– John Counsel – A Career Studying Building


This seminar started with a short lecture about what was expected in the PDP…you’d think we would know already after all the earlier but there seems to be still some confusion. I hope I have it right?

The bulk of the talk however was about John Counsels life and career as an architect. He spoke about where he grew up in South Africa and the different cultures that he had around him. Comparing the different building styles, pointing out how more effective the mud huts were with dealing with the heat then then western style buildings and they are more environmentally safe.

John poses the question: How does the environment round you affect your creative experience. He spoke of how when architects design rooms they look at what they are going to be used for. Rooms that have higher ceilings  are more conducive of creative and deep thinking, e.g lofty artist studios. In a room with lower ceilings you are more likely to make decisions quicker e.g beneficial for meeting rooms where time is money. Triggering the debate: Productivity v Creativity.

John also spoke about how being in the natural world is better for health and wellbeing. It had been proven that walking outdoors stimulates creativity. (Stanford University) He also spoke about how it is also proven that patients with access to a window and can see the natural world recover quicker than patients who can’t. I find this very interesting and relates to my own research.

I quite liked the story about the Banyan Tree. Sitting under the Banyan Tree was a traditional class room environment in India(I think) as it was cool and shady. Universities tried to recreate the Banyan tree within their own ground using concrete. I don’t think this was successful and makes me wonder why they simply didn’t just grow real ones?

John also spoke about different projects that he had been involved with. On such project was looking at and preserving a pre 1900s building, it was said that the building was in many ways far superior in its sustainability role than a lot of the high-tech buildings of today.

He talked about many of the considerations that go with designing buildings today. For example putting in daylight bulbs might be a great idea except at night as it could mess with your circadian rhythm.

In regards to the environment John asked us to consider what our ‘Creative Footprint’ might be. We have a responsibility to respect our natural world in the process of creating. This practice is also very close to my heart.