New Eyes for Plants: São Paulo’s Living, Breathing Eco-building
As a huge fan of LondonReal I was absolutely delighted to be invited to write their first guest blog. I live in São Paulo but London was my home for many years, and even though I have more than enough English-language television here in Brazil, I always look forward to their weekly podcast. I think what I first thought was so amazing was that here were two guys just like me, people who I never see represented much, if at all, in the media. People who are on a spiritual path, extremely intelligent and engaging, sharing their joy in exploring our world full of mysteries, questions, excitement and silliness too.
I wanted in this blog to write about a very amazing building I had the opportunity to visit this week in São Paulo, not too far from where I live. Harmonia 57, named after the street where it is located in Vila Madalena, is a living, breathing eco-building, built by French Brazilian architects Tryptyque. Home to five clothes shops, the building’s walls are its main feature, consisting of pores containing a myriad of plants, and external pipes which are used for the capture of rainwater, and which are also used by the building to sweat, and hence water the flowers and foliage too.
The prize-winning building was built as a vision of sustainable living in the future. For someone like me, a person who is happiest roaming around the countryside as opposed to feeling the suffocation of a polluted and chaotic metropolis, the building exudes a wonderful calmness, and one feels like one is being invited in to a mini ecosystem, the mirror opposite to most of our identikit shopping centres in cities all around the world.
I for one do not use the word ecosystem so lightly, when it is almost becoming a cliche now, especially in the business world. For me, an ecosystem is a system that works as a whole, where it is not possible to analyse it by breaking it down into parts. So when you enter Harmionia 57, it is as if the building is inviting you to enter into a relationship with you, you really do get a feeling that in some way, it is a living, breathing, dynamic entity, and the important thing here is that the building as a whole plays a role in inviting us to think about our own relationships with plants, nature and our global ecosystem.
In this modern age in which we live, I see at times people lost in technology. People dedicating far more time to their emails, texts and social networking than to the people they are with, and this includes families at restaurants where communion between them seems minimal. Obviously there are only a very few of us who could ever dream at this moment in time in living in our own Harmonia 57, but what we can do is bring more plants into our living and working environments, and to really begin to develop our own relationships with these plants, as beings, not just things which look nice.
One thing I do with business executives when teaching them about complexity and sustainability is to invite them to contemplate the differences between say a simple plant and a watch. The watch is a complicated machine, whereas the plant is a dynamic, living organism, which itself can only be understood as a whole. It is quite amazing to me watching a plant grow, and when you do so systematically and consciously, it is only then that you enter into a new way of thinking about the plant, where you really see it with new eyes, your relationship with the plant moving from the head to the heart. When you do have this new sense of feeling the connection with the plant, this is when will you be motivated to perhaps enter into a new relationship with nature, a more respectful, understanding and sustainable one.
I know that for much of this article, most of you LondonRealers already have this great respect and love for nature. But when we only understand nature via the head, the intellectual mind, then of course great summits such as Rio+20 are always going to end in failure and disagreement. In our rush to worship new technology I just wonder if we have not really lost sight of the wonder of mother nature. By developing more buildings and centres like Harmonia 57, I hope that we can somehow innovate new ways of regaining a more contemplative way of living, one that of course will ultimately lead to good health, great spirits and a harmonious life with all living beings on our planet.
About Simon Ralli Robinson
Simon is a consultant and teacher of complexity theory, innovation, creativity and sustainability. He is the author of the book “The Shaman and Snow White” and the CD “Shamanic Drumming and Shacapa Meditation” and is the editor of the blog www.transitionsciousness.org