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By Jody McCutcheon
Usually the wise approach isn’t to try to improve on nature, but rather to borrow from it.
Trailblazing eco-architect Heinz Pahl-Kaupp has built a nearly four-decade career out of mimicking nature in his work. The German-born designer developed a fondness for urban design while living as a teen on his parents’ (decidedly rural) farm in 1970. That interest led him to study in Berlin, where he would become acquainted with bio-architecture and ecology and ultimately help shape the contemporary incarnation of eco-architecture, starting in the 1980s. But it wasn’t until the late 1990s that he would find his true calling. After attending a seminar on Sacred Geometry, he made the connection that sparked his signature brand, Sacred Geometry Architecture.
Simply put, Sacred Geometry Architecture marries modern architecture with principles of creation, nature and geometrical archetypes. While these iconic designs have been around for millennia, particularly prominent in religious architecture, Pahl-Kaupp began importing them into the secular realm.
Having studied architecture through the various lenses of aesthetics, ethics, economics and psychology, Pahl-Kaupp brings a spiritual approach to his creations. He sees his buildings as a “third skin” (after actual skin and clothing). They’re designed to not only provide comfort, but also to inspire good health. Specifically, Sacred Geometry Architecture helps to balance energy and lift spirits, harmonize and stabilize effects on existing energy fields, facilitate meditation, relieve stress, improve attitude, increase self-esteem and confidence and augment physical and mental healing.
Wherever possible, Pahl-Kaupp incorporates two fundamental patterns into his designs: the Flower Of Life and the Fibonacci Sequence. The former refers to a geometrical figure composed of many evenly spaced, overlapping circles arranged to form a kind of floral pattern, with a six-fold symmetry like a hexagon. Representative of the mind of the ‘great creator’, it can be found in all major regions and religions of the world, and is related to the Egg of Life, whose structure forms the basis for music, since the distances between the spheres is the same as the distance between tones and half-tones. Incredibly, it also reflects the cellular structure of the third embryonic division: the first cell divides into two, then to four, then to eight. Thus, it could be said the Egg of Life forms the foundation for the human body.
As for the Fibonacci Sequence, this was actually first discovered in India thousands of years before the Italian noted it in around 1100 AD. It’s basically a series of numbers that adds the previous two numbers before it to get the subsequent number. For example: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 etc. The clincher is that when we take any two successive Fibonacci numbers, their ratio is very close to that of the Golden Ratio, or Phi, which is 1.618. Many artists and architects believe that designs based on Phi are ‘of the most pleasing shape and size.’
Such ratios and patterns are frequently found in nature which means that while they may be basic in form, they’re efficient in terms of utility, and renowned in terms of beauty.
These and other fundamental designs, like pyramids and Platonic Solids, yield what Pahl-Kaupp describes as a “clear, pure and unique energy” that affects humans, animals and stone alike. “Wellness and feeling comfortable,” he notes, “is a resonance of a harmonious environment, architecture and landscape design. Health benefits are the results of balance and harmony.”
The Flower of Life holds Pahl-Kaupp in particular thrall. Decades of research has shown him that it’s used worldwide to energize water. And since we are composed mostly of water, he reasoned that the Flower of Life should energize us. Thus he decided to incorporate the design into his architecture.
Having practised architecture since the early 1980’s, Pahl-Kaupp has assembled a diverse and burgeoning portfolio. He’s designed or conceived of many types of projects, including hospitals and other public buildings, businesses, apartment complexes and private residences. Wielding strong ideas on architecture’s function and philosophy, he’s also served as lecturer and advisor.
His authority and passion resonate when he explains how he approaches his assignments with very particular practical and ethical considerations. Each project must be economically transparent, technically sustainable, politically independent, socially responsible and aesthetically wonderful. But he also holds firm that architecture must be ecological and holistic, as well as psychologically protecting. These seven features comprise a matrix he uses to balance different levels of values that go into the decision-making process used in beginning a design. (The order of operations, so to speak, mirrors the above list, with “ecological and holistic” slotting in at number 3 and “psychologically protecting” at number 6.)
He sees architecture as a sophisticated tool with which to promote human health and environmental sustainability. The latter includes the preservation of energy, water and other natural resources.
To get an idea of the atypical creativity and intelligence of a typical Heinz Pahl-Kaupp project, look no further than his Floating Zeppelin concept. It’s based on the Vesica Piscis shape, which derives from the Flower of Life paradigm, and it boasts many of the same sustainability features of his other projects.
