Architecture Focus


Over 500+ article essays by Maria Lorena Lehman

To Design Beyond Wellness, Think Rhythmically

human potential


What does it take to design environments beyond wellness? And how does one know when a design beyond wellness is reached? For this, it is important to look beyond the environmental design discipline – to reach into realms of poetics and human potential that shed light on what it means to design for thrivability.

Yes, environmental design has a responsibility to be aesthetic, functional, and even meaningful. Yet, it must not stop there. It is important to ask: How can an architectural or urban space uplift and even empower the actualization of human potential? In other words, how can environmental design reach more deeply into the soul, to help people reach their dreams?

The latter question is important because environmental design has the potential to do even more than help people achieve comfort or a general sense of well-being. And while these are both important objectives for a design project to achieve, it is vital to realize that architecture and urban environments can do so much more.


By uncovering the seemingly simple word: rhythm, is becomes possible to dive more deeply into what a truly poetic design can become. For example, through the convergence between how poetry taps into the soul with its rhythms as fused with the way the human heart beats its rhythmic lifeforce, we can see that environmental design must go even deeper. As the beat of a poem taps into the heartbeat of life, environmental design, too, can use rhythm to create a language that helps people live more fully.

How is this possible?

Human experience is made of narrative – the journey of events, thoughts, and encounters one travels through. And all narrative is rhythmic, in some way. That is, there are patterns in the way people live, and each pattern is different, from person to person and from day to day. Thus, how can environments be designed for such narrative rhythms?


The key is to create design that responds to the dynamics of narrative rhythm in ways that enhance that rhythm to shine more brightly, more effectively, and most beautifully. As designers, we can pull from poetry to understand how it uses language to evoke greater living. And as designers, we can push environmental design to innovate how architectural or urban language evokes greater living.

The key to all of the above lies in rhythm. Thus, as a designer you may ask:

  • What are the rhythms in how a person or group of people live?
  • How can a building’s narrative tune to the rhythm of a person or group of people?
  • How can I better understand and dissect the rhythms of occupant living?

By beginning with the latter three questions, environmental designers can see more deeply into their designs, to better understand not only the surface functionality that couples a behavior, but to design for the underlying causes and reasons for that behavior. This propels design to reach more deeply into life, into how it can better help those it serves, and into how it can more authentically harmonize with its surrounding context.

Understand rhythm, to understand the narrative of living a full life.

Image Credit © Admiral_Lebioda | Pixabay

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