the eye muscles and temper cognitive fatigue. The effect of an intervention will improve as the quality of a view and the amount of visible biodiversity each increases.

A view to nature through a glass window provides a benefit over a digital screen (e.g., video/plasma tv) of the same view, particularly because there is no parallax shift for people as they move toward or around a video screen (Kahn et al., 2008). This may change as three-dimensional videography advances. Nevertheless, simulated or constructed nature is measurably better at engendering stress reduction than having no visual connection at all.

Design considerations for establishing a strong visual connection with nature:

Relation to other Patterns

Visual Connection with Nature is often paired with a number of other patterns. Common overlaps with the most significant potential impact:

  • [P2] Non-Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P3] Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
  • [P5] Presence of Water
  • [P8] Biomorphic Forms & Patterns
  • [P11] Prospect
  • Prioritize real nature over simulated nature; and simulated nature over no nature.
  • Prioritize biodiversity over acreage, area or quantity.
  • Prioritize or enable exercise opportunities that are in proximity to green space.
  • Design to support a visual connection that can be experienced for at least 5-20 minutes per day.
  • Design spatial layouts and furnishings to uphold desired view lines and avoid impeding the visual access when in a seated position.
  • Visual connections to even small instances of nature can be restorative, and particularly relevant for temporary interventions, or spaces where real estate (floor/ground area, wall space) is limited.
  • The benefits of viewing real nature may be attenuated by a digital medium, which may be of greatest value to spaces that, due to the nature of its function (e.g., hospital radiation units), cannot easily incorporate real nature or views to the outdoors.

An example of a designed environment with an excellent Visual Connection with Nature is the birch tree and moss garden in the New York Times Building in New York City – a carved out space in the middle of the building by which everyone passes as they enter or leave the building. Adjacent to a restaurant and the main conference rooms, the birch garden is an oasis of calm in the hustle and bustle of Times Square.

The NY Times Building moss and birch garden The New York Times Building moss and birch garden, by Renzo Piano, acts as an oasis of calm. Image © Hubert J. Steed.

The Experience

A space with a good Non-Visual Connection with Nature feels fresh and well balanced; the ambient conditions are perceived as complex and variable but at the same time familiar and comfortable, whereby sounds, aromas, and textures are reminiscent of being outdoors in nature.

Roots of the Pattern

The Non-Visual Connection with Nature pattern has evolved from research on reductions in systolic blood pressure and stress hormones; impact of sound and vibration on cognitive performance; and perceived improvements in mental health and tranquility as a result of non-visual sensory interactions with non-threatening nature . Each sensory system has a vast body of research to support it; here we provide just a taste.


Naturally Occurring:

  • Fragrant herbs and flowers
  • Songbirds
  • Flowing water
  • Weather (rain, wind, hail)
  • Natural ventilation (operable windows, breezeways)
  • Textured materials (stone, wood, fur)
  • Crackling fire/fireplace
  • Sun patches
  • Warm/cool surfaces

Simulated or Constructed:

  • Digital simulations of nature sounds
  • Mechanically released natural plant oils
  • Highly textured fabrics/textiles that mimic natural material textures
  • Audible and/or physically accessible water feature
  • Music with fractal qualities
  • Horticulture/gardening, including edible plants
  • Domesticated animals/pets
  • Honeybee apiary

Auditory: Research shows that exposure to nature sounds, when compared to urban or office noise, accelerates physiological and psychological restoration up to 37% faster after a psychological stressor (Alvarsson et al., 2010) and reduces cognitive fatigue and helps motivation (Jahncke et al., 2011). Participants of one study who either listened to river sounds or saw a nature movie with river sounds during a post-task restoration period reported having more energy and greater motivation after the restoration period compared to participants who only listened to office noise or silence (Jahncke et al., 2011). In addition, viewing the nature movie with river sounds during the restoration period had a more positive affect than only listening to river sounds alone.

Ocean waves and vehicle traffic can have a very similar sound pattern. In an experiment using a synthesized sound that replicated the waves and traffic sound pattern, researchers observed that participants processed the synthesized sound in different portions of the brain depending on whether they were also watching a video of either waves or vehicle traffic (Hunter et al., 2010). Participants considered the sound to be pleasurable when viewing the video of waves, but not when viewing the video of traffic. This study suggests a strong connection between our visual and auditory sensory systems and psychological well-being.

Olfactory: Our olfactory system processes scent directly in the brain, which can trigger very powerful memories. Traditional practices have long used plant oils to calm or energize people. Studies have also shown that olfactory exposure to herbs and phytoncides (essential oils from trees) have a positive effect on the healing process and human immune function, respectively (Li et al., 2012; Kim et al., 2007).

Haptic: Pet therapy, where companionship and the act of petting and feeling the fur of domesticated animals, is known to have profound calming effects on patients; gardening and horticulture activities have shown to engender environmental stewardship among children, reduce self-reported fatigue while maintaining joint flexibility among adults (e.g., Yamane et al., 2004), and reduce perception of pain among senior populations with arthritis. The act of touching real plant life, versus synthetic plants, has also shown to induce relaxation through a change in cerebral blood flow rates (e.g., Koga & Iwasaki, 2013). These examples give reason to believe that the experience of touching other elements in nature, such as water or raw materials, may result in similar health outcomes.

A fountain and gardens in the Calat Alhambra in Granada, Spain Image © Dax Fernstrom/Flickr.

A fountain and gardens in the Calat Alhambra in Granada, Spain provide a non-visual experience of nature.

Gustatory: Tasting is yet another way of experiencing nature and learning about our environment. While adults are often curious or fearful of edible plants and herbs, consider the familiar habit of infants and toddlers putting found objects in their mouths – they are seeking information.

Working with the Pattern

The objective of the Non-Visual Connection with Nature pattern is to provide an environment that uses sound, scent, touch and possibly even taste to engage the individual in a manner that helps reduce stress and improve perceived physical and mental health. These senses can be experienced separately, although the experience is intensified and the health effect is compounded if multiple senses are consistently engaged together.

Design considerations for establishing a strong non-visual connection with nature:

  • Prioritize nature sounds over urban sounds.
  • Design for non-visual connections that can be easily accessed from one or multiple locations, and in such a way that allows daily engagement for 5 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Integrate non-visual connections with other aspects of the design program.
  • A single intervention that can be experienced in multiple ways can enhance the impacts.
  • Design for visual and non-visual connections to be experienced simultaneously to maximize potential positive health responses.

Relation to other Patterns

As experiences can be enhanced when paired with more than one sense, the application of a second pattern could help identify the stimuli or other qualities of the stimuli. Common strategy overlaps:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P3] Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
  • [P4] Thermal & Airflow Variability
  • [P9] Material Connection with Nature
  • [P5] Presence of Water
  • and sometimes also:
    [P13] Mystery

Calat Alhambra in Granada, Spain, is an exquisite example of the 14 Patterns. While some patterns are more evident in some spaces than others, Non-Visual Connections with Nature are experienced throughout. The integration of water and natural ventilation with the architecture is central to the non-visual experience, supporting a seamless connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, and between the building and the surrounding natural landscape. Solar heat penetrates at distinct locations, the whispering gallery resonates sounds of nature and people, and gardens of rosemary, myrtles, and other fragrant plants surround the premises. The extensive use of water fountains creates a microclimate – the space both sounds and feels cooler – while stone floors and handrails with water channels cool the feet and hands through conductance.

The Experience

A space with good Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli feels as if one is momentarily privy to something special, something fresh, interesting, stimulating and energizing. It is a brief but welcome distraction.

