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Barbara Crisp - Human Spaces: Life-Enhancing Designs for Healing, Working, and Living

This book is a fabulous treasure -- a trip to 32 sites around the world where human wellbeing (in a holistic sense) is promoted through the design of the space. What a concept and what a treat!

Once people shape a space, then that space helps shape the people who are exposed to it. Louis Kahn described it "Daily we absorb our surroundings..."

The Tassajara Bath House at the Zen Mountain Center in Carmel Valley, California, is such a breath of fresh air. Plain board-and-batten siding with royal blue roof shingles. It's Shaker plain and has none of the (often) pretentious starkness of so-called "Zen" minimalism. Honest architecture designed to support mindfulness in daily life. It is an example of the flat-out honesty that is presented in Human Spaces.

The meditation space at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris is the site that I keep returning to. Look on page 101 and 102 and marvel at the unique pattern on the water surfaces caused by the extremely cool engineering of the huge surface that it gently flows down. It really makes me want to be there and hear the sound. Not the thunder of a waterfall, which is what comes from many a modern public fountain -- but the tranquil ripple, repeated countless times over a huge space. The actual room for meditation is a giant cement cylinder sitting upright. It rises above the rippling water but is totally surrounded by it. It is marvelous beyond words.

This book holds design to a higher standard. The standard of supporting people in accomplishing their purpose. It may be bathing mindfully at a Zen center, or building furniture at a huge midwestern factory (for Herman Miller, no less.) From the whimsical Body Shop Home Office in Ontario, Canada to the Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla, California, it's a treat to visit the great places via the well-chosen photographs.

Rockport Publishers, Gloucester, MA, (978) 282-9590, www.rockpub.com, 1998, 1-56496-432-9, 192 pages, color photos and drawings, hardback, $50

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