One of the joys of being nomadic right now is being able to experience so many different environments, and learn from them. It was always thus! Something new to me this time in London was the Barbican conservatory. I hadn't been aware of it previously, nor its erratic opening times, so it was a real treat.,What was so striking was the sheer amount of calm created in the heart of a busy city. It just showed what was possible with a bit of imagination, sensitivity and diligence.
The Japanese have long been faced with the challenge of incorporating nature in increasingly urban environments. In books of Zen design, there are numerous techniques cited to instill a sense of harmony within the harsh lines of an office, for instance.
One technique is to have a mini-lawn at the centre of a meeting table, or several mini-lawns, by way of small wooden boxes filled with dirt and grass that can be clipped with scissors.
In this way it is the symbolism of nature in a contained environment that is required, rather than a full-blown onslaught of it. A similar technique is to have a model of an important geographical local feature, such as a mountain or a seascape. All these techniques obviously require a fair amount of aesthetic sense. A chocolate-box scene in a frame probably won't cut it.
Bringing water into an indoor environment, of course, is a staple in Feng Shui, such as a fountain placed strategically in an entrance, or the Fortunate Blessings area of a room.
Here, the conservatory designers really went for it with a pond full of koi, the fish traditionally associated with good fortune and wealth. Above it and out of sight here, is another pond with turtles.
So, congratulations to the architects of this little oasis. May their koi inspire city designers all over the world, and bring them the good fortune and the accolades they deserve!