Nurturing your Pet With Nature

August 14, 2015

Richard M. Rauh, AIA, NCARB
rauhaus freedenfeld & associates


Over the course of time, technology has significantly improved natural daylighting systems such as: clerestory windows, curtain walls, storefront window walls and skylights.  These systems are becoming more popular as applied to better health, energy savings, and spatial ambiance.

If we want veterinary medicine to rise to a higher level of appreciation and service we are also obligated to improve upon its architecture. This only becomes possible if we remove the closed character from the rooms in which we work. We can do this by introducing biophilic architecture.

To quote John Lennon, “We all shine on – Like the moon, and the stars, and the sun.”

As we develop lighting and other building technologies, we have gained greater control of our immediate environment. However, in many cases, we have also become more isolated from the natural environment by relying on artificial lighting. Therefore, natural lighting should be used as much as possible for its biophilic attributes, superior quality, and its energy-saving potential.

When light hits the retina, electrical impulses are generated and carried along the optic nerve to the brain, where these impulses are converted into visual information. As a result, the brain is under constant stress from harsh lighting conditions and the environment LED & Fluorescent lighting can have dramatic effects on the brain to process visual information for both people and animals alike.

Fluorescent lights are gas filled tubes. The gas gets excited by electric pulses and emits light. The item responsible for lighting the gas is called a ballast. Ballasts send pulses of electricity which excites the gas. The rate of these pulses (or flicker) is quite high, high enough that you don’t see it with your naked eye. However, your optic nerve does. Some people have sensitivity to this flicker. Those who are affected by flicker often suffer from headaches, migraines, eye strain and eye discomfort. The use of natural light serves to offset the flicker under daytime use.


Clerestory windows provide light without distractions of an unsightly view or compromising privacy since they are installed above eye level. During daytime operations, clerestory windows help to promote the minimal use of electricity by using natural light. High clerestory windows, used in concert with storefront windows create a sense of openness and ambiance, perceptually allowing the outdoors to become part of the interior space to be enjoyed.

With the proper type of glazing, storefront windows are an excellent way of delivering biophilia to both boarding and ward areas in a hospital. Not only is it an excellent way to deliver vitamin D to cats, it also serves as a means of a sensory stimulus.


We live in a world of color. Used as a powerful design tool, color can help express a range of emotions. It can instill a sense of calmness, well-being, melancholy or happiness. Color can be employed to pronounce a particular point of view or to explore a particular mood or feeling.


People ask me, “Where on earth do you come up with those colors in your designs?”  I reply that they have answered their own question for I simply look at nature’s offerings with each individual client to select the color that is right for them.

Nature already provides us with wonderful fractal biophilic color palettes. We simply extract these colors from nature and apply it to our uses. You can never miss finding complementary colors because nature essentially provides you with all of your color palette answers. For me, there is no better tool than looking at nature to arrive upon a color solution for any given project.

Textures or patterns are used architecturally to convey either the way a three-dimensional work actually feels when touched, or the visual “feel” of a surface in two-dimension. From sea shells on the beach, to the spiral galaxies beyond, and to the food we eat – color and patterns of nature are all around us.

Fractals patterns in nature are formed from chaotic equations containing repeating patterns of complexity and magnitude. Fractals are a natural wonder – iterative and recursive and seemingly infinite. The fern is one of many flora that are fractal; it’s an especially good example. The colors & patterns found in rock formations, plants, foliage and in animals are fractal in nature.

From the fractals found in nature, artists have created some incredible renderings and textile patterns as well. Fractal inspired textiles for seating are available on the market and come in a wide variety of colors, textures, and patterns. These examples shown are excellent high performance fabric choices that have extreme stain, tear, moisture, and microbial resistance. This type of fabric is sensational for veterinary hospital seating. This fabric utilizes a special weaving process that is impervious to urine.  Nothing gets through to the cushion, nothing.

The use of various wood grains, patterns and warm earth-tone colors help in creating a sense of biophilic friendliness, and comfort. Life’s sculptures also enhance and provide a sense of identity, place, charm, and sophistication. Using a palette of natural textures, colors, patterns, and images of nature helps serve as a biophilic reminder. The world contains an infinite variety of natural colors & patterns.

Think about the qualities of architecture that inspire you. What is it that makes you feel uplifted when you walk into a space? What causes that sense of awe? It is nature’s sunlight at its best. We are all drawn to it.  Just like being drawn to a window when we walk into a space. It is biophilic.

I’ll let you in on a little architectural trade secret; It is not the architecture that inspires us. It is almost always the light that inspires us. Just walk into a space. You’ll look up at the skylights. And, then notice the patterns and reflections of light on the walls and the floors. And, if the sun briefly passes behind a cloud, then reappears it can take your breath away. For me, there is something beautiful about natural light washing a wall or dancing across a tiled floor. The true art and meaning of architecture is in essence the ability to work “with” light.


Textures, patterns, spatial articulation such as you see here in this exam room pod vestibule is used intentionally to elicit the client’s sensory experiences. Most simply put, the use of inviting and interesting textures and patterns becomes more of a conduit for interaction between the clients and the staff. Utilizing differentiating textures and patterns combined with fun lighting can all create meaningful effects, giving your hospital a true sense of place. The use of reed glass also creates interesting patterns of light and fractal imagery.

The most common misconception people have about relationship between architecture and nature is that architecture somehow needs to be submissive to nature.  (i.e. that a building should completely blend in with its surrounding natural environment) In my opinion, a structure should express respect for nature yet be allowed to stand in subtle contrast to its natural setting.

Architecture by itself is a sensory experience. Its design should embrace colors, textures, and patterns that complement its surrounding environment, yet both its exterior form as well as interiors should provide both fun and discovery for its inhabitants. Nature has always been, and always will be an important inspiration to architects. Architecture should express a respect for nature. Using nature’s patterns and textures in harmony with light and space achieves balance and warmth.


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