Architect Asif Khan created a series of three Forest installations in London’s Shoreditch for Mini Living as part of the London Design Festival. Inspired by the Japanese concept of ‘shinrin yoku’ (‘forest bathing’), the spaces enabled visitors to use all their senses to absorb the forest atmosphere – what they heard, what they smelled, even the feeling under their feet, and temporarily switch off from the city around them.
Arranged around the three themes of ‘connect’, ‘create’, and ‘relax,’ each one was transformed from a public space into a shared private space through the use of house plants to delineate boundaries and assert personal space.
Referencing the idea of ‘third spaces’,a place that is neither home nor work, an increasingly mobile workforce who use restaurants as meetings rooms, and smaller space living that is driving socializing out of homes, the Connect Space was a place for spontaneously or pre-planned meetings, both social and professional. A large table popped up the center of the ‘room’ and the space even hosted a series of intimate dinners.
A double wall made of corrugated plastic really insulated the space from the sounds around it, and the immersive environment full of the sights and smells of vegetation, created a little bubble that was part of and yet apart from the city.
The Relax Space was an intimate room for two, that required visitors to stoop underneath it and then lift themselves up inside, to a seated position, feet swinging below. “The Relax Space welcomes visitors with an abundance of plants and invites them to take a step back from everyday life and relax,” says a statement from Mini.
Climbing into the space required an element of playfulness and trust often absent from the busyness of the city, but once inside the visitor was rewarded with a moment of peace. Better still, visitors were encouraged to take one of the plants home with them to create a similar space at home.
Finally, the Create Space, was envisioned as a space to work. Many freelancers work from cafes and trains – Khan even admitted to firing off emails from park benches. “The Create Space represents an island of creativity and productivity,” said a statement from Mini. Notepads and pens were provided together with modular furniture that could be rearranged to suit the user.