Not only is the Floating Zeppelin constructed from natural materials, but it hangs from a pyramidal suspension frame. This jives with Pahl-Kaupp’s desire to touch the land as little as possible. It incorporates energy-saving and renewing strategies such as natural ventilation and lighting, in addition to drinking and wastewater management features. It also makes use of holistic interior design, sculptures and water features. As a home, the Floating Zeppelin may stand out rather oddly in an urban environment; but it wouldn’t look at all out of place in a rural or even jungle environment.
When it comes to developing a personal identification with one’s own home, Pahl-Kaupp believes in a “hands-on” approach. “When you are going through this process to find out your real needs, wishes, hopes and dreams, and find the meaningfulness of all the answers you have discovered, a high identification with your home will begin appearing. And you will be able to accelerate this identification when you ascertain your ability to work with your own hands on your dream. Bringing together head, hand and heart is for me art.”
In a world of temporary homes, prefab buildings and synthetic construction materials, architecture that nurtures human and environmental health while promoting personal identification is an endeavour well worth striving for. You might say Pahl-Kauff believes that home is where the art is; he explains more in this short interview.
I like to ask designers what they think is the biggest problem facing sustainability today. One common answer is the materials used by contemporary builders, which you mention on your Sacred Geometry Architecture website. Yet you also explain that the architecture itself sometimes makes inhabitants feel uncomfortable or even unwell. What do you mean by this?
We are all living in a ‘created world’ and there is no difference between the simplest bamboo cottage and the newest ‘mega tower’ of modern skyscraper architecture. We are all ‘living’ in a network (nexus) of energies, vibrations and frequencies. We are all ‘living’ in resonance to this “created world”!
The results of architecture & landscape design are always a holism … and independent, whether architects are involved or not. Architecture & landscape design always affects ‘users’: human beings, animals, plants, objects etc…. and also its own structure.
The results of architecture & landscape design are the beginning of a process of vibrations, radiation, frequencies & ‘melodies’ (compositions) that generate an effect of ‘permanent’ resonances on the ‘users’.
So what happens when your water-based body with billions and billions of cells, each of which generates its own unique energy field, moves through the fields of architecture and landscape design.
The answer is, you are going to feel a resonance: you feel good, not so good or you have no idea what is just happening.
This happens in the background on a cellular level, more than less independent of our intellectual, rational and mostly ego-centred position, using our not very good developed five senses as a basis to describe architecture.
How does Sacred Geometry mitigate this feeling of discomfort or unwellness and provide health benefits?
For me the shortest definition of The Flower of Life is that it represents the Code of the Genesis. It is the basis for the best designer on the earth, Mother Nature! Worldwide it is used to energize water and that’s what we are mostly made of. After decades of research I decided to use the Flower of Life as the basic grid for my architecture and design as well as the Fibonacci spiral.
Wellness and feeling comfortable is a resonance of a harmonious environment, architecture and landscape design. Health benefits are the results of balance and harmony.
Following the curved lines or connecting the junction points in an architectural grid based on the Flower of Life creates harmony. An experiment with a group of 7 architects showed, that it is nearly impossible to design not harmonically based on the Flower of Life, yet another result was also to get an idea of the infinity of possible structures.
The shortest form to describe how it works is, that this architectural grid is an energy pattern, transporting its power through the users into the drawings and the drawings to the realisation on the site.
In future, do you think a “net positive impact” practice of sustainable architecture and design–i.e., adding value to an area or ecological system through the creation of a new building–can become the norm or will it continue to be the product of exceptional thinking? What obstacles must be overcome for the practice to become standard?
Ecological, holistic design based on the Flower of Life and Fibonacci with the goal of sustainability, harmony and prosperity in human behaviour is in one sentence a description for me.
The biggest obstacle is education and the education systems currently in place.
How do you practice sustainability in your own daily life?
When I look around my house, I see a windmill in the garden and a greenhouse; under the soil are the pipes for an under-floor heating system with a heat pump; and on the roof are sun collectors for warm water and the rainwater storage supports the toilets. A ventilation system reuses the energy of the warm air in the house and also the separation of garbage is organized as well as the wastewater ‘ends’ in an organic system on the land. These are but a few.
What is one bad (i.e., unsustainable) habit you’d like to eliminate from your life but are having a hard time doing so? (For me it’s eating meat!)
I love ice cream! Unsustainable and unhealthy because of the sugar.