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SCNM Campus Expansion - The Inspiration Behind the Design

4/14/2014

Interview with Jain Malkin, Lead Designer

SCNM is a world that embraces the healing power of nature, focused on whole-patient wellness that blends centuries-old natural, non-toxic therapies with current advances in the study of health and human systems. The building’s design was based on this understanding and appreciation for naturopathic medicine. We searched for a way to develop a visual concept that would be an expression of this philosophy.

Our designers started with the Golden Ratio, which serves as a foundation for everything in the natural world. This is a mathematical formula that can be found in human DNA as well as the structure of much that we see in nature. An excellent example is the chambered nautilus shell which served as the inspiration for the healing center. The design of the iconic Guggenheim Museum in New York City by Frank Lloyd Wright closely follows this pattern as do many of our most highly regarded works of architecture over many centuries.

These proportions are thought to create a sense of harmony that can be experienced even without being aware of the concept. Another mathematical model much in evidence in the plant world is the Fibonacci sequence which is a series of numbers in which the next number can be found by adding together the two numbers before it. Here is an example: 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34 and so forth . Even more interesting is that taking any two successive Fibonacci numbers yields a ratio very close to the Golden Ratio which is 1.618. Example: 3 + 5 = 1.666. Much has been written about the complex interrelationships of these formulae. It can be seen in every leaf, plant, branch, number of petals on a flower, the patterning of a pine cone...things that we might think are random but in fact follow these mathematical principles.

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We don’t think about some grand organizing formula, but you’re really seeing examples of this Golden Ratio everywhere.  Countless things in nature show patterns within patterns within patterns which are known as fractals. They are never ending and self-replicating at all scales. The “pine cone” shaped green cauliflower photo is a great example of this.  

In theory, by studying the Golden Ratio, we can extract those principles and apply them to what we build; in so doing, our built environment will resonate with us as humans in a way that is balanced and harmonious with nature. Since naturopathic medicine is based heavily on plants and nutrition, it makes the most sense to look at systems in nature for inspiration.

We designed the building to mimic the structure of a plant. We metaphorically applied the roots, stems, nodes, leaves, flowers and fruit to various parts of the building in a deliberate way.

The First Floor

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The first floor mimics the foundation or roots, stem and leaves of a plant, which serves as its structural foundation. Similarly, the components of the first floor will be the structure for learning in the College. We identified different departments and functions to exemplify roots, stem and leaves. They all relate to different departments.

The roots are the regenerative healing center that includes the healing center, procedure room, and the medicinary. The stem is the concourse and lobby, which will serve as the community area and circulation to carry people through the building just as the stem of the plant carries nutrients. The leaves will be the meeting rooms, healthy cafe and teaching kitchen area.

The Second Floor

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The second floor mimics the components of the fruit, node and flowers of a plant. The fruit is the classrooms and library, which represents the fruit of knowledge.  The node area symbolizes the circulation space that serves as the passage where knowledge flows through like nutrients in a plant. Finally, the flowers is the yoga center, the wellness activities, learning lab, and study rooms.

Experiencing the New Building

The building will have high ceilings and spacious rooms with natural light flowing into 100% of the space. It is important for humans to have access to natural light to maintain hormonal biorhythms. It’s something everyone takes for granted, but once you see a building that prioritizes this, it’s a welcome change.  All the design lines and shapes are flowing and curved—there are no jagged or rectangular shapes.

Whenever you move into new building there’s always a great burst of energy with everything being new and fresh. With the building’s sustainable and pure materials, natural design, and healthy café, people should be able to experience a sense of harmony and balance.

When you walk into this building for the first time, our hope is that you will feel that you are in an environment that resonates with the naturopathic approach to care: respect for nature, for the body’s innate ability to heal, and an appreciation of the botanical world in all its dimensions from nutrition to plant-based pharmaceuticals.

"We are a strand in the web of life. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are connected."
—Chief Seattle