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A Spiritual Approach to Design

The task of the Designer involves all facets of human behaviour. From inspiration to completed product, the design process requires a unique understanding of physical, emotional and spiritual issues. This phenomenona encourages both resolution and transformation in the Designer. Intrinsic in this undertaking is the responsibility of the Designer to maintain an optimum state of mind. It is the mind that is utilised to initiate, analyse and express on the pathway to the final design solution. Ancient architects, particularly those of eastern traditions, undertook elaborate rituals and disciplines in order to purify and appropriately prepare the mind before proceeding with their works. They were not just viewed as architects by society but also as magicians and yogis.

The purification of the mind lead to a consciousness which was keenly perceptive and which could fathom the critical issues effecting the design. An important part of implementing this higher consciousness was to instill the right feeling or energy into their creation. For the ancients to both portray and fill the art work with the right essence quality or rasa was one of the prime duties of all artists whether painter, musician, dancer or architect. This practice of mindful preparation is also relevant for the contemporary designer. Amidst the pressures of money and time performance the benefits of providing an inner and outer environment for creative focus can never be underestimated. Whether via a flash of inspiration or after prolonged effort, the designer's consciousness provides a fertile reservoir from which ideas develop. There is a particular consciousness which is appropriate for each activity of this process. This not only provides the right stimulus and direction for the design, but also offers personal insight in the maturing of the designer. Consciousness is related to the level of one's awareness to both physical and spiritual elements. It is a key component in the spectrum of human experience ranging from attitude to action. The designer's consciousness has an important influence on how people experience and use their finished product.

A state of consciousness which is clear and vibrant facilitates a more effective use of the sensory perception - the ability to see, listen, hear, touch, smell and even taste will be heightened. These are important faculties for analysing aspects of the design brief. For example to be fully aware when visiting a site in the country is vital to an architect designing a residence for an ecologically informed client. In such a situation a higher consciousness may assist on three levels: 1. To think more clearly in addressing pragmatic issues such as measurements, orientation, client briefing etc. 2. In perceiving the subtle features of the site such as layers of natural sounds, colour patterns, quality and condition of the landscape 3. To sense and intuit non-physical information relevant to the project. For instance: to enquire about the sites spiritual heritage; define favourable and unfavorable energy locations; or to listen and respond to the subtle rhythms of the site The effectiveness of consciousness is considerably greater when it works in a deliberate manner rather than out of habit. For the designer aspiring to integrate a spiritual dimension into their design process, the utilisation of consciousness offers an authentic avenue.

Consciousness and the Designer is a spiritual design process developed by Architect Greg O'Donnell He sees the emerging new paradigm of design as 'an endeavour which satisfies the soul'. It delivers an end product which not only fulfills functional and aesthetic criteria but also addresses the needs of the human spirit. Meditation is one of the techniques used to create a harmonious link between designer and the various design elements ."For me one of the benefits is that it creates a sense of connectedness between architect, site and client. This gives the ability to differentiate between what the clients needs and what the site wants. The result is that I often come up with ideas which the client secretly desired but hadn't verbalised. " Greg incorporates mind mapping, visualisation techniques and energy analysis into his architectural design process. Greg O'Donnell 's practice of architecture involves a unique blend of client collaboration and meditative process.
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