Dornbracht Conversations 9 zum Salone del Mobile: On Space and its Healing Qualities.

Iserlohn, 21 September 2021

Space and architecture influence our mental and physical well-being. On the occasion of the Salone del Mobile in Milan, the Dornbracht Conversations 9 (DC 9) explored the state of research and sustainable planning on this topic in two sessions on 7 and 8 September. Moderated by Marcus Fairs, founder and editor-in-chief of the architecture and design magazine Dezeen, architects and designers discussed conceptual approaches and architectural ideas that focus on the influence of building environments on human health.

Salone di Mobile 2021 Dornbracht Conversations
Salone di Mobile 2021 Dornbracht Conversations
Salone di Mobile 2021 Dornbracht Conversations

The Dornbracht Conversations have been taking place since 2008 and focus on current topics in the context of design, culture and architecture. The DC 9 took place in front of around 60 participants on each of two evenings in the Dornbracht showroom in Milan. “By focusing on the current needs of society and every individual, Dornbracht creates a wealth of important knowledge for its partners in architecture and design in order to improve people’s lives in the long term,” explained Stefan Gesing, CEO of Dornbracht AG & Co. KG, on the motivation of the company and the idea of the DC 9.

In his human-focused understanding of design, Oliver Heath cited the basic principles of biophilic design in the first session. It is the direct contact with nature, with water, plants and light, that stands alongside the simulation of nature as well as the spatial reaction and interaction of humans with nature. Through this direct contact, visual connections, tactile impulses, warmth, smells and the presence of water play a major role. Oliver Heath: “Blue space theory suggests that we feel more relaxed and calm in spaces that contain water. They have the ability to reduce heart rates and blood pressure helping to restore and soothe us. I love the concept of non rhythmic sensory stimuli – the gentle movement seen in ripples in the water or leaves blowing the wind – which can create a sense of soft fascination – a calming and restorative moment to relax in.”

An example of the use of plants as essential elements of a design concept was presented by Dornbracht with the Oasis-Bathroom for the introduction of the new bathroom fittings series CYO.

Salone di Mobile 2021 Dornbracht Conversations

In the second part of the session, Nina Sickenga and Kelai Diebel explained the approach of their architectural firm Moss.Amsterdam, which focuses on renewing the connection between people and nature. The company considers itself a developer of “sustainable spaces” and specialises in creating greening workplaces. Their “green oases” are created in or also on buildings. Kelai Diebel: “We strive for green buildings and bring nature to the spaces where people spend the majority of their days!” After all, people spend around 90 per cent of their lives inside buildings, and 60 percent of that in the working environment.

Against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic, Carlo Ratti, Carlo Ratti Associati, Turin, presented in the second session architectural approaches for a university environment that combines rigorous health requirements with the need and desire for collaborative learning. As a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he is concerned with how new technologies are changing our understanding of cities, their design and their life.

During different phases of the COVID pandemic, Ratti examined the university’s email traffic and found a change in the distribution. It can be seen that the use of rooms changed during the pandemic. Indoor spaces were and are avoided, outdoor spaces have gained in importance.

Real, physical spaces, however, are essential for our well-being and social life, says Carlo Ratti. Digital tools such as videoconferencing enable fixed groups to communicate with each other even in crises. In exchanges within the group, the so-called “strong ties”, i.e. strong connections, are strengthened further. Relationships between different groups, which are not used according to clear rules, are different. This informal exchange, which promotes diversity in thinking and creativity, is impaired if there is no opportunity for physical encounters. The important “weak ties”, the weak interactions, are lost without direct encounters. Ratti: “The most important aspect of healing is space. A physical space has a very important meaning as it is healing itself. We need connection.” Looking to the future, Carlo Ratti believes the roles are very clear: “Natural sciences looks at the world how it is, Design looks how the world could be.”

Summarising, moderator Marcus Fairs, founder and editor-in-chief of Dezeen, pointed to people’s sense of belonging when it comes to networks and groups. They wish to belong to a group, some with a clear physical presence, others more.

You can find further information at:

Image material is available at the following link, by entering the password: Salone2021. (©Andrea Aschedamini / Dornbracht, 2021).

Download image material

Share this entry

You may also like