The pressure of high impact lives defined by constantly multi-screening is taking its toll. Enduring a daily diet of information overload and experiencing unrelenting negativity in the press has left consumers taut.

Slow design was a prominent theme at Maison & Objet this September. Brands explored opportunities to create spaces for employees to breathe and find moments of relaxation amongst the noise. The trade show’s wider theme explored Comfort Zones. This begs the question as to how design can be used to create a breathing space for people to find an antidote to mental and emotional depletion.

As consequence, this intellectual concept is filtering into brand concepts and retail spaces.

Image Source Hassel Studio

London Design Week – Hassel and Arup Breathing Space

Illustrating this wider trend, Hassell and Arup created a Breathing Space at London Design Week. The space was a sanctuary for cyclists and walkers to understand the ill effects of pollution in the city. The installation was designed to be interactive and offer a moment of fresh air to anyone who walks through the space.

Image Source BMW

Mini x Breathe

Earlier this year, SO-IL and Mini Living collaborated to create a concept called Breathe. Breathe was a prototype prefab house that explored how architecture can improve the environment and adapt to modern city life and increasing urbanisation. Taking up just 50 square metres of space, the house can fit into small gaps between buildings, and is easily dismantled and transported to new places.

Breathe is described by its creators as an active ecosystem: its light-permeable skin filters and neutralises the air, and a rooftop garden has plants that further improve air quality, and features a rainwater collection system, for the kitchen and bathroom. Through the natural access to clean air, light and water, and lacking privacy (from the semi-transparent skin), the house design aims to encourage conscious consumption of resources. The house was displayed in Milan in April, for Milan Design Week 2017, but – due to its changeable skin – can be adapted to suit other environments.

Saks – Salt Rooms

Earlier this year, the department store’s flagship on Fifth Avenue was renovated. Tapping into the consumer appetite for wellness driven spaces, Saks has an entire section dedicated to exercise classes, active wear and mental rest. These include salt therapy rooms, meditation booths and golf simulators.

Lululemon – Mindfulsophy

At the start of summer, the Canadian activewear brand launched a mindfulosophy space on Fifth Avenue. The aim was to enable customers to experience yoga through a meditative space off the mat. Across the pond in London, the brand collaborated with BreatheSync for a meditation bus in Regent St. The concepts enable visitors to take a moment, pause and gain mental rest.

ICRAVE

Interior-design firm ICRAVE have worked to create relaxing spaces in typically stressful environments, like hospitals and airports. In stressful situations, people can become anxious, which ICRAVE aims to soothe with homely design, greenery and calming lighting. The space use technology to allow customers more time to relax, with ICRAVE’s airport restaurants using iPads on which guests order meals, and receive real-time notifications about their flights.

Right now, 54% of the world’s population live in cities, but by 2050, that’s expected to rise to 70%. The global population is set to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.

As the word becomes increasingly more urban, it is essential for brands and retailers to consider how their spaces can be a breathing space for a society that is over stimulated.