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October 31, 2007

Where to find materials

Thomas Register is an amazing resource.

Now online, Thomas's Registry is described as, "the most comprehensive resource for industrial information, products, services, CAD drawings, and more… "

Art of Living This is a link to The Art of Living Club at the University of Minnesota. The Art of Living foundation teaching stress reduction and trauma relief workshops internationally and constitutes one of the largest non-profil organization in the world. I have been a member of this organization for five years and participated in many workshops and classes. It was once said by the founder of the organization that stress is the difference between what you intend to do and what you have energy to accomplish.

This is their national website:

This is their research on youth and stress


control and hard times

Entered into a conversation about stress with a fellow grad student the other day. I suggested that control seemed to be a big part of stress for students. For example, when multiple classes have similar deadlines a students stresses that there is nothing that can be done to change the situation. Just the knowledge that a teacher may be willing to adapt or change takes a lot of stress off. My fellow student agreed. She added to the conversation that she felt that after going through some really hard times, it was much easier to handle stress. It seemed simply knowing she had survived difficulty made the present trials seems manageable.


Landscaping Glass


These are links to the two companies that send us samples of their landscaping glass. There is a materials calculator here: which suggests that to cover a 10ft by 10ft square with one inch of glass would take about 700lbs. Prices per pound seem to range from $1.30 to $6.00 depending on amount of tumbling.

The glass seems to be visually tempting and certainly lends to the feeling of being in an space outside of the everyday. It appears to be perfectly safe and not too messy. There were concerns mentioned about the sound created by walking on the glass might very grating. Also the price is a concern. There possibility of mixing rocks and glass was also suggested.

October 11, 2007


post seating element ideas

chair-like rather than couch or bench-like
body oriented
not of an era
not upholstered

October 8, 2007


When I encountered Softwall by molo design during one of my web meanderings browsing for new materials, I was immediately inspired by the lightness of it's architecture - luminous, mobile, with an economy of form and substance.


We are considering the white paper softwall for our first installation in Nolte. We plan to use this to re-shape the space.

Project Team


Henry Emmons, M.D.
Adjunct Faculty, Center for Spirituality and Healing, Academic Health Center

Rebecca Krinke
Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, College of Design

Diane Willow
Assistant Professor of Time & Interactivity, Department of Art, College of Liberal Arts

Graduate Research Assistants:

Travis Freeman
Shane Peterson
Elizabeth Pezella

Undergraduate Research Assistant:

Ben Faga


Proposal to the Institute for Advanced Study: Symposium Award on “Time?
Download file

The Present Moment Project
Creating a Contemplative Environment for Stress Reduction on Campus

Henry Emmons, M.D.
Adjunct Faculty, Center for Spirituality and Healing, Academic Health Center
Rebecca Krinke
Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, College of Design
Diane Willow
Assistant Professor of Time & Interactivity, Department of Art, College of Liberal Arts

Time Sickness and Stress
The physician Larry Dossey has described our contemporary condition in America and throughout much of the world, as “time sick?, meaning we are obsessed with time - primarily with the feeling that there is a lack of time - hence we must do everything faster. Our ability to enjoy the present moment is lost as we rush through our day worried about past and future events. Stress results and impacts health: 75 to 90 percent of visits to primary care physicians in America are stress related, and stress is being increasingly felt by students and children as young as five years old.

Premise of the Present Moment Project
If contemporary life is generally equated with a stressful life, then restoration from stress is a necessity. Workloads in corporate and campus life are high, and the physical environments of offices and classrooms are often generic at best, and frequently dismal. The student study lounge at Nolte Hall is an example of an uninspiring space, yet people use it because they need quiet places for study and recharging. And while Nolte Hall is also the home of the Institute for Advanced Study - nothing in its physical environment signals the intentions of the Institute - therefore we propose it as an appropriate setting for the Present Moment Project: exploratory investigations in the creation of a contemplative environment for stress reduction on campus.

Contemplation and Nature: Vehicles for Stress Reduction
The beneficial effects for the body through meditation or contemplation (defined as focused attention on the present moment) have been well documented by research and are exemplified by “relaxation and slowed metabolism...improved concentration and empathy…an overall improvement in health, and more effective performance from sports and academic test-taking to creativity.?

