Synthesis and Next Steps

Whenever I give a lecture about the importance of daylight and views in our buildings, I can always count on at least one person, usually standing in the back of the room, asking the question: "But can’t we just simulate that? What if there was a webcam that continuously took a video from the roof of the building which um displayed on screens around the building? Wouldn’t that be good enough ?”

Peter Kahn attempted to answer that question with his experiments. He found that people preferred an office with a webcam simulated window when the only alternative was an interior windowless office. But he also found that none of the measurable physiological and cognitive benefits of real windows transferred to the webcam version. Thus, my answer is generally: “Something is probably better than nothing, but why should we have to settle for technological substitutions for real life?”

Solutions that will endure for generations are surely more valuable than those that may last only until the next technology upgrade. And direct information about the world in real time is far superior to a simulation that attempts to be “good enough,” determined by someone else’s priorities. Certainly, I tend to give primacy to architectural solutions because I am an architect, and my profession is about making physical places that are supportive of human life and activities. I acknowledge that there are many solutions possible for every problem, and that ‘technological nature’ and ‘biophilic illusions’ may sometimes serve a useful function. However, I also think there is an important societal choice to be made, of where to invest our creative energy in developing solutions that will benefit generations to come.

Thus, I want to advocate for a pervasive effort to design cities and buildings, and retrofit all existing places, to include daylight and view as an essential ingredient of people’s daily lives. Who can make this happen? How can we, as a society, make this a priority and sustain the effort long enough to have a permanent impact? And, ultimately, can we fully grasp all the intersecting ways that daylight and views contribute to the well-being and delight of occupants? This chapter takes on those questions.

 
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