Our world is extremely globalized, urbanized, and industrialized. No matter where you look, you see concrete jungles that reach all the way to the skies. There’s glass, there’s asphalt, and there’s cement, yet little to no nature throughout.
Biophilia aims to correct this. With the use of natural elements like sunlight, water, and plants, we can inherently help people de-stress, in the hustle-bustle of daily urban life. This is exactly what biophilic design in architecture takes root from. It is hinged on two very important human needs: the desire for shelter and the need to be closer to nature.
Great biophilic design is successful if it achieves three things:
- It helps relieve stress.
- It expedites healing processes.
- It improves cognitive function.
Applying biophilia in interior design
There are quite a number of ways in which Biophilic elements be incorporated in architecture. Let’s take a look at some of them:
- By creating visual connections — One of the best ways to emulate biophilia in architecture and interior designs is by creating a visual connection between indoor and outdoor elements. A picture window that features a gorgeous view of the gardens can make a boring old bedroom or living room feel very interesting. A stunning indoor patio with perennials and a rock garden can add so much healing value to the surrounding area. Even an aquarium or just a single plant can make an ambiance feel totally refreshing.
- Nature sounds — Non-visual elements can also be incorporated in architecture in order to introduce biophilia. This may include the sound of water. The Japanese fountain called ‘Shishi-odoshi‘ is an excellent example of such an element. You can also play nature sounds on your integrated smart home system like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant.
- Patterns that exist in nature – The golden ratio is the scale on which all things in nature are designed. It’s also known as the Fibonacci sequence or the “divine proportion.” You can use the physical representation of this ratio to design your spaces in the most visually proportionate manner. This can also be considered an essential part of Biophilic design because great visual proportions (no matter how subtle) can put a human mind innately at ease.
- Presence of water — It’s a well-known fact that water has healing properties. Even just the sound of running water (like a burbling stream or a gushing river or even just the patter of rain on a rooftop) can put a mind at ease. So, incorporating a small water body (even if it’s just a battery-operated fountain) can be considered a part of Biophilic design.
The different scales of Biophilic design
Biophilic design can be applied on both a macro, meso, and micro scale as well:
- Urban level — On an urban level, Biophilic design in architecture can help improve our ecosystems exponentially. It can be incorporated by designing healing landscapes, public areas with large water bodies (like fountains), and public parks that invite passersby to sit down and take a breather from their busy lives. Singapore’s ‘The Jewel’ at the Changi Airport is a perfect example of biophilia in action. If implemented in the right way, this can be a tool that can revolutionize the way that we design cities
- Building level — There are many ways to introduce Biophilic design in a building. It could be by emulating vertical gardens on the façade, just like the One Central Park building in Sydney, Australia. It could also be by featuring a gorgeous roof garden or multiple terrace gardens like the Bosco Verticale building in Milan, Italy. In the case of a residential project, building level biophilia can be incorporated by adding a cantilevered terrace on each floor and planting a garden on these levels. Ryue Nishizawa’s residential building in Japan is a great example of this idea.
- Room level — Introducing biophilia on a toned-down room level is also something that can be done. The Fallingwater House by Frank Lloyed Wright is an excellent example of how you can do so. The ceiling height of this residence was deliberately kept low in order to maximize the impact of the natural views outside. The low ceiling also motivates the user to gravitate towards the windows.
In more contemporary settings, such as apartments and suburban homes, one can emulate Biophilic design by featuring a lush statement plant in a corner of the room. Alternately, you might also want to hang indoor creepers or fill up a vertical ladder shelf with lots of small indoor plants. Hydroponic walls are also a trendy micro-level Biophilic design element.
Other types of Biophilic design
Biophilic design is being massively embraced in all genres of architecture these days.
- Healthcare design — To date, Biophilic design is most readily being utilized in healthcare facilities. Due to its ability to expedite healing and have a positive impact on the human psyche, many hospitals, hospices, and other healthcare buildings are designed by keeping this concept at the forefront. The Royal Children’s Hospital in Australia and the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore are amazing examples.
- Education design — Research shows that there is about a 20-25% increase in test results in schools that have large scale Biophilic elements as part of their design. St. Mary’s Infant School by Jessop and Cook Architects is a great example.
- Corporate design — Research shows a 23% productivity boost and 25% better functioning memory when employees have good views. This is why incorporating Biophilic design in corporate environments has become a big thing. In fact, Big Names like Google, Autodesk, etc. have designed offices that feature oversized green walls, lots of daylight, and gorgeous views.
Getting started with Biophilia
As you can see above, there are plenty of reasons why biophilia is being applied to every day design. From interior to exterior architectural design, biophilia is a great way to help improve productivity and extend performance.
Even if you are not an architect or interior design yourself, there are plenty of ways you can get started in implementing this idea into your life. Starting with the basics such as surrounding yourself with plants or more nature-based elements can help.