Why we all need Mindful Design

I just returned from a drive through Johannesburg, which is awash with purple Jacaranda trees that bloom this time of the year. It is a welcome distraction from the multitude of challenges this mega city faces, not least its ugly buildings.

Mindful Design Movement
Architecture is an amazing craft that has the potential to transform how we live and I invite anyone who wants to build better to join me and help spread the word.

My name is Thorsten Deckler. I am a Namibian / German / South African architect based in Johannesburg. I really love my job. There is nothing more thrilling than creating a building and seeing it through to completion.  

But I hear so many stories about out-of-control projects and I see beautiful neighbourhoods and landscapes compromised by poor design and building work. Rather than complain, I want to create a movement that educates people to make more mindful decisions when it comes to building.

What is Mindful Design?
Mindful design is premised on mindfulness, which means paying full attention, slowing down, and being present. As an architect, it means to listen and observe before rushing into design.
Mindful design achieves a high return on investment, be it in the levels of happiness, mental health, productivity, sales, rental incomes, lower tenant churn, or reduced maintenance costs.

Mindless vs Mindful

Mindless vs Mindful
The sketch above provides a useful example of mindful design. I drew it while visiting an upmarket lodge. The lodge had just built a new pool deck and small ablution block for guests, perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a beautiful valley. On the left is a sketch of what was built. On the right is what could have been built – one of the most memorable toilet experiences in the world!

Let’s extrapolate this further: The lodge has 20 guests on average. Each one might use the boring bathroom on the left once a day. This amount to 7,300 missed opportunities a year. On the other hand, 5 guests a month might post about the amazing surprise they got when using the non-boring bathroom. Imagine sitting down, looking out over the African bushveld, and spotting some of the last remaining rhinos on the planet! Let’s compare: 60 free endorsements vs 7,300 boring toilet experiences a year. Now imagine the compounding effect this might have on a business over several years. Both bathrooms cost the same.

There is an assumption that architects draw plans, when, in fact, we create experiences. A mindful designer takes the time to understand what drives people even if they are not aware of it at first.

The Consequences
Building is complicated and expensive with a lot that can go wrong, yet people rush into ‘drawing up plans’ without proper research. This is like a surgeon operating without a diagnosis. Doing so would be malpractice.

The Solution
In order to work in a mindful manner, I have created a structured process that guides all involved in conceptualizing and putting together a building. This process starts with a Diagnosis (Needs and Options Review) which helps establish clear project goals and identify problems and opportunities early on. It is amazing that this step is so often overlooked when people end up making decisions based on price, not value.

I would like to change this and am looking for people who feel the same way.

Let’s Talk
If you are thinking of building or renovating and would like to find out more you can book a free 30-minute call with me. During this call, I will answer any pressing questions you might have and outline the steps to take to ensure a successful project.


About the architect:

Thorsten Decker helps people create homes and residential developments that prioritize human well-being by employing the Mindful Design Approach. He uses his unique style of hand drawing, alongside digital modelling, to guide clients and project team throughout the design and construction process.

The work of 26’10 south architects can be viewed at 2610south.co.za

All drawings and diagrams in this article are by Thorsten Deckler. More drawings can be viewed on Thorsten’s Instagram page @thethinking_hand.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s