Outside of dreaming up digital spaces for mindfulness at work, i’ve been doing a ton of physical space design. For The Commons and our myriad of spaces: solar punk library, Hogwarts study hall, Moroccan lounge, reading nooks, philosophy salon, art gallery, french bistro-inspired cafe, etc. As well as for a new place I just moved into, where i’ve aptly named my wifi router: Walden Pond.
I’ve had a love affair with interior design and architecture from the beginning of time. And with this new influx of design activity, i’ve recently paused to reflect on why exactly that is.
Each one of us has, somewhere in his heart, the dream to make a living world, a universe. — Christopher Alexander
Everywhere we look - from the digital space we’re scrolling in now, to the bodega down the street, to the public restroom at the park - houses someones soul and craft. An expression of their ideals. Yes, perhaps that fire hydrant is 1 of a million hydrants manufactured in China, but behind its design, sat a human that thought about it and dedicated a chunk of their life to bring about its fruition.
We literally live amidst cities awash with passion projects and visions for the future. It is the same in nature. Every tree, valley, and brook whispers expressions of the universe’s ideals.
So at its essence, architecture and interior design are just material manifestations of the values we hold dear. A concentrated visual dose of the virtues we already deeply embody or seek to emulate. Their inherent beauty lies not in symmetrical lines or ornate edges - but rather, the felt density of intention and spirit that imbues their atmosphere.
We value certain interiors or buildings for their ability to reshape our natures, eliciting emotions our predominant default states force us to sacrifice. Spaces shape the kinds of thoughts we can think within them. They nudge us towards the interactions we may have with others.
We are, very literally, different people in different places. We step into coffee shops to ward off hues of existential loneliness. We wander into minimal museums, with their cascading planes of white space, to merge with art and beauty. We bow our heads under heaven-bound arches and kaleidoscopic alters of light, in order to forget ourselves.
In essence, what works of design and architecture talk to us about is the kind of life that would most appropriately unfold within and around them.
They tell us of certain moods that they seek to encourage and sustain in their inhabitants. While keeping us warm and helping us in mechanical ways, they simultaneously hold out an invitation for us to be specific sorts of people.
They speak of visions of happiness.
A feeling of beauty is a sign that we have come upon a material articulation of certain of our ideas of a good life. - Emmanuel Quartey
We shape our tools, then they shape us. We construct our narratives, then they construct us. We consume information, then they consume us. We curate our physical space, then they curate our internal states. Life is an endless reverberation of mirrors spanning into the infinite.
Some mirrors are at the level of the astral energy body and harder to construe. Other mirrors, like the physical spaces we choose to rest, work, contemplate, and play in, are quite a bit more perceptible. What surrounds us, we internalize. What we focus on, we become. If we can design these spaces to reflect our visions of happiness and eudaemonia, we have at least captured low-hanging fruit at the precipice of a longer spiritual unfolding.
But the main point I want to drive home is this.
It’s not enough to just design and purchase a space. We must do the ego-wrenching work of practice, reflection, and integration within these spaces to live up to the values they espouse. Modern capitalism sells us visions of inner peace in the form of beautiful airbnbs, mid-century modern living rooms, and the perfect morning coffee set-up. By not falling for this deception, we recognize it for what it is: a simple container that makes the harder work of personal transcendence a bit more frictionless.
happy world building,
Some of my muses in architecture and space design that I keep updated here: