I have lived the majority of my adult life in urban settings. I escaped from the suburbs as soon as possible as a young woman. I instinctively felt like a fish-out-of-water in the suburban environment. I needed to be in a place that was more human, where I had the ability to walk to where I wanted to go and to feel the earth under my feet, even if it was covered in asphalt. I lived a long time in New York City and London. When asked how I could stand it, I explained that it felt like a vertical village to me.
I consider the city a vertical village

I consider cities vertical villages

A few years back a colleague of mine was awarded a fantastic project for a college dorm.  Knowing my personal mission to bring back the human-scale in the urban setting, he brought me on board as the holistic interior designer for the project. The project was for a new dormitory on a college campus that was situated in the center of a small New Jersey town called Bloomfield. Bloomfield had felt the negative effects of losing its pedestrian feeling in its city center. The town wanted to use the power of design and architecture to help revitalize the city’s center again. One of the goals of the project was to help recreate the human scale of the town with this new dormitory building and I was the ideal interior designer to help fulfill this mission.
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A city that lost its center

The first step required a design VISION that would fulfill the goal to revitalize the city center, as well as provide a functional dormitory in a sustainable manner.
The URBAN TRANSFORMATION concept was conceived with the idea that the Bloomfield College Residence Hall is situated in an urban environment and the building was to be a vehicle for transforming both the physical campus and the resident occupants. Understanding the powerful effects of positive design, the concept was developed on the both the physical as well as the invisible levels for greater impact.
The urban environment is generally one of vertical or upward growth, and this was expressed in both the exterior and interior designs with the use of vertical elements and vertical aesthetics. The goal for higher education is also upward growth, so the models are interrelated and needed to be reflected on the physical level so to impact the invisible and interior level as well.
Vertical design elements - like these lights create a sense of upward movement

Vertical design elements, such as these lights create a sense of upward movement

The building achieved the U.S. Green Building Council LEED Silver Rating. The URBAN TRANSFORMATION interior scheme was a tool for visually linking the finishes to a holistically green and sustainable building. Each floor has a color and material theme based on the balance of the five elements of nature, incorporating the ancient philosophy of Feng Shui into the interior design.
The dorm was awarded the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification

The dorm was awarded the LEED Silver certification

It was the intention of the design team that this building will allow the students to achieve a more environmentally conscious life, through the understanding of living in harmony with their residence. This, we hope, will lead them to live in greater harmony with the overall environment – both built and natural. The vision is for “green living” to be the new norm.
The WOOD floor uses the color green to reflect the wood element

The WOOD floor uses the color green to reflect the wood element

The design has all of the five elements incorporated into the buildings plan. They are expressed as:
  • FIRE Power and Leadership, exterior
  • EARTH Grounding and Harmony, exterior
  • WATER Intelligence and Focus, 2nd floor
  • WOOD Growth and Expansion, 3rd floor
  • METAL Clarity and Vision, 4th floor
  • ALL Unity and Congruence, lobby
The lobby includes all the elements in the design with colors, materials and shapes

The lobby includes all the elements in the design with colors, materials and shapes: representing UNITY

Building features included:
  • Recycled content materials
  • Energy efficient building envelope
  • High performance building systems design
  • Smoke free environment
  • Recycling program
  • Natural daylight and views
  • Low E glass
  • Low toxic paints and adhesives
  • Energy efficient lighting and appliances
  • Low flow water fixtures
  • FSC approved furniture
  • High performance materials for durability
Bloomfield College new dorm- a great success!

Bloomfield College new dorm- a great success!

When I recently left NYC it was because I felt this sense of a vertical village had been crushed by developer greed and I needed to seek a more human scale urban environment again. First hand I recognized that our environments have a deep lasting effect on us – one that can be either positive or negative.
As a result of my own life experiences plus my tenure as a designer, I have concluded that it is our personal responsibility to manage the affects our environments have on us.   It is my MISSION to guide others to understanding this inescapable truth and to learn how to use the power of design for positive and lasting effects in their spaces and their lives.
I believe that Design and Architecture can make a positive difference in our world. You only need to have a VISION of what you want, and then go about to create it. My books, videos, and workshops are some of the ways I share my passion to help you learn how to harness the energy of your spaces in positive and lasting ways.
Check out video tours of the Bloomfield College dorm on each floor where I describe the design intention in more detail. Click here:
You Tube Channel for S. Lee Wright
Plus for my videos where I share design tips, ideas and helpful information, check out our website videos. Click here:  Sleewright.com