Roots of the Pattern


Naturally Occurring:

  • Cloud movement
  • Breezes
  • Plant life rustling
  • Water babbling
  • Insect and animal movement
  • Birds chirping
  • Fragrant flowers, trees and herbs

Simulated or Constructed:

  • Billowy fabric or screen materials that move or glisten with light or breezes
  • Reflections of water on a surface
  • Shadows or dappled light that change with movement or time
  • Nature sounds broadcasted at unpredictable intervals
  • Mechanically released plant oils

The Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli pattern has evolved from research on looking behavior (particularly periphery vision movement reflexes); eye lens focal relaxation patterns; heart rate, systolic blood pressure and sympathetic nervous system activity; and observed and quantified behavioral measures of attention and exploration.

Studies of the human response to stochastic movement of objects in nature and momentary exposure to natural sounds and scents have shown to support physiological restoration. For instance, when sitting and staring at a computer screen or doing any task with a short visual focus, the eye’s lens becomes rounded with the contracting of the eye muscles. When these muscles stay contracted for an extended period, i.e., more than 20 minutes at a time, fatigue can occur, manifesting as eye strain, headaches and physical discomfort. A periodic, yet brief visual or auditory distraction that causes one to look up (for >20 seconds) and to a distance (of >20 feet) allows for short mental breaks during which the muscles relax and the lenses flatten (Lewis, 2012; Vessel, 2012).

Working with the Pattern

The objective of the Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli pattern is to encourage the use of natural sensory stimuli that unobtrusively attract attention, allowing individuals’ capacity for focused tasks to be replenished from mental fatigue and physiological stressors. This can be achieved by designing for momentary exposure to the stochastic or unpredictable movement, particularly for periphery vision or the periodic experience of scents or sounds.

Relation to other Patterns

Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli differs from [P2] Non-Visual Connection with Nature in that it is inclusive of all sensory systems and is most commonly experienced at a subconscious level through momentary exposure that is not typically sought out or anticipated; whereas Non-Visual Connection may be deliberate, planned, and over longer, more predictable durations of time. Common strategy overlaps:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P4] Thermal & Airflow Variability
  • [P5] Presence of Water
  • [P10] Complexity & Order
  • [P13] Mystery

When immersed in nature, we continually experience instances of non-rhythmic stimuli: birds chirping, leaves rustling, the faint scent of eucalyptus in the air. The built environment has evolved into a deliberately predictable realm. Even some highly manicured gardens and certainly interior vegetation lack the qualities needed to support non-rhythmic sensory stimuli.

Design considerations for establishing accessible and effective non-rhythmic stimuli:

  • As a general guideline, non-rhythmic sensory experiences should occur approximately every 20 minutes for about 20 seconds and, for visual stimuli, from a distance of more than 20 feet away.
  • Many stimuli in nature are seasonal, so a strategy that is effective year-round, such as with multiple interventions that overlap with seasons, will help ensure that non-rhythmic sensory experiences can occur at any given time of the year.
  • In some cases, the intervention may be similar to that of [P1] Visual or [P2] Non-Visual Connection with Nature; what’s important here is the ephemeral and stochastic quality of the intervention.
  • An intervention that leverages simulation of (rather than naturally occurring) natural stimuli will likely necessitate early collaboration with the mechanical engineer or facilities team.
  • A non-rhythmic stimuli strategy can be interwoven with almost any landscape or horticulture plan. For instance, selecting plant species for window boxes that will attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators may be a more practical application for some projects than maintaining a honeybee apiary or butterfly sanctuary.
  • Humans perceive movement in the peripheral view much quicker than straight ahead. The brain also processes the movement of living things in a different place than it does of mechanical objects (Beauchamp et al., 2003), whereby natural movement is generally perceived as positive, and mechanical movement as neutral or even negative. As a result, the repeating rhythmic motion of a pendulum will only hold one’s attention briefly, the constant repetitive ticking of a clock may come to be ignored over time, and an ever-present scent may lose its mystique with long-term exposure; whereas, the stochastic movement of a butterfly will capture one’s attention each time for recurring physiological benefits.

The Dockside Green community on Vancouver Island, Victoria, BC Canada, is a great example of non-rhythmic stimuli. The implementation of habitat restoration and rainwater management has led to ephemeral experiences of swaying grasses, falling water and the buzz of passing insects and animals that are visible from walkways, porches, and windows around the community.

The Dockside Green Community on Vancouver Island The Dockside Green Community on Vancouver Island by Busby Perkins+Will immerses people in natural non-rhythmic stimuli. Image © Ellen Moorhouse, Toronto Star.

The Experience

A space with good Thermal & Airflow Variability feels refreshing, active, alive, invigorating and comfortable. The space provides a feeling of both flexibility and a sense of control.

Roots of the Pattern

The Thermal & Airflow Variability pattern has evolved from research measuring the effects of natural ventilation, its resulting thermal variability, and worker comfort, well-being and productivity; physiology and perception of temporal and spatial pleasure (alliesthesia); the impact of nature in motion on concentration; and, generally speaking, a growing discontent with the conventional approach to thermal design, which focuses on achieving a narrow target area of temperature, humidity and air flow while minimizing variability.

Research shows that people like moderate levels of sensory variability in the environment, including variation in light, sound and temperature, and that an environment devoid of sensory stimulation and variability can lead to boredom and passivity (e.g., Heerwagen, 2006) . Early studies in alliesthesia indicate that pleasant thermal sensations are better perceived when one’s initial body state is warm or cold, not neutral (e.g., Mower, 1976), which corroborates more recent studies reporting that a temporary over-cooling of a small portion of the body when hot, or over-heating when cold, even without impacting the body’s core temperature, is perceived as highly comfortable (Arens et al., 2006).

According to Attention Restoration Theory, elements of “soft fascination” such as light breezes or other natural movements can improve concentration (Heerwagen & Gregory, 2008; S. Kaplan, 1995). Other research indicates that a variety of thermal conditions within a classroom can lead to better student performance (Elzeyadi, 2012); and that changes in ventilation velocity can have a positive impact on comfort, with no negative impact on cognitive function, while also offering the possibility of some increase in the ability to access short term memory (Wigö, 2005).


Naturally Occurring:

  • Solar heat gain
  • Shadow and shade
  • Radiant surface materials
  • Space/place orientation
  • Vegetation with seasonal densification

Simulated or Constructed:

  • HVAC delivery strategy
  • Systems controls
  • Window glazing and window treatment
  • Window operability and cross ventilation
Working with the Pattern

The objective of the Thermal & Airflow Variability pattern is to provide an environment that allows users to experience the sensory elements of airflow variability and thermal variability. The intent is also for the user to be able to control thermal conditions, either by using individual controls, or allowing occupants access to variable ambient conditions within a space.

In contrast, conventional thermal design tries to achieve a narrow target area of temperature, humidity and airflow, while minimizing variability – the goal being to maintain conditions within the “ASHRAE comfort envelope”. When the entire space meets this goal, laboratory-based predictive models assert that 80% of the occupants would be satisfied at any given time – traditionally an acceptable outcome industry-wide. An alternative approach is to provide combinations of ambient and surface temperatures, humidity and airflow, similar to those experienced outdoors, while also providing some form of personal control (e.g., manual, digital, or physical relocation) over those conditions.

Providing variable conductance materials, seating options with differing levels of solar heat gain (indoors and outdoors) or proximity to operable windows – as welcome as catching a cooling breeze on a sunny day or leaning one’s back on a warm rock on a cool day – could improve the overall satisfaction of a space.

The Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore by RMJM Architects Image © Jui-Yong Sim/Flickr.

The Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore by RMJM Architects uses fresh air and sunlight to increase thermal comfort.

Since thermal comfort is inherently subjective, and strongly varies between people, it is important to give a degree of control to individuals, which can manifest architecturally (e.g., access to operable windows or shades) or mechanically (e.g., access to localized and energy-efficient fans or heaters, and thermostat controls). When an individual experiences thermal discomfort, he or she will likely take action to adapt (e.g., put on a sweater; move to a different seat; submit a complaint). Sometimes these adaptive actions are simply in response to dynamic changes in personal preference. In order to create an enhanced thermal experience, conditions do not have to reach the point of discomfort for these opportunities for changing the thermal conditions to create a positive experience (Brager, 2014).

