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Design By Culture

Design By Culture
  • The Principles of Design (by )
  • A Theory of Pure Design; Harmony, Balanc... (by )
  • Kanyu (Feng-Shui) : the Forgotten Perspe... (by )
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Architecture, floor plans, colors, and styles of our homes reflect our cultures, lifestyles, and personal preferences. The Japanese have a history of using screens to separate interiors and create private spaces, while the Danish are renowned for hygge, a feeling of coziness and comfort in their homes. 

In A Theory of Pure Design, Denman Waldo Ross writes,

I refrain from any reference to Beauty as a principle Design. It is not a principle, but an experience. It is an experience which defies analysis and has no explanation. We distinguish it from all other experiences. It gives us pleasure, perhaps the highest pleasure that we have. (p. 4)

People worldwide are guided by different design philosophies. While some extend well beyond the cultures where they originated, others are more obscure. 

The ancient Chinese concept of Feng Shui celebrates the art of placement. Translating to “wind-water,” Feng Shui utilizes energy to create harmony between people and their environments. It’s based on the belief that when energy flows freely, it creates a space that supports health and wealth, and ushers in happiness. 

Historically, Feng Shui was used to orient buildings and spiritually significant structures such as tombs in an auspicious way. It focuses on creating open spaces and removing clutter. 

Traditionally, Chinese selected sites for structures of all types, such as graves, palaces, houses, basing on an organic view of the cosmos, which binds individuals, families and society to the past, present and future via the medium – Kanyu (Feng-shui). Chinese used to piously protect their “Feng-shui,” but seldom talked about protecting physical or cultural settings (p. 1).
Japanese aesthetics also embrace the art of imperfection, a concept renowned as wabi-sabi. It’s about the acceptance of imperfection, impermanence, and incomplete beauty. Wabi-sabi is derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, which include impermanence, suffering, and emptiness or absence of self-nature. 

Wabi-sabi’s history can be traced back to ancient tea ceremonies held in Japan. The utensils used were handmade, irregular, and imperfect. Characteristics of wabi-sabi include simplicity, asymmetry, roughness, and appreciation of the integrity of natural objects and processes. Wabi-sabi celebrates nature and incorporates wood and stone. 

In The Principles of Design, Ernest Allen Batchelder writes, “In nature, beauty and structure are interwoven; the two are inseparable” (p. 142). 

Rather than being discarded for any imperfections, wabi-sabi embraces the passage of time and use.  Kintsugi or “golden repair” is the art of repairing cracked or broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. 

“The good news is that when it comes to our own homes, we are responsible for choosing and creating that mood. You can have a sunny, high-energy home, or a morose, lackluster home, or a chaotic, angry home ... but if you’re anything like me, the home you really want is one of peace. After all, how often is peace our dominant emotion?” 

“One’s home should be an oasis, a respite, and a personal spa away from the maddening crowd,” concludes freelance event designer Christina Mantz. 

By Regina Molaro

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