The research of environmental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, Roger S. Ulrich and others, has indicated that contact with nature, especially vegetation has a beneficial effect on physical and psychological health. Ulrich’s studies have tested direct contact with nature, nature videos and photos of nature – and they all have produced faster and greater recovery from stress as shown by lower blood pressure, less muscle tension, and greater reduction in anger and increased feeling of well being.

Design of the Present Moment Project’s Contemplative Environment
Our intention is to initiate a series of investigations and ephemeral transformations of a portion of the Nolte Study Lounge in order to facilitate our understanding of how to create an effective contemplative environment. The lounge will not become a room where meditation or contemplative techniques are taught through classes - instead a portion of the lounge will be redesigned with the goal of the space itself being able to begin the process of inducing a contemplative response in the visitor. There is no single definition of a “contemplative environment?, but we are defining it as one that assists the focus on the present moment - quieting the mind and facilitating a developmental process where the individual has more choice over their thoughts.

Within this contemplative environment we further propose to develop a simple yet poetic biofeedback interface - to offer the benefits that are made accessible through traditional biofeedback - but in an aesthetic and sensual way. Our intention is to alter a biofeedback interface such as a fingertip monitor that records heart rate, and re-imagine the display modality as an aesthetic pattern of image, kinesthetic movement, or sound. Through this poetic feedback experience, the individual can discover that they can slow their heart rate and can be actively involved in their own stress reduction. Engaging with this biofeedback interface would be completely up to the individual, similar to if one is at the U of MN Recreation Center you have the choice of using hand sensors on workout equipment to see your heart rate. We will evaluate ways of providing support and information to individuals in the Nolte Lounge interested in engaging the biofeedback interface.

Our design of the contemplative environment will be informed by the following strategies:
• Contact with nature: This may include - natural materials or phenomena, visual projections and/or sounds of nature.

• “Being away?: This is one of the key attributes of a restorative experience as posited by the Kaplans: being away can refer to a sense of physical separation from your everyday world or a sense of being removed from your everyday activities.

• Reductive design: The reductive palette of many contemplative spaces suggests the validity of “overload? and “arousal? theories that posit that human perceptual systems can become overloaded and stressed in places that have a great deal of complexity.

• Visual central focus: Contemplating a distinctive visual focus helps to arrest attention and assist the focus on the present moment.

We are proposing that this contemplative environment will be a “overlay? on the existing Nolte Study Lounge – for example, something may be a suspended in front of the walls, a new type of surface element may be added over the top of the existing floor. We may add lighting, sculptural object(s), new seating elements. The biofeedback interface may be integrated into the seating, in a pillow-like object, or into something wearable, like a glove or shawl.

We are planning that this initial phase of the Present Moment Project will result in a temporary installation, probably one-two months in duration. During this one-two month period, we may test more than one iteration of ideas – those that we bring and those that may emerge as we involve visitor/participants of IAS/Nolte in the process. We view this proposal as setting the stage for a year two of the Present Moment Project: a more long-term installation and testing of the Project, at Nolte or elsewhere.

To begin the process of assessing the effectiveness of our contemplative environment, we will evaluate and select from the following methodologies: survey people in Nolte Lounge via questionnaire/interview before the contemplative environment is added and after it is installed; employ a feedback book onsite and/or a feedback blog; assess the effectiveness of the biofeedback interface through observation/survey.

Significance of the Project
Our goal with the Present Moment Project is to weave a contemplative environment into a campus setting, making it part of daily life. As contemplative environments are generally regarded as separate rarified realms (such as meditation centers or stress reduction clinics), the Project has the potential to be an important prototype of a contemplative environment that is publicly accessible and socially engaged. We also plan that our biofeedback interface will be something not seen before. We are interested in shifting biofeedback’s orientation from a purely medical, clinical context to a visual, spatial context. The participant will gain physiological information and insight, but in a way that is not distancing as through a medical device (the “other?) but in a way that feels integral to the person and environment. Our creative research recontextualizes ideas of contemplative space and biofeedback as it draws upon medicine, biotechnology, contemplative gardens, new media art, new materials research, and the phenomenology of interior architectural spaces and the human body. As stress is epidemic in our country, new strategies for stress reduction; especially ones that can be inserted effectively into our daily lives have immense possibility for reducing stress and promoting wellness.