Design considerations:

  • Incorporation of airflow and thermal conditions into materials, daylighting, mechanical ventilation and/or fenestration will help distribute variability over space and time.
  • Thermal comfort is a vital bridging component between biophilic design and sustainable design, especially in the face of climate change and rising energy costs. When Thermal & Airflow Variability is implemented in a way that broadens people’s perception of thermal comfort, it may also help reduce energy demands for air conditioning and heating.
  • Designing in features that allow users to easily adapt and modify their perceived thermal conditions of their environment will increase the range of acceptable temperatures by two degrees Celsius above and below the conventional parameters for thermal comfort (Nicol & Humphreys, 2002).
  • Coordination of design strategies among a project team (e.g., architect, lighting designer and MEP engineers) as early as the schematic design process will be particularly important for achieving design intent.

Relation to other Patterns

Common overlaps:

  • [P6] Dynamic & Diffuse Light
  • [P7] Connection with Natural Systems
  • and sometimes also:
    [P3] Non-Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P5] Presence of Water
  • [P13] Mystery

Singapore’s Khoo Teck Puat Hospital by RMJM Architects is an excellent example of Thermal & Airflow Variability. The passive design of the hospital draws fresh air in from the exterior courtyards; the cool air helps maintain thermal comfort, while patients also have operable windows in their rooms, allowing for greater personal control. The façade and internal layouts are designed to enhance daylight and light/shade variability while reducing glare. Connecting, elevated exterior walkways also provide access to breezes, shade and solar heat.

The Experience


Naturally Occurring:

  • River, stream, ocean, pond, wetland
  • Visual access to rainfall and flows
  • Seasonal arroyos

Simulated or Constructed:

  • Water wall
  • Constructed water fall
  • Aquarium
  • Fountain
  • Constructed stream
  • Reflections of water (real or simulated) on another surface
  • Imagery with water in the composition

A space with a good Presence of Water condition feels compelling and captivating. Fluidity, sound, lighting, proximity and accessibility each contribute to whether a space is stimulating, calming, or both.

Roots of the Pattern

The Presence of Water pattern has evolved from research on visual preference for and positive emotional responses to environments containing water elements; reduced stress, increased feelings of tranquility, and lower heart rate and blood pressure from exposure to water features; improved concentration and memory restoration induced by complex, naturally fluctuating visual stimuli; and enhanced perception and psychological and physiological responsiveness when multiple senses are stimulated simultaneously.

Visual preference research indicates that a preferred view contains bodies of clean (i.e., unpolluted) water (Heerwagen & Orians, 1993). Research has also shown that landscapes with water elicit a higher restorative response and generally have a greater preference among populations in comparison to landscapes without water. Supporting evidence has suggested that natural scenes without water and urban scenes with water elements follow with primarily equal benefits (Jahncke et al., 2011; Karmanov & Hamel, 2008; White et al., 2010).

Research on response to activities conducted in green spaces has shown that the presence of water prompts greater improvements in both self-esteem and mood than activities conducted in green environments without the presence of water (Barton & Pretty, 2010). Auditory access and perceived or potential tactile access to water also reportedly reduces stress (Alvarsson et al., 2010; Pheasant et al., 2010).

The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC Image © Tim Evanson/Flickr.

The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., by Foster + Partners and landscape designer Kathryn Gustafson of Seattle–based Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. has seamless water sheets running across the floor, reflecting weather and lighting conditions.

Working with the Pattern

The objective of the Presence of Water pattern is to capitalize on the multi-sensory attributes of water to enhance the experience of a place in a manner that is soothing, prompts contemplation, enhances mood, and provides restoration from cognitive fatigue.

Repeated experiences of water do not significantly diminish our level of interest over time (Biederman & Vessel, 2006), so one small water feature may be adequate. Taking advantage of the sounds created by small-scale running water, and our capacity to touch it, will amplify the desired health response with a multi-sensory experience. Vistas to large bodies of water or physical access to natural or designed water bodies can also have the health response so long as they are perceived as ‘clean’ or unpolluted. Images of nature that include aquatic elements are more likely to help reduce blood pressure and heart rate than similar imagery without aquatic elements.

Design considerations for optimizing the impacts of a presence of water:

  • Prioritize a multi-sensory water experience to achieve the most beneficial outcome.
  • Prioritize naturally fluctuating water movement over predictable movement or stagnancy.
  • High volume, high turbulence water features could create discomfort, impact humidity levels or decrease acoustic quality, so proximity may influence appropriateness.
  • Water features can be water and energy intensive and as such should be used sparingly, particularly in climates with little access to water. Shading the water, using high albedo surfaces, and minimizing the exposed water surface area will minimize water loss through evaporation, and possibly contribute to the biophilic experience.

Relation to other Patterns

Commonly enhanced patterns:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P2] Non-Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P7] Connection with Natural Systems
  • [P11] Prospect
  • [P14] Risk/Peril

The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. is a great example of Presence of Water with its physically expansive water feature doubling as an event space. The former outdoor space has been enclosed with an undulating canopy design by Foster + Partners, bearing resemblance to water or clouds. On several portions of the gently sloping floors are slits from which a sheet of water emerges, it flows across the textured stone and then disappears into a series of slots toward the center of the courtyard. Designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd., the thin sheet of water reflects light and weather conditions from above and invites passersby to touch. During events the system is drained and seamlessly becomes part of the floor plane.

The Experience

A space with a good Dynamic & Diffuse Light condition conveys expressions of time and movement to evoke feelings of drama and intrigue, buffered with a sense of calm.

Roots of the Pattern


Naturally Occurring:

  • Daylight from multiple angles
  • Direct sunlight
  • Diurnal and seasonal light
  • Firelight
  • Moonlight and star light
  • Bioluminescence

Simulated or Constructed:

  • Multiple low glare electric light sources
  • Illuminance
  • Light distribution
  • Ambient diffuse lighting on walls and ceiling
  • Day light preserving window treatments
  • Task and personal lighting
  • Accent lighting
  • Personal user dimming controls
  • Circadian color reference (white light during the day and lack of blue light at night)/
  • Color tuning lighting that produces white light during the day, and minimizes blue light at night

Lighting design has long been used to set the mood for a space, and different lighting conditions elicit differing psychological responses. The impact of daylight on performance, mood and well-being has been studied for many years, in a variety of environments, and as a complex field of science and design, light has been extensively studied and written about.

Early research showed that productivity is higher in well daylighted work places, sales are higher in daylit stores, and that children performed better in daylighted classrooms with views – the research focus was on lighting strategy and task performance and less on human biology. For instance, quality daylighting has been reported to induce more positive moods and significantly less dental decay among students attending schools with quality daylight than students attending schools with average light conditions (Nicklas & Bailey, 1996).

Recent research has focused more heavily on illuminance fluctuation and visual comfort, human factors and perception of light, and impacts of lighting on the circadian system functioning. Sunlight changes color from yellow in the morning, to blue at midday, and red in the afternoon/evening; the human body responds to this daylight color transition. The response is apparent in body temperature, heart rate, and circadian functioning. Higher content of blue light (similar to skylight) produces serotonin; whereas, an absence of blue light (which occurs at night) produces melatonin. The balance of serotonin and melatonin can be linked to sleep quality, mood, alertness, depression, breast cancer and other health conditions (Kandel et al., 2013).

Working with the Pattern

The objective of the Dynamic & Diffuse Light pattern is twofold: to provide users with lighting options that stimulate the eye and hold attention in a manner that engenders a positive psychological or physiological response, and to help maintain circadian system functioning. The goal should not be to create uniform distribution of light through a (boring) space, nor should there be extreme differences (i.e., glare discomfort).

