Biophilic design & community: looking beyond individual wellbeing

in Biophilic Design

Community is a fundamental part of human life.
Sharing experiences, supporting each other and feeling part of a group are all essentials for a fulfilling life.

Space design – both at interior and urban scale – can do a lot to encourage positive interactions, thus ultimately helping the development of strong and resilient communities.
Let’s see how!

Community & wellbeing

The link between community and wellbeing works both ways.
Research has recognized that strong and meaningful relationships contribute to individual mental wellbeing. Simply put, people are happier, less stressed and more resilient when feeling part of a group.
Likewise, when people feel good individually they’re more prone to turn outwards, engage in meaningful conversations and create deeper bonds with others.

In our modern world, a meaningful sense of community can also come from digital interactions. But face-to-face relationships still play an important role. And this is where biophilic design comes into play, as the design of physical spaces can bring people together and encourage deeper exchanges.

Living room with an inviting seating area.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Laser Lighting (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)

Other positive effects of community

The benefits of community go beyond the individual sphere and into the health of society itself.
From the workplace, where community creates a shared sense of drive towards a common goal, encourages collaboration and mutual support.
To residential neighbourhoods, where a strong sense of belonging makes people more prone to help each other. Even more, it acts as a sort of social control that is actually able to cut crime rates!

Biophilic urban area.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Scape Studio (opened in a new window/tab)

Building community through biophilic design

The importance of community being clarified, let’s now see some biophilic design strategies that can encourage it!

Areas for exchange

Whether it’s in a home, an office or a city, areas designed for exchange can encourage connections among people.
For example, an inviting seating area at home, or a welcoming communal area in a biophilic office.
Among others, light, visual connection with nature and sensory elements can help create a space that promotes conversation.

Seating area with an inviting rounded sofa.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: VID Bureau (via Behance) (opened in a new window/tab)
Biophilic city park area.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: GLS Architecture (opened in a new window/tab) – Photo by Patrik Argast

Areas for the self

Everyone needs time to stay alone. This is essential for individual wellbeing, which in turn impacts the ability to positively interact with others.
Biophilic design recognizes this need in the notion of refuge.
Both in interiors and in urban common spaces, refuge areas should be included to give individuals a chance to recharge.

Cozy living room corner.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Sarah Ellison Studio (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)
Communal area with rounded benches creating individual refuge areas.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Foster + Partners (opened in a new window/tab)

Natural focal points

Natural focal points bring people together. Think about a fireplace and its power to aggregate! The same effect can also be achieved with water or another engaging design feature.

Cozy fireplace.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Wonderwall Studios (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)
Water feature in a city invites children to play.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Martha Schwartz Partners (via mooool) (opened in a new window/tab) – Photo by Terrence Zhang

Adaptable spaces

To develop a sense of belonging, people need to feel good in a space at all times. Which goes hand in hand with the degree of control they have over their surroundings.
Things like being able to move furniture around, adjust light and control temperature variations play a crucial role in fitting a space to its occupants – and not vice-versa. Taking care of living plants is another strategy to create a personal attachment to a space.
This aspect is particularly important in shared spaces like offices, co-living and co-working areas.

Basket with warm blankets.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Zara Home (opened in a new window/tab)
Easy-to-move ottomans & low tables in a meeting room.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Lapalma (opened in a new window/tab)

A broader sense of community

Looking at things on a wider scale, the idea of community also relates to our place in the world. If people feel part of the natural world, then they take care of it.

Creating this sense of community starts at the local level, building local identity in interiors and urban areas. Strengthening the bond with the local surroundings ignites that sense of belonging and care that can then expand to the whole natural world.
In this sense, the application of biophilic design in interiors & cities can also encourage caring and environmentally-sound behaviours – that we now need more than ever.

Outdoor seating area overlooking a lush garden.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Oblica (opened in a new window/tab) – Photo by Rory Gardiner

 
Imagine a future where people come together in resilient and supportive communities, where people live together with nature, not against it.
A dream? Maybe not so much. And for sure, urban and interior design have a huge role to play!

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