Joel Van Dyke, AIA
Managing Director DesignThinkers Group U.S.A

Joel’s educational background in business and architecture have positioned him to lead Freeman|Major|Van Dyke, an architecture and strategic design firm based in Greenville, South Carolina. As an architect, Joel focuses on the alignment of facility design and organizational brand, while bringing innovation to both. Joel has an entrepreneur’s passion for new ideas and fostering collaboration.

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Homes are tucked into the trees to preserve as much native plant materials as possible in Water Color, Florida.


Integrating Architecture and Nature

Article by Joel Van Dyke, managing partner DesignThinkers Group U.S.A.
As a child, I had the privilege of engaging nature in ways that have impacted the rest of my life. I grew up with a grandmother who loved to grow things. I remember at a young age picking fruits and vegetables that seemed to grow effortlessly in her Florida garden. Trips to my great aunt’s mountain house were a rich source of memories; wading in creeks, walking in the woods, driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and creating scrapbooks of paraffin-dipped fall leaves.

As an adult I spend as much time as I can in my kayak on a crystal clear lake nearby or hiking mountain trails. This love of nature has also impacted the way that I see cities and buildings. Not as objects to be viewed on their own, but interacting with outdoor space and nature. It is often the spaces between buildings that fascinate me the most and the plants that find unlikely places to grow and soften the edges as buildings age.

We are a part of nature, but if we feel cut off from the natural environment, negative impacts occur. Views of nature and the sounds of nature naturally relax us and lower our blood pressure. Interacting with pets has proven to have positive health benefits. As we design the environment in which we live, work, and play, we ignore these facts at our own peril.

The biophilic design movement is about connecting humans with nature. This connection can be facilitated by incorporating natural elements into a building- the most basic of which is natural light- or in a representational fashion such as large photos of the natural environment. Buildings should be integrated into the environment in a way that creates outdoor spaces from small courtyards to large urban parks. Access to some part of nature should never be more than a short walk away.

Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life