The Yale British Art Museum In New Haven, CT, by Louis Kahn Image © K. Kendall/Flickr.

The Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT, by Louis Kahn utilizes natural lighting to sofly illuminate art and create dramatic experiences.

The human eye and the processing of light and images within the brain are adaptable over a broad range of conditions, although there are limitations. For example, when the lighting difference between adjoining sources or surfaces has a brightness or luminance ratio of greater than forty-to-one, glare may occur, which diminishes visual comfort (Clanton, 2014). For work areas, luminance ratios between task and immediate surroundings should not exceed 10 to one. So while dramatic lighting differences may be great for some religious, socialization and circulation spaces, they are not a good idea on work surfaces.

Diffuse lighting on vertical and ceiling surfaces provides a calm backdrop to the visual scene. Accent lighting and other layering of light sources creates interest and depth, while task or personalized lighting provides localized flexibility in intensity and direction. These layers help create a pleasing visual environment (Clanton, 2014).

Movement of light and shadows along a surface can attract our attention. For example, the dappled light under the canopy of an aspen tree, or the reflections of rippling water on a wall. These patterns tend to be fractals, and the brain is attuned to moving fractals (see [P10] Complexity & Order).

Just as variations in lighted surfaces are important for interpreting surfaces, conducting a variety of tasks, and safe navigation, circadian lighting is important for supporting biological health. Leveraging opportunities for illuminance fluctuation, light distribution and light color variability that stimulate the human eye without causing discomfort will improve the quality of the user experience.

Design considerations for establishing a balance between dynamic and diffused lighting conditions:

Relation to other Patterns

Common overlaps:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P3] Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
  • [P4] Thermal & Airflow Variability
  • [P13] Mystery
  • and sometimes also:
    [P5] Presence of Water
  • [P7] Connection with Natural Systems
  • [P8] Biomorphic Forms & Patterns
  • Dynamic lighting conditions can help transition between indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • Drastically dynamic lighting conditions, such as with sustained movement, changing colors, direct sunlight penetration and high contrasts, may not be appropriate for spaces where directed attention activities are performed.
  • Circadian lighting will be especially important in spaces the people occupy for extended periods of time.

A prime example of a Dynamic & Diffuse Light condition is at the Yale Center for British Art, designed by Louis Kahn. Despite the building’s stark exterior, the diversity of interior spaces and differing orientations of windows, clerestories, skylights and a large central atrium allows for light to penetrate at variable levels of diffusion to create an enhanced visitor experience, while upholding indoor environmental conditions necessary for displaying fine art.

The Experience


Naturally Occurring:

  • Climate and weather patterns (rain, hail, snow; wind, clouds, fog; thunder, lightning)
  • Hydrology (precipitation, surface water flows and resources; flooding, drought; seasonal arroyos)
  • Geology (visible fault lines and fossils; erosion, shifting dunes)
  • Animal behaviors (predation, feeding, foraging, mating, habitation)
  • Pollination, growth, aging and decomposition (insects, flowering, plants)
  • Diurnal patterns (light color and intensity; shadow casting; plant receptivity; animal behavior; tidal changes)
  • Night sky (stars, constellations, the Milky Way) and cycles (moon stages, eclipses, planetary alignments, astronomical events)
  • Seasonal patterns (freeze-thaw; light intensity and color; plant cycles; animal migration; ambient scents)

Simulated or Constructed:

  • Simulated daylighting systems that transition with diurnal cycles
  • Wildlife habitats (e.g., birdhouse, honeybee apiary; hedges, flowering vegetation)
  • Exposure of water infrastructure
  • Step wells for seasonal rainwater storage and social convergence
  • Natural patina of materials (leather, stone, copper, bronze, wood)

A space with a good Connection with Natural Systems evokes a relationship to a greater whole, making one aware of seasonality and the cycles of life. The experience is often relaxing, nostalgic, profound or enlightening, and frequently anticipated.

Roots of the Pattern

There is limited scientific documentation of the health impacts associated with access to natural systems; however, much like [P5] Presence of Water, this pattern is suspected to enhance positive health responses. In Biophilic Design (Kellert et al., 2008), Kellert frames this as “Natural Patterns and Processes”, whereby seeing and understanding the processes of nature can create a perceptual shift in what’s being seen and experienced. This pattern has a strong temporal element, which can be expressed culturally, as in the Japanese love of the ephemerality of cherry blossoms.

Working with the Pattern

The objective of the Connection with Natural Systems pattern is to heighten both awareness of natural properties and hopefully environmental stewardship of the ecosystems within which those properties prevail. The strategy for working with the pattern may be as simple as identifying key content in a view to nature (e.g., deciduous trees in the back yard or blossoming orchids on the window sill), or it may be a more complex integration of systems, such as by making evident the relationship between building occupant behavior and rainwater infrastructure (e.g., raingardens, bioswales, storm sewers) capacity, by regulating domestic activities (e.g., showering, laundry) during rain events. In either case, the temporal component is usually the key factor in pattern recognition and the triggering of a deeper awareness of a functioning ecosystem.

Design considerations and opportunities that may help create quality connections with natural systems:

  • Integration of rainwater capture and treatment into the landscape design that responds to rain events.
  • In some cases, providing visual access to existing natural systems will be the easiest and most cost effective approach. In other cases, the incorporation of responsive design tactics (e.g., use of materials that change form or expand function with exposure to solar heat gain, wind, rain/moisture, or shading), structures (e.g., steps wells), and land formations (e.g., bioswales, arroyos, dunes) will be necessary to achieve the desired level of awareness.
  • Design interactive opportunities, especially for children, patients, and the elderly (e.g., integrative educational curriculum; horticulture programs, community gardens; seasonal cooking/diet).

The greenroof of COOKFOX Architects’ New York office The greenroof of COOKFOX Architects’ New York office dramatically changes in appearence through the year, visually connecting occupants with the seasons and local ecosystem activity. Images courtesy of Bill Browning.

Relation to other Patterns

Common overlaps:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P2] Non-Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P3] Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
  • [P5] Presence of Water
  • and sometimes also:
    [P4] Thermal & Airflow Variability
  • [P6] Dynamic & Diffuse Light
  • [P13] Mystery

Outside the New York penthouse office of COOKFOX Architects, sits a 3,000 square foot extensive green roof that changes color and vibrancy from season to season. Witnessing a hawk killing a small bird shifted employee perception of their green roof as an ecosystem and not just a decorative garden. This perception was reinforced when employees noticed changes in bee colony behavior during times of extreme heat and humidity, when the honeybee apiary was invaded by robber bees, and again when the summer honey harvest looked and tasted different than the autumn harvest.

4.2 Natural Analogues

link to this section

The Experience

A space with good Biomorphic Forms & Patterns feels interesting and comfortable, possibly captivating, contemplative or even absorptive.

Roots of the Pattern

Biomorphic Forms & Patterns has evolved from research on view preferences (Joye, 2007), reduced stress due to induced shift in focus, and enhanced concentration. We have a visual preference for organic and biomorphic forms but the science behind why this is the case is not yet formulated. While our brain knows that biomorphic forms and patterns are not living things, we may describe them as symbolic representations of life (Vessel, 2012).



  • Fabrics, carpet, wallpaper designs based on Fibonacci series or Golden Mean
  • Window details: trim and moldings, glass color, texture, mullion design, window reveal detail
  • Installations and free-standing sculptures
  • Furniture details
  • Woodwork, masonry
  • Wall decal, paint style or texture

Form / Function:

  • Arrangement of the structural system (e.g., columns shaped like trees)
  • Building form
  • Acoustic paneling (wall or ceiling)
  • Railings, banisters, fencing, gates
  • Furniture form
  • Window details: frit, light shelves, fins
  • Pathway and hallway form

Nature abhors right angles and straight lines; the Golden Angle, which measures approximately 137.5 degrees, is the angle between successive florets in some flowers, while curves and angles of 120 degrees are frequently exhibited in other elements of nature (e.g., Thompson, 1917).

The Fibonacci series (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…) is a numeric sequence that occurs in many living things, plants especially. Phyllotaxy, or the spacing of plant leaves, branches and flower petals (so that new growth doesn’t block the sun or rain from older growth) often follows in the Fibonacci series. Related to the Fibonacci series is the Golden Mean (or Golden Section), a ratio of 1:1.618 that surfaces time and again among living forms that grow and unfold in steps or rotations, such as with the arrangement of seeds in sunflowers or the spiral of seashells.

Biomorphic forms and patterns have been artistically expressed for millennia, from adorning ancient temples to more modern examples like Hotel Tassel in Brussels (Victor Horta, 1893) and the structures of Gare do Oriente in Lisbon (Santiago Calatrava, 1998). More intriguing still is the architectural expression of mathematical proportions or arrangements that occur in nature, the meaning of which has been fodder for philosophical prose since Aristotle and Euclid. Many cultures have used these mathematical relationships in the construction of buildings and sacred spaces. The Egyptian Pyramids, the Parthenon (447-438 BC), Notre Dame in Paris (beginning in1163), the Taj Mahal in India (1632–1653), the CN Tower in Toronto (1976), and the Eden Project Education Centre in Cornwall, UK (2000) are all alleged to exhibit the Golden Mean.

Working with the Pattern

The objective of Biomorphic Forms & Patterns is to provide representational design elements within the built environment that allow users to make connections to nature. The intent is to use biomorphic forms and patterns in a way that creates a more visually preferred environment that enhances cognitive performance while helping reduce stress.

Image © Eloise Moorhead.

The organic and curvaceous stairs, mosaics, railings, light fixtures, window details and other decorative elements of the Hotel Tassel in Brussels, by Victor Horta are a classic example of Biomorphic Forms & Patterns.

Humans have been decorating living spaces with representations of nature since time immemorial, and architects have long created spaces using elements inspired by trees, bones, wings and seashells. Many classic building ornaments are derived from natural forms, and countless fabric patterns are based on leaves, flowers, and animal skins. Contemporary architecture and design have introduced more organic building forms with softer edges or even biomimetic qualities.

There are essentially two approaches to applying Biomorphic Forms & Patterns, as either a cosmetic decorative component of a larger design, or as integral to the structural or functional design. Both approaches can be utilized in tandem to enhance the biophilic experience.

Design considerations that may help create a quality biomorphic condition:

  • Apply on 2 or 3 planes or dimensions (e.g., floor plane and wall; furniture windows and soffits) for greater diversity and frequency of exposure.
  • Avoid the overuse of forms and patterns that may lead to visual toxicity.
  • More comprehensive interventions will be more cost effective when they are introduced early in the design process.

Relation to other Patterns

Common overlaps:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P10] Complexity & Order

The Art Nouveau Hotel Tassel in Brussels (Victor Horta, architect, 1893) is a favorite example of Biomorphic Forms & Patterns. The interior space in particular is rife with natural analogues, with graphic vine-like tendrils painted on the wall and designed into the banisters and railings, floor mosaics, window details, furniture, and columns. The curvaceous tiered steps seem to make distant reference to shells or flower petals.

The Experience

A space with a good Material Connection with Nature feels rich, warm and authentic, and sometimes stimulating to the touch.

Roots of the Pattern

While scientific documentation on the health impact of natural materials is limited, available research is beginning to shed light on opportunities for informed design. As such, 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 natural color palette, particularly the color green, has on cognitive performance.



  • Accent details (natural wood grains; leather; stone, fossil textures; bamboo, rattan, dried grasses)
  • Interior surfaces (veneer, countertops)
  • Woodwork, stonework
  • Natural color palette, particularly greens

Form / Function:

  • Wall construction (wood, stone)
  • Structural systems (heavy timber beams)
  • Façade material
  • Furniture form
  • Footpaths, bridges

One such study demonstrated that a difference in wood ratio on the walls of an interior space led to different physiological responses (Tsunetsugu, Miyazaki & Sato, 2007). The researchers observed that a room with a moderate ratio of wood (i.e., 45% coverage), 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% coverage), which could be either highly restorative in a spa or doctor’s office, or counterproductive if in a space where high cognitive functionality is expected.

In a series of four experiments examining the effect of the presence of the color green on the psychological functioning of participants, the results concluded that exposure to the color green before conducting a task “facilitates creativity performance, but has no influence on analytical performance” (Lichtenfeld et al., 2012). Humans are also able to distinguish more variations in the color green than of any other color (Painter, 2014). However, which variation(s) of the color green most influence creativity or other mind-body responses is not well understood.

Working with the Pattern
Leather clad elevator lobby of the Bank of America Tower in New York Image © Bilyana Dimitrova.

Leather clad elevator lobby of the Bank of America Tower in New York by CookFox Architects visually warms the space.

The objective of the Material Connection with Nature pattern is to explore the characteristics and quantities of natural materials optimal for engendering positive cognitive or physiological responses. In some cases, there may be several layers of information in materials that enhance the connection, such as learned knowledge about the material, familiar textures, or nested fractals that occur within a stone or wood grain pattern.

Natural materials can be decorative or functional, and are typically processed or extensively altered (e.g., wood plank, granite countertop) from their original ‘natural’ state, and while they may be extracted from nature, they are only analogous of the items in their ‘natural’ state.

Design considerations that may help create a quality material connection:

  • Quantities of a (natural) material and color should be specified based on intended function of the space (e.g., to restore versus stimulate). In the same vein, a degree of variability of materials and applications is recommended over high ratios of any one material or color.
  • Real materials are preferred over synthetic variations because human receptors can tell the difference between real and synthetic, so minimally processed materials from real nature are preferred whenever possible.
  • Incorporating instances of the color green may help enhance creative environments; however, scientific studies on the impact of the color green have mostly been conducted in controlled lab environments, so dependence on color to engender creativity should be considered experimental.

Relation to other Patterns

Common overlaps:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P2] Non-Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P8] Biomorphic Forms & Patterns
  • [P10] Complexity & Order

The lobby of the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park in New York (COOKFOX Architects, 2009) is a good example of a diverse application of Material Connections with Nature. One enters the glass skyscraper by grasping a thin wooden door handle. The interior lobby walls are clad with Jerusalem Stone – the tiles with the highest fossil content were intentionally placed at the corner where they would be most encountered and even touched by passersby. Leather paneling in the elevator lobby is warm in color, providing a sense of calm for people as they wait for their ride, and soft to the touch, from which the patina has begun to show.

The Experience

A space with good Complexity & Order feels engaging and information-rich, as an intriguing balance between boring and overwhelming.

Roots of the Pattern

The Complexity & Order pattern has evolved from research on fractal geometries and preferred views; the perceptual and physiological responses to the complexity of fractals in nature, art and architecture; and the predictability of the occurrence of design flows and patterns in nature.

Research has repeatedly confirmed correlations between fractal geometries in nature and those in art and architecture (e.g., Joye, 2007; Taylor, 2006), but there are opposing opinions about which fractal dimension is optimal for engendering a positive health response, whether an optimal ratio exists, or if such a ratio is even important to identify as a design metric or guideline. Nikos Salingaros (2012) has examined a series of these perspectives with great clarity, noting that the range of preferred fractal dimensions is potentially quite broad (D=1.3-1.8) depending on the application.

A square () with a scaling factor of 3 is more impactful than to a factor of 2.

Nested fractal designs expressed as a third iteration of the base design (i.e., with scaling factor of 3) are more likely to achieve a level of complexity that conveys a sense of order and intrigue, and reduces stress (Salingaros, 2012), a quality lost in much of modern architecture, which tends to limit complexity to the second iteration, and consequently results in an arguably dull and inadequately nurturing form that fails to stimulate the mind or engender physiological stress reduction.

