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Transience: Nature Holds this Critical Key to Advancing Architectural Design

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Nature Teaches Transience

Learning through nature is a wonderful way to design architecture drawing from nature’s inspirational and very ingenious solutions. Nature has so much to teach designers, and designers can extract an incredible amount of design information from nature.

In fact, nature inherently contains a very important quality from which the future of architectural design can pull. You see, design transience is a complex challenge that environmental designers must face as they strive to orchestrate stimuli within space. And that is something that we can learn from — the designed transience of nature.

‍Image Credit: © fotomatrix | Fotolia

You can just imagine how nature changes all of the time. It changes through its seasons, through the way a plant or flower develops, or even in the way the sun travels across the sky. Nature has much to teach designers, and by delving deeper into the way transience works in nature, architects can better integrate technologies and materials to synchronize with occupant needs in real-time.

Nature that Feeds the Senses

An example of transience in nature can be seen in the way a pinecone works. You see, pinecone petals open over time (at just the right time) to allow seeds to disperse optimally. In this way, you can begin to see how important timing is within nature.

Timing within architectural design is just as important. As environmental stimuli are perceived by building occupants, their order and timing greatly affects their impact upon that occupant. This is why design for the future of architectural technology involves the orchestration of stimuli. And for this there is much that can be learned from nature.

The natural environment has a way of feeding our senses in inspiring, beautiful, and meaningful ways. Architecture attempts to do this as well, but also uses aspects like technology and materiality to create unique and innovative experiences that could present nature in an entirely new light. By synchronizing the timing of environmental stimuli to meet the needs of occupants, one can begin to formulate an architectural design that is more personalized and meaningful.

A Renewed Design Methodology

As the need for architecture to become increasingly flexible, interactive, and adaptive progresses – new techniques for how to orchestrate stimuli will be born with each new architectural creation. Yet, to carve a path toward the realization of these types of architecures, I wrote the book entitled Adaptive Sensory Environments.

In this book, a new methodology is presented to help you as an architect better understand how to synchronize stimuli so that the timing of your architectural elements brings maximum benefit for occupants. Adaptive Sensory Environments teaches about how to pull from nature, position architectural technology, and use sensory design uplift occupant life for the better.

To learn more about Adaptive Sensory Environments (or to order the book), please visit


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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