Material Expression on the Ground Plane: Domestic Grounds

Presented by: Nerea Feliz

“..Beginning as highly coded, decorated, and staking the claim of civilization of the raw ground, the floor has progressively gained complexity in section (false technical floor) in inverse proportion to the simplification of its surface details.” 1

The standardization of buildings components has often led to the gradual homogenization and banalization of the floor plane.  The fact that in most cases the design of floor finishes, and interiors surfaces, has move hands from designers to manufacturers, has frequently reduced the practice of Interior Design to the selection of standardized finishes from a catalog.  It is critical that as designers, we persist inquiring about the essence of these surfaces to continue to improve their performance and their material expression.   

Domestic Grounds seeks to disclose the potential for tactile stimulation of floor design. Arriving home and taking off our shoes is not a random impulse. Walking barefoot is an ancestral human experience.  In the shoeless paradise of the domestic environment, alternating rugs, wood boards and tiles: softness and hardness, warmth and cold, the floor plane is already a celebration of tactility. If we strategically reconsider the way we apply material and form in the design of floors and floor coverings, we can radically increase the performance of these surfaces to include restorative properties and amplify the sensory experience of domestic circulation. 

In recent years there has been an emergent popular interest in the benefits of walking barefoot followed by a growing amount of literature and professional research on the topic. This study inquires how floor surfaces in the domestic environment have the potential to improve their performance based on these findings.  There are multiple therapeutic advantages to walking barefoot on uneven surfaces, such as: reduced blood pressure, stimulation of the immune and lymphatic systems and lower anxiety levels among others.2 According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), on average most sedentary individuals take from 1000-3000 steps per day.    A lot of this walking can take place in the domestic environment, given that walking barefoot on the street can be a dangerous activity on many levels, the goal of Domestic Grounds is taking full advantage of our household walking routine to invigorate our damaged feet.

This is the work of an ongoing material investigation initiated as a moderate imprinted concrete topography and resulting in a tessellated wood floor covering.  The design was first modeled digitally and later crafted into a full scale prototype of a portion of the full proposal.  Ergonomic principles informed the geometry. The abstract pattern, is composed of three different sized units ranging from ¼” to ½”, corresponding to the ranging scales of the feet's sensory capability.  Domestic Grounds advocates for a carefully designed and controlled return to our pre-shoe, barefoot walking origins.  In a very literal way, as Winston Churchill once said: "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."