At either end of the spectrum, both non-fractal artwork and high-dimensional fractal artwork have been shown to induce stress (Hägerhäll et al., 2008; Taylor, 2006). Overly complex designs and environments may result in psychological stress and even nausea. According to Judith Heerwagen and Roger Ulrich, occupants in a US Navy office in Mississippi reported nausea, headaches and dizziness, symptoms frequently associated with poor indoor air quality or poor ventilation. It was determined that the interaction of multiple wall paper patterns, complex patterns in carpets and moiré patterns in seating fabrics caused surfaces to appear to move as occupants walked through the space and therefore caused extreme visual perception problems (Heerwagen, personal communication, March 2014).



  • Wallpaper and carpet design
  • Material texture and contour
  • Window details: trim and moldings, glass color, texture, mullion design, window reveal detail
  • Plant selection variety and placement
  • Complex plant oil fragrances
  • Auditory stimuli

Form / Function:

  • Exposed structure/exoskeleton
  • Exposed mechanical systems
  • Façade materials
  • Façade, spandrel and window hierarchy
  • Building skyline
  • Floor plan, landscape plan, urban grid
  • Pedestrian and traffic flows
  • Resource flows

the Allen Lambert Galleria and Atrium at Brookfield Place by Santiago Calatrava in Toronto Image © Reto Fetz/Flickr.

The engaging ceiling structure of the Allen Lambert Galleria and Atrium at Brookfield Place by Santiago Calatrava in Toronto.

Fractal patterns can be identified in classical art and vernacular architecture from the column capitals of ancient Greece and Egypt, the art of Ancient Mayans, Islamic and Egyptian art, Hindu temples, Angkor Wat in Cambodia (12th century), and the Eiffel Tower in Paris (1889). Fractals are also evident in such well-known works as those of Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh, and Jackson Pollock.

Working with the Pattern

The objective of the Complexity & Order pattern is to provide symmetries and fractal geometries, configured with a coherent spatial hierarchy, to create a visually nourishing environment that engenders a positive psychological or cognitive response (Salingaros, 2012).

Fractals can exist at any scale, from desktop trinkets or textile patterns, to façade design, to a city grid or regional transport infrastructure. Scenes in nature typically support multiple fractal dimensions – savanna landscapes often support mid-range fractal dimensions – so there are potentially many opportunities to incorporate fractals.

A familiar challenge in the built environment is in identifying the balance between an information rich environment that is interesting and restorative, and one with an information surplus that is overwhelming and stressful. Targeting an optimal dimensional ratio for design applications can be problematic (i.e., time consuming, inconsistent and even inaccurate), of questionable long-term value, and essentially less important than the incorporation of third-iteration fractal designs. As Salingaros (2012) points out, identifying precise fractal geometries in existing naturescapes, structures and artworks is a challenge, whereas generating new works with complex fractals is quite easy, so specifying fractal artwork, for instance, may not always be the most efficient use of project resources.

Design considerations that may help create a quality Complexity & Order condition:

  • Prioritize artwork and material selection, architectural expressions, and landscape and master planning schemes that reveal fractal geometries and hierarchies.
  • Fractal structures with iterations of three will be more impactful than a design limited to two iterations.
  • Computer technology using the algorithms of mathematical and geometric functions can produce fractal designs for architectural, design and planning applications with ease. If a fractal design is being created, consider using geometries with a mid-range dimensional ratio (broadly speaking, D=1.3-1.75).
  • Over-use of and/or extended exposure to high-fractal dimensions could instill discomfort or even fear, countering the intended response: to nourish and reduce stress. Avoidance or under-utilization of fractals in design could result in complete predictability and disinterest.
  • A new building or landscape design should take into account its impact on the fractal quality of the existing urban skyline.

Relation to other Patterns

Common overlaps:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P2] Non-Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P8] Biomorphic Forms & Patterns
  • [P9] Material Connection with Nature

Tucked in between buildings of downtown Toronto, Ontario, is the Allen Lambert Galleria and Atrium at Brookfield Place. The cathedral-like in structure designed by Santiago Calatrava (1992) is information rich, yet protecting, with its orderly columns that rise up into a canopy of complex tree-like forms, showers diffuse light and shadow onto the courtyard, and keeps visitors awestruck and engaged.

4.3 Nature of the Space

link to this section

The Experience

A space with a good Prospect condition feels open and freeing, yet imparts a sense of safety and control, particularly when alone or in unfamiliar environments.

Roots of the Pattern

The Prospect pattern has evolved from research on visual preference and spatial habitat responses, as well as cultural anthropology, evolutionary psychology and architectural analysis. Health benefits are suggested to include reductions in stress, boredom, irritation, fatigue and perceived vulnerability, as well as improved comfort .

In evolutionary psychology terms, we should prefer habitats that are similar to the African savannas on which we evolved as a species. This becomes clear in visual preference research starting with Jay Appleton’s Experience of Landscape in 1975, where he asked why certain views from the same vantage point are preferred over others. Wilson and Kellert (1993) argue that our view preferences, and possibly our aesthetic preferences, have roots in referential points that benefit our survival. For example, flowers are indicators of healthy plant growth, and to signal the availability of resources in the future (Orians & Heerwagen, 1992). The savanna, with its open terrain and copses of shade trees, becomes more favorable when combined with water, an understory of flowers and forbs, calm grazing animals and evidence of human habitation. That we should be genetically predisposed to prefer this scene is posited by the Savanna Hypothesis (Orians & Heerwagen, 1986 and 1992).



  • Focal lengths ≥ 20 feet (6 meters)
  • Partition heights ≤ 42 inches (hedges; opaque workplace partitions)

Form / Function:

  • Transparent materials
  • Balconies, catwalks, staircase landings
  • Open floor plans
  • Elevated planes
  • Views including shade trees, bodies of water or evidence of human habitation

Distant prospect (>100 feet, >30 meters) is preferred over shorter focal lengths (<20 feet, 6 meter) because it provides a greater sense of awareness and comfort (Herzog & Bryce, 2007), reducing one’s stress responses, particularly when alone or in unfamiliar environments (Petherick, 2000). Good Prospect is extensive and information rich, with a savanna-like view.

Working with the Pattern

The objective of the Prospect pattern is to provide users with a condition suitable for visually surveying and contemplating the surrounding environment for both opportunity and hazard. In landscapes, prospect is characterized as the view from an elevated position or across an expanse. While an elevated position can enhance (indoor and outdoor) prospect, it is not essential to creating a quality Prospect experience.

There are potentially endless combinations for applying characteristics of Prospect (Dosen & Ostwald, 2013). There is interior prospect, exterior prospect, as well as short depth and high depth prospect that can occur simultaneously. The complexity and variety of ways to achieve prospect is what makes it such a powerful design element. For interior spaces or dense urban spaces, prospect is the ability to see from one space to another, and is strengthened when there are clear distinctions and the opportunity to see through multiple spaces (Hildebrand, 1991).

Design considerations that may help create a quality Prospect condition:

Relation to other Patterns

Complementary patterns:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P5] Presence of Water
  • [P12] Refuge
  • [P13] Mystery
  • [P14] Risk/Peril
  • Orienting building, fenestration, corridors and workstations will help optimize visual access to indoor or outdoor vistas, activity hubs or destinations.
  • Designing with or around an existing or planned savanna-like ecosystem, body of water, and evidence of human activity or habitation will help the information-richness of the prospect view.
  • Providing focal lengths of ≥20 feet (6 meters), preferably 100 feet (30 meters); when a space has sufficient depth, spatial properties can be leveraged to enhance the experience by removing visual barriers. Limiting partition heights to 42″ will provide spatial barriers while allowing seated occupants to view across a space. Understory vegetation or hedges should use a similar guide; preferred height limitations will depend on terrain and how the space is most experienced (e.g., while sitting, standing, on a bicycle).
  • Locating stairwells at building perimeter with glass façade and interior glass stairwell walls can form a dual Prospect condition.
  • When high ceilings are present, perimeter or interior spaces elevated 12-18″ will enhance the Prospect condition.
  • Often the view quality and the balance between Prospect and [P12] Refuge will be more important than the size or frequency of the experience.
  • Refer to [P1] Visual Connection with Nature to optimize the Prospect experience with a quality view.

