Our species is inherently inclined towards nature, as we have evolved in that manner. Biophilia looks at the evolution of biophilic design in architecture and interior design, shaping our environment to be as close to nature as we were meant to be. Researchers have identified 14 patterns that define the biophilic design to articulate this relationship between nature and humans.

Nature in the space patterns

1. Visual connection with nature — Naturally occurring materials and phenomena such as water, rocks, earth, vegetation, fossils, animals, and insects have a lasting impact on one’s mind. The visual access and connection to these bring about psychological changes in the human body.

natural scenery

2. Non-visual connection with nature — Non-visual connections can be auditory, haptic, olfactory, or gustatory stimuli. Koi ponds are age-old design ideas that have been incorporated into spaces. The green wall, on the other hand, is an emerging design technique that allows nature into any kind of space.

3. Non-rhythmic sensory stimuli — With good Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli, space can make one feel like they are witnessing something unique, fresh, interesting, and energizing. For example, the clouds’ movement and babbling of water, chirping birds, and walking in a flower garden. Research shows that they have there is an effect on the spatial environment to improving our vision. Highly manicured gardens also create a certain calming quality of the space.

airflow window

4. Thermal & airflow variability — Natural ventilation versus forced ventilation in a space creates a different micro-climate. In a design sense, the size and the placement of the openings play a major role in how space is experienced. Air also carries thermal energy absorbed from sunlight, resulting in variable work comfort and productivity. Passive house design is a great biophilic design example.

5. Presence of water — Naturally flowing streams, rivers, oceans, ponds, and rainfall improves concentration, reduces stress, and gives a sense of tranquillity.

blue ocean water during daytime

6. Dynamic & diffuse light — A sense of calm can be achieved by playing with light in a space. Dynamism and diffused lighting can be applied in design by introducing openings of various shapes and sizes. Research shows that children perform better in day-lighted classrooms with views. 

7. Connection with natural systems — Climate, weather patterns, hydrology, geology, and animal behavior are natural system patterns that share an evident relationship with biophilic patterns. In landscape architecture, integrating bioswales, natural drains, rain gardens is a key factor for providing cost-effective solutions in projects.

Nature of the space patterns

8. Prospect — The nature of unobstructed planning gives a sense of prospect. Space gives a feel-good factor when it imparts a sense of safety and control. For example, the central courtyard of Salk institute allows a barrier-free view of the skies and the Pacific Ocean. 

Buildings of Wonder - Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Image via Salk Institute

9. Refuge — A well-done refuge space feels separate and distinct from its nearby environment; its characteristic can feel reflective, welcoming, and safe, without feeling unnecessarily disconnected.

10. Mystery — Creating a sense of anticipation in a space with the help of various design features, be it in the indoor or outdoor spaces, gives an edge to the design. The mystery pattern is largely based on the idea that people have two basic needs in environments: to understand and to explore, and that these basic needs’ should occur “from one’s current position” to engender a sense of mystery.

biophilic design

11. Risk/Peril — With a good Risk/Peril setting, space can feel thrilling, and with an implied threat, it can also be a little playful and perverse. One feels the sense of adventure and danger, making it irresistible to explore.

Natural Analogue patterns

12. Biomorphic Forms & Patterns — This refers to the natural occurrences of contours and landforms on our earth. Some patterns make us feel comfortable; they captivate us. Some even make us contemplative and even absorptive. Specifically to design and architecture and interior spaces, such patterns are adopted to detail fabrics, window trims, installations, furniture details, and other such decor ideas. The important principle to observe here is that all patterns occur naturally or are artificial; they follow a definite pattern. The Fibonacci series and golden ratio have proved this, being seen everywhere in nature.

golden ratio in nature

13. Material connection with nature — Familiar materials and textures, fractals create a visual and tactile connection with nature. Natural materials can be practical or ornamental and are usually processed or altered from their natural state.

14. Complexity & order — Research has proved that fractal geometries in nature and those in art and architecture are closely related. These patterns convey a sense of complexity which can be translated into design ideas. 

fractal geometry in nature

What this all means

These patterns describe a series of tools that can be followed during design. More than we think, there is a lot of benefits that come from biophilia, tying together human engagement with natural space and mental well-being.

“……..describe a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describe the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.”  

Human nature has helped evolve the biophilic design to bring about a balanced lifestyle and improved productivity. By going back to nature and understanding the 14 patterns of biophilic design, we can improve our lives for the better.

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