Artificially Creating the Natural

Side Effects and Side Shows

Play Lab_September 4, 2016

Society has taken an interesting divergent twist. As we (humans) are developing and moving into more urban environments, we feel the need to become more connected with nature. Think of your average city hipster millennial: they have a full-time job in the city and yet feel the need to recreate their outdoor aspirations indoors with flowers, plants, succulents, and even indoor gardens. As we shift towards a more urban and yet environmentally conscience mentality how will that alter our emotions? Can we find a balance? How will we shape the environment around us to artificially recreate the natural?

Arial view of Central Park in NYC

Let us consider grass for a moment. I’m sure we can all relate to a distinct feeling or memory we have with grass whether it is: sitting with a book, talking with friends, tossing a frisbee, or enjoying a picnic. No matter where we are, not many people can turn down a some good sun and some green grass. Yet increasingly, it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain for many reasons. Climate change has altered many urban and suburban living spaces to make it too dry to grow grass. With an increase in pro-environmental movements, water is being conserved more. The backend processes required to maintain a lawn or grass are loud, and toxic to our air.

With an increase in all of these factors, it can be easy to predict an alternate future where our relationship with green spaces are completely different.

Indoor green room

Cultivating green rooms in residential and businesses could bridge the gaps between environmental upkeep and emotional connection. You live in a super dense city? No problem. You don’t want to waste gas traveling to a patch of grass? No problem. You think maintaining the American Dream lawn is environmentally damaging? No problem!… you get the point.

It’s not about work life balance anymore, but work life INTEGRATION…

As we may very well know, playing with time and predicting the future always leads to unforeseen side-effects and parallel developments (or side-shows). The best we can do is predict all possible scenarios that shift and change as a result of imposing such a future. Here are some:

Side-Effects:

pros

  • People can unwind and connect with themselves easier
  • Money is not wasted on superficial lawn care
  • You can have a relaxing “outdoor” day on a rainy day
  • Water and energy are conserved
  • Holistic approaches to living can be achieved by typical urban folk
  • City culture could become more relaxed

cons

  • People spend less time actually outside
  • Houses can be built closer to each other
  • Work hours might increase
  • Might lose touch with “real” nature

Side-Shows:

  • Developments in indoor architecture and environments
  • Alternate ways of crop cultivation
  • Development of large indoor communities
  • Civilization migrates and creates cities in non-ideal conditions

With such a future, the role of people and workers can alter dramatically. Specifically the role of the designer can have a large impact in the trajectory of this alternate future. One could imagine that the designer would have an extremely important role in creating these environments in ways that feel truly natural. The designer would be the one who analysis the culture, family, or person, and works with a team to create this indoor environment that would best suit their emotional tendencies. The built world and the natural world are quite dissonant right now and the designer would have a distinct role in merging the two. Creating a society where the barriers between the natural emotions and behaviors are blurred with the artificial. But then again, what is actually artificial? One might argue that everything we do is in fact natural.