The greenroof of COOKFOX Architects’ New York office The central plaza of the Salk Institute by Louis Kahn in La Jolla, California frames the view of the Pacific. Image © Bill Browning.

The central courtyard of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, designed by Louis Kahn, is a popular example of a nearly pure Prospect condition. This elevated space is bounded by the angled fins of the adjacent researcher offices, and has a rill flowing through the center out towards the view of the Pacific Ocean. There are some small trees in planters at the entry of the courtyard, but once in the space one’s gaze is drawn outward through the space.

The Experience

A space with a good Refuge condition feels safe, providing a sense of retreat and withdrawal – for work, protection, rest or healing – whether alone or in small groups. A good refuge space feels separate or unique from its surrounding environment; its spatial characteristics can feel contemplative, embracing and protective, without unnecessarily disengaging.

Roots of the Pattern

The Refuge pattern has evolved from research on visual preference research and spatial habitat responses, and its relationship to [P11] Prospect conditions. Refuge conditions are important for restoration experiences and stress reduction, which can be realized through lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Other benefits of Refuge are suggested to include reduced irritation, fatigue and perceived vulnerability, as well as improved concentration, attention and perception of safety (Grahn & Stigsdotter, 2010; Wang & Taylor, 2006; Petherick, 2000; Ulrich et al., 1993).

Jay Appleton’s writing (1975, 1996) is focused on theory and is a good overall reference for both Prospect and Refuge, whereas Grant Hildebrand (1991) has written the most intelligently about Prospect and Refuge in the built environment and is a good reference for applications. In Grant Hildebrand’s words, “The edge of a wood is one of the most prevalent of natural prospect-refuge conjunctions” for it provides protection from weather and predators, but allows for outward surveillance. Nonetheless, the health response to Refuge is reportedly stronger than the response to Prospect, and the compounded response is enhanced when the two spatial conditions converge (Grahn & Stigsdotter, 2010).

Example characteristics

Spatial Attributes:

  • Modular refuge: Small protection (high-back chair, overhead trellis)
  • Partial refuge: Several sides covered (reading nooks, booth seating, bay window seats, canopy beds, gazebos, canopy trees, arcades, covered walkways or porches)
  • Extensive refuge: near or complete concealment (reading/telephone/sleeping pods, meeting rooms with 3+ walls, private offices, tree houses)

Common Features:

  • Spaces with weather/climate protection, or speech and visual privacy
  • Spaces reserved for reflection, meditation, rest, relaxation, reading, or complex cognitive tasks
  • Operable, adjustable or translucent (or semi-opaque) shades, blinds, screens or partitions
  • Drop or lowered ceiling or soffit, overhang or canopy
  • Lowered or varied light color, temperature or brightness

In small urban parks, park size is less important than the ability to be immersed in the space with the conditions of enclosure leading to restoration (e.g., Nordh, Hartig, Hägerhäll & Fry, 2009). In larger parks, the refuge spaces under trees, and in vegetation bordering an open space or meadow, are the preferred locations (e.g., Ruddell & Hammitt, 1987). Though science has yet to establish metrics for frequency or duration of access to refuge conditions, the balance between Refuge and Prospect is suggested to be more important than the size or frequency of the experience (Appleton, 1996).

Working with the Pattern

The primary objective of the Refuge pattern is to provide users with an easily accessible and protective environment – a smaller portion of a larger space – that supports restoration. The secondary objective is to limit visual access into the refuge space. The principal spatial condition is protection overhead and to one’s back, preferably on three sides; strategic placement or orientation of the space can also influence quality of experience.

Common functions of Refuge conditions:

  • weather or climate protection
  • speech or visual privacy
  • reflection or meditation
  • rest or relaxation
  • reading
  • complex cognitive tasks
  • protection from physical danger

In most cases, the refuge is not entirely enclosed, but rather provides some contact (visual or aural) with the surrounding environment for surveillance. The greater the number of protective sides, the greater the refuge condition; however, complete refuge – protection on all sides – is not necessarily the most appropriate or effective solution, as it does not maintain a relationship to the larger space. The traditional lean-to is a great example of basic refuge, as are a cozy bench seat in a bay window of the kitchen or a fireside inglenook.

the Henderson Bridge, Singapore Image © Reggie Wan/Flickr.

Protected seating alcoves along the Henderson Bridge, Singapore provide a sense of refuge.

Refuge spaces take many forms, so understanding the context and defining the intended user experience will certainly influence design decisions. There are endless combinations of design elements that can create a quality refuge space that offers shade or protection from natural or man-made environmental conditions.

Design considerations:

  • Indoor refuge spaces are usually characterized by lowered ceiling conditions. For spaces with standard ceiling heights, this may equate to approximately 18-24 inches below the main ceiling, and is often achieved through treatments like a soffit, a drop-ceiling or acoustical paneling, or suspended fabric.
  • For outdoor or indoor spaces with particularly high ceilings (>14 feet), a more drastic differential may be necessary to achieve the desired outcome; freestanding or vegetative alcoves and mezzanine-like structures are often effective.
  • When designing for larger populations or multiple activity types, providing more than one kind of refuge space can address varying needs, which can often be met through differing spatial dimensions, lighting conditions, and degree of concealment.
  • Light levels in refuge spaces should differ from adjacent spaces and user lighting controls will broaden functionality as a refuge space.

Relation to other Patterns

Complementary patterns:

  • [P4] Thermal & Airflow Variability
  • [P6] Dynamic & Diffuse Light
  • [P11] Prospect
  • [P13] Mystery

Sitting with one’s back against the trunk of a big shade tree is a classic refuge space, as is high backed booth seating in a restaurant, a reading nook in a library or school, a covered bus stop, or a wraparound porch. Treehouses are a timeless example of Refuge; and Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde, Colorado (constructed pre-A.D.1200s) is one of the best historic examples. While the settlement provides a feeling of containment and protection from the arid climate and potential predators or enemies, the refuge experience is enhanced with characteristics of Prospect through its elevated position and views over the canyon.

The Experience

A space with a good Mystery condition has a palpable sense of anticipation, or of being teased, offering the senses a kind of denial and reward that compels one to further investigate the space.

Roots of the Pattern

The Mystery pattern is largely based on the idea that people have two basic needs in environments: to understand and to explore (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989) and that these ‘basic needs’ should occur “from one’s current position” in order to engender a sense of mystery (Herzog and Bryce, 2007).

The Mystery pattern has evolved from research on visual preference and perceived danger, as well as pleasure responses to anticipatory situations. Mystery engenders a strong pleasure response within the brain that may be a similar mechanism to that of anticipation, which is hypothesized to be an explanation for why listening to music is so pleasurable – in that we are guessing what may be around the corner. The benefits of mystery conditions are suggested to include improved preference for a space; heightened curiosity; increased interest in gaining more information and greater likelihood of encountering other biophilic conditions.

A quality mystery condition does not engender a fear response; the conditions that differentiate between surprise (i.e., fear) and pleasure center around the visual depth of field. An obscured view with a shallow depth of field has shown to lead to unpleasant surprises, whereas greater visual access, with a medium (≥20 ft) to high (≥100 ft) depth of field is preferred (Herzog and Bryce, 2007).

A good mystery condition could also be expressed through the obscuring of the boundaries and a portion of the focal subject (i.e., room, building, outdoor space, or other information source), thereby enticing the user to anticipate the full extent of the subject and explore the space further (Ikemi, 2005).

