The way we design our societies affects our lives. Duh. It's such a mundane concept that we forget about it.
In the modern world of cement boxes and flat paved expanses, our buildings actually make us sick (see: sick building syndrome). As an architectural designer, I get frustrated when I see politicians and activists trying to "save the planet" by creating policies and programs, I feel we are missing out on the actual root of the crisis. Those actions are important, but how can we solve the problem of overconsumption and depletion when our cities and towns reinforce our habitual urge to dominate nature, instead of protect it?
It seems obvious that humans would act in a way that threatens life on Earth if we felt disconnected from nature and our planet, but we still do it. Hard, artificial materials and surfaces; lifeless, dark spaces and streets... The way we design our societies affects our lives, and, the way we design our societies also reflects our lives. It's a feedback loop, what we invest in and protect says everything about our mentality as a species.
How often do you find signs of the softness and nurturing curves of the wild in your city or town? How much do the buildings and streets you visit every day reflect an awareness of the chaos of the natural world? Our modern awareness has turned a blind eye towards what life actually looks like. If you live in an old town or city built before cars were a necessity, you will find these threads of our true heritage more visible, but modern design rarely acknowledges life. Rigidity and order, structure and discipline have taken over the places in our towns and lives where feeling, flow, emergence, and creativity used to reign.
We can't protect what we don't recognize. Our societies have pushed us into little boxes, and so our minds have followed. The only thing we can do to create sustainable societies is connect, something which our single-family homes, car-dependent suburbs, and lack of public spaces can make difficult or even impossible.
If we want a world that works for everyone, a planetary society that is truly sustainable, we are going to have to do something about the architecture of our society, externally, and internally.
I moved to Philadelphia when I was eighteen from a place that recently won the award for best small town in Connecticut. Going from daily bike rides to the beach to trash-filled vacant lots was a stark contrast, but I was ecstatic to be free from a world I knew so well and thrust into the void of the unknown. Despite knowing architecture was the something I felt deeply called to study, I had no idea why I was actually there at Temple University. The old utopian and industrial histories of Philadelphia were a potent backdrop for my introduction to "the mother of the arts," but I finished my five year degree with more questions than answers. Some things I knew for sure were;
Overlapping this saga of formal education was a more personal one, a healing journey. At the age of 16 I experienced a traumatic ankle and knee injury which eventually necessitated a surgery which left me more broken and hurting than before. Thanks to this happenstance, I found myself with chronic pain that the doctors were at a loss to solve; they prescribed opioids, a friend prescribed yoga. I found the latter made me feel better, so I went with it, and radical changes began to take place. After nearly a decade of learning to relate to my body for the first time in my life, the doorway to a huge mass of trauma became unlocked within me. One day I was reading about self-love, and all of a sudden I recognized a previously hidden mound of abuse that had been repressed within me.
Following this newly-discovered pain and discomfort led to the unraveling of a life that had always seemed perfect on the outside. Doctors had always given me a perfect bill of health, even when I felt that life was more of a struggle than I could bear; depression, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, all of these seemed normal to everyone around me. All the while, I knew with increasing urgency that things were not sustainable. I had ended relationships, quit my job, even moved to a new country, but things had to get harder before they could get better, I was going to have to go through that mass of repressed trauma.
After discovering that I had been abused as a child, I finally found a diagnosis for what doctors and therapists had never bothered to try and explain, Complex PTSD. Suddenly I had a name for what was wrong, I could find lists of all the symptoms I was experiencing, and better still, find solutions for them. Then began the hard work of going down to the very foundation of my being and identifying all the garbage and lies that lay there using this new lens.
Because my parents hadn't been there for me when I was growing up, I became an expert in growing myself. I developed an advanced emotional intelligence because there wasn't any in our family, and someone needed to make sure my younger brother felt nurtured; I intuitively gave what I wished to receive. This gift of my trauma disorder has made it necessary for me to become intimate with the inner workings of the human mind and body, and thanks to this radical healing journey I now know how to build a human.
Our inner architecture needs to be sustainable, too.
If we want to build a new paradigm for our society in which equality, justice, and unity prevail, we are going to have to address what lies in our collective shadow, the collective unconscious. To embrace these complexes, in the same way a person healing their own individual complexes must, we have to be willing to sit with the tough stuff. Not everyone has to go deep down into the muck, some of us can get our hands dirty for the rest. However, that's not an excuse to tune out of the fight for peace we are each here to play a part in building a new paradigm both outside, and within.
At this time, we are all called to become warriors for the New Earth, a paradigm of unity consciousness that is already being born all around, and within us. Our physical and metaphysical structures need to be addressed in order to fully birth the world we all want to see, inner and outer architectures are our greatest assets for birthing the world of peace and unity we know is possible.
Here is a short list of some things that sustainable inner and outer architectures have in common:
Speaking as an energy healer and architect with insight into both the inner and outer world as a whole, I am very confident that the power and wisdom needed to make this shift lie within us all, right now. It doesn't need to take generations, this sustainable world of inner and outer peace is already within our reach. The only thing that remains to do is find the love it will take to build a world where each of us acts as part of a unified collective consciousness with a life lived in awareness.
I think the places we live in can help us get there. I'll show one example from the Canary Islands below. Notice how these urban spaces make you feel alive, connected with the sun, wind, and sea, invigorated by the life and culture happening all around you. These human-scale, diverse, inviting spaces keep you moving, living, loving. Enjoy, and leave your feedback below. How would a world, inside and outside, look filled with peace and love?