We are different people in different spaces.
If I asked you to write down the five places that have had the strongest impact on you, what would they be? Famous monuments? Temples? Hotels?
Here's some help. You probably felt more inspired visiting Paris' Sacré-Cœur Basilica than a roadside fluorescent-lit McDonald's, for instance. Perhaps it was the Louvre, or the Acropolis. Or a special hotel that appeared as an oasis at just the right time. The world is full of places with the power to transform our lives.
For the past five years, I have been trying to sell sustainable, experimental and progressive design to anyone who would listen - and I promise it hasn't been easy. Some worry that opting for sustainability is more expensive, less stylish and less convenient. What I have realised is this: when people feel good about themselves, they naturally want to do good. That leads me to explore a very different dimension of sustainability, one related to personal growth and development. The more we develop a sense of inner peace, the more likely we are to extend compassion and kindness to the world around us. In my case, I often credit a ten-day meditation retreat in Nepal for being the main catalyst for my decision to pursue a career devoted to sustainable lifestyle, even if it meant sacrificing financial security. Diving into ourselves and leaving behind social constructs connects us with the part of ourselves that genuinely only wants to do good, because fundamentally, human beings are good.
THE SACRED ART OF TRANSFORMATIVE SPACES
If buildings such as the Sacré-Cœur can make us feel inspired, peaceful and connected, what enables this and how do we get more of it?
First of all: aesthetics. The Sacré-Cœur was designed by famous architect Paul Abadie in 1875 and is still revered as one of the world's most striking monuments, nearly impossible to approach without being impressed by its physicality and grandeur.
Another significant point is the intention of the space. The driving force behind the Sacré-Cœur was a collective aim to create a monument representing spiritual renewal for French society, which had been divided since the revolution ended some 100 years earlier. Interestingly, it is the only church in the world that has records indicating there have been people praying at its pews 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since its inception.
What if we could find these attributes (stunning architecture, a sacred quality and a focused intention) in spaces that we interact with on a daily basis, rather than those we only visit occasionally? What would happen if we lingered, or even slept, ate, worked and lived in sacred spaces?
'The Sacred Art of Transformative Spaces' (SATS), my newly developed design philosophy, aims to answer these very questions, by uniting aesthetics, sustainability, spatial energy and intention to support personal growth.