Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chill-out architecture - The use of tree metaphors

I gravitate towards forests and trees (typing right now at a desk that looks out at a large tree canopy on the opposite riverbank) because the vision of green trees under a blue sky is vastly more calming that having to look at the more brown and red tints of modern city structures. (My current Fort Lauderdale location is an extended strip mall only occasionally small bits of nature to intrude). Old pine forests give me the same sheltered feeling as the great cathedrals of Europe.

Thus I am very sympathetic to efforts to argue for a evolutionary or biological basis for these feelings, which appear to be common to most human cultures. E.O. Wilson, the father of "Sociobiology" and evolutionary psychology, has written a book "Biophilia" that essentially argues that our preference for natural scenes is innate, the product of a psychology that evolved in paleolithic times. I would like this to be a correct view, but alas, it is, like most of evolutionary psychology, more like Rudyard Kipling's "Just so Stories" than hard science.

It is one thing to simply note trees as a metaphor for shelter, and thus to find it natural that architectural designs (such as the Metropol Parasol in Seville shown in the picture) that incorporate the tree metaphor would be pleasing to us. It is quite another hang this all on the supposed cognitive neuroscience of embodied cognition, as Sarah Williams Goldhagen, the architecture critic for The New Republic, has done in a rather confused piece. A recent post by Voytek, and the discussion following, point out a number of reservations and relevant points.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a huge fan of contemporary architecture because they become so classic after so many years. I saw a nice new home for sale with a contemporary architectural design and I made a mental note that I would buy that house someday.