Working with the Pattern

Example characteristics

Spatial Attributes:

  • Views are medium (≥ 20 ft) to high (≥ 100 ft) depth of field
  • At least one edge of the focal subject is obscured, preferably two edges
  • Auditory stimulation from an imperceptible source
  • Peek-a-boo windows that partially reveal
  • Curving edges
  • Winding paths

Common Features:

  • Light and shadow
  • Sound or vibration
  • Scent
  • Activity or movement
  • Artwork or installation
  • Form and flow
  • Translucent materials

Mystery characterizes a place where an individual feels compelled to move forward to see what is around the corner; it is the partially revealed view ahead. The objective of the Mystery pattern is to provide a functional environment that encourages exploration in a manner that supports stress reduction and cognitive restoration. While other ‘Nature of the Space’ patterns can be experienced in a stationary position, mystery implies movement and analysis starting from a place perceived in a fundamentally positive way.

Mystery conditions have their place among indoor and outdoor plazas, corridors, pathways, parks, and other transitory spaces. The sense of mystery can be diluted over time and with routine exposure; however, strategies that include revolving content or information, such as peek-a-boo windows into common areas where activity is constantly changing, will be most effective in spaces routinely occupied by the same group of people.

Design considerations that will help create a quality Mystery condition:

  • Curving edges that slowly reveal are more effective than sharp corners in drawing people through a space.
  • Dramatic shade and shadows can enhance the mystery experience.
  • Strategies that provide dark shadows or shallow depth of field could instill unappreciated surprise or fear.
  • The speed at which users are transiting through a space will influence both the size of the aperture and the size of the subject; faster typically means bigger.
  • Organically evolved mystery conditions (e.g., low maintenance gardens with winding paths) are expectedly going to change characteristics over time. These changes should be monitored as they may enhance the mystery condition, or otherwise degrade it as it evolves into a surprise condition (e.g., overgrowth of plantings leads to obscuring of depth of field).

Relation to other Patterns

Common overlaps:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P2] Non-Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P3] Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
  • [P6] Dynamic & Diffuse Light
  • and sometimes also:
    [P7] Connection with Natural Systems
  • [P10] Complexity & Order
  • [P11] Prospect
  • [P12] Refuge

This process of denial and reward, obscure and reveal is evident in Japanese garden design and various mazes and labyrinths throughout the world. The gardens at Katsura Imperial Villa, in Kyoto, Japan, make strong use of Mystery to draw visitors through the space and instill a sense of fascination. The strategic placement of buildings within the garden allows them to be hidden and slowly revealed at various points along the garden path, encouraging the user to explore further.

Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, New York, is an excellent example of Mystery. In classic Olmsted style, many views throughout the park are obscured through the use of topography and vegetation. Key focal points in the landscape are revealed from stationary prospect points within the park. The focal points within the park (trees, buildings, lake and meadows) give the space a degree of legibility, but obscured views entice occupants to explore the space further, in order to understand it, which cannot be achieved in a single visit.

Obscured views in Prospect Park, New York Obscured views in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux create a sense of mystery and enticement. Image © Ed Yourdon/Flickr.

Example characteristics

Spatial Attributes:

  • Heights
  • Gravity
  • Water
  • Predator-prey role reversal

Perceived Risks

  • Falling
  • Getting wet
  • Getting hurt
  • Loss of control

Common Features:

  • Double-height atrium with balcony or catwalk
  • Architectural cantilevers
  • Infinity edges
  • Façade with floor-to-ceiling transparency
  • Experiences or objects that are perceived to be defying or testing gravity
  • Transparent railing or floor plane
  • Passing under, over or through water
  • Proximity to an active honeybee apiary or predatory animals
  • Life-sized photography of spiders or snakes
The Experience

A space with a good Risk/Peril condition feels exhilarating, and with an implied threat, maybe even a little mischievous or perverse. One feels that it might be dangerous, but intriguing, worth exploring and possibly even irresistible.

Roots of the Pattern

Risk can be generated by a learned or biophobic response triggered by a near and present danger. This danger, however, is inert and unable to cause harm due to a trusted element of safety. The defining difference between Risk/Peril and fear is the level of perceived threat and perceived control (Rapee, 1997).

Having an awareness of a controllable risk can support positive experiences that result in strong dopamine or pleasure responses. These experiences play a role in developing risk assessment during childhood. In adults, short doses of dopamine support motivation, memory, problem solving and fight-or-flight responses; whereas, long-term exposure to intense Risk/Peril conditions may lead to over-production of dopamine, which is implicated in depression and mood disorders.

Working with the Pattern

The objective of the Risk/Peril pattern is to arouse attention and curiosity, and refresh memory and problem solving skills. There are different degrees of risk that can be incorporated into a design depending on the intended user or the space available; a cantilevered walkway over a sheer cliff is an extreme case; viewing a predator in a zoo exhibit may provide a greater sense of control; whereas, rock-hopping through a gentle water feature presents the risk of getting one’s feet wet.

Design considerations that will help create a quality Risk/Peril condition:

he Levitated Mass at Los Angeles County Museum of Art Image © Kate Dollarhyde/Flickr.

The Levitated Mass at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Michael Heizer, artist.

Relation to other Patterns

Common overlaps:

  • [P1] Visual Connection with Nature
  • [P5] Presence of Water
  • [P11] Prospect
  • Risk/Peril design interventions are usually quite deliberate and as such will not be appropriate for all user groups or places.
  • Design strategies that rely on spatial conditions will be easier to implement when incorporated as early as concept design and schematic phases of the design process.
  • The element of safety must protect the user from harm while still permitting the experience of risk.

At Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin, The Birdwalk is a thrilling narrow balcony that cantilevers out over the hillside. The Levitated Mass at Los Angeles County Museum of Art is an enormous boulder that spans over a pedestrian ramp, and under which visitors pass. The balancing act is seems improbable, but the bracing provides some reassurance of safety, and visitors flock en masse to be photographed below the rock.

Lower-level risk, like getting one’s feet wet, may be a more appropriate strategy for some settings. A great example would the stepping stone path through the water feature designed by Herbert Dreiseitl at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany.

Marketing versus Sales

Published on 2020-09-30 by John Collins. Please follow me on Twitter for more: 

If I wanted to explain in simple terms the difference between Marketing and Sales, I would use the following trivial example:

Marketing is getting them to call you. Sales is you calling them.

Joking aside, its actually pretty accurate, as Marketing is about raising your company or product profile to the extent that people out there in the market place have heard about you, while Sales is about the direct approach, for example calling up a prospective customer and actively telling them about your company and product.

So which is more important, Marketing or Sales? Actually they both compliment each other, so you really need both. Marketing make it easier for Sales to get that all important first meeting, as prospects are more likely to agree to meet with a company that they have heard good things about in the market place. Once that threshold is crossed, Sales then need to deliver a compelling and relevant demo pitch, and establish trust and confidence in the prospective customer that they become comfortable enough to sign off on a new purchase order.

So where does Engineering fit into this mix? Well as an Engineering leader, you need to work closely with both Marketing and Sales. Firstly you need to deliver a compelling product that is interesting to demo to prospects, then you need to work with Marketing on how to position that in the market place, for example by comparing your product strengths and weaknesses with your rivals, and building marketing stories around that.

On the Sales front, Engineering has to operate in a “sales enablement” role, by providing Sales with product training, product demos, and related collateral to enable them to build exciting demo pitches. Furthermore, you may find yourself actively presenting some of those pitches depending on your presentation skills, especially if Sales need help with demonstrating to technical audiences (as engineers can communicate more easily with other engineers).

You must not forget that your Engineering team cannot succeed without Marketing and Sales bringing in the money to keep the lights on, while you must also remind them that without Engineering, there would be nothing available for them to sell! It is a symbiotic relationship, that should be built on mutual respect.