Biophilic design: nature in the space

in Biophilic Design

Continuing our discovery of biophilic design, today we’ll dive into the first of the 3 categories of patterns: Nature in the space.

Nature in the space refers – not surprisingly – to the use of natural elements like:

  • Natural light
  • Outside view
  • Natural ventilation
  • Plants and greenery
  • Water

in the design of buildings and interiors.

In particular, the Nature in the space category contains 7 patterns.

1. Visual Connection with Nature

View of natural elements from within the interior.

Research has proved the benefits of natural views in terms of reduced stress and improved mood, concentration and recovery rates.
Interestingly enough though:
 

"Visual access to biodiversity is reportedly more beneficial to our psychological health than access to land area (i.e., quantity of land)."
(Fuller, Irvine, Devine-Wright et al., 2007)

 
This is a great finding, especially if we think of dense urban areas, where increasing the quantity of green land would not be an easy task. A substantial amount of visible biodiversity is then the point to strive for in a biophilic design.

Big windows or fully glazed walls are an amazing way to open the view to the outdoors and let plenty of natural light in.

Full-height window in a minimalist living room, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Kråkvik & D’Orazio (Photo: Jonas Bjerre Poulsen) (opened in a new window/tab)
Angular bay window in a modern living room, a great biophilic design example.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Meier Architekten (opened in a new window/tab)

Adding greenery indoors is another strategy.
Nevertheless, this means more than having few small potted plants here and there (although they can already bring life to the space and even clean the air in some cases).
In the scope of biophilic design, greenery has to be a cohesive element in the space, like a garden wall design or diverse and substantial plants.

Garden wall design feature in a minimalist dining area, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Muuto (opened in a new window/tab)

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Planter in a corridor with several different plants, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Articulture (opened in a new window/tab)

2. Non-Visual Connection with Nature

Interactions with nature through other senses: sound, touch, smell and taste.

This is a very interesting point, as other senses (except from sights) are often undervalued in the design of interiors.

What sounds are characteristic in your home? And does it have a defined smell?
These are questions we often cannot reply to, because those senses were not taken into account in the design of the space.

Here are some ways to include the other 4 senses in a biophilic design:

Introducing natural sounds, both recorded or created naturally.
This can be as simple as playing some natural sounds videos from Youtube. For instance, the channel of Johnnie Lawson is full of options.

Natural view with trees and a river flowing.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Johnnie Lawson (via Youtube) (opened in a new window/tab)

Using a variety of touchable natural materials like plants, wood, stone…

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Birch bark wall artwork, a great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Freund (opened in a new window/tab)
Stone bathroom sink on a wood vanity, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Obumex (opened in a new window/tab)

Introducing natural scents, preferably from flowers or plants.

Hanging herb garden, great way to bring in a natural scent in a biophilic space.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Purple ID (opened in a new window/tab)

Allowing natural ventilation and preferring seamless connection between indoor and outdoor.

Indoor outdoor living room, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Faulkner Architects (opened in a new window/tab) (via Deavita (opened in a new window/tab))

3. Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli

Unpredictable and non-repetitive movements that happen in nature like birds chirping or leaves moving in a breeze.

These features are part of every natural environment and will come as a bi-product of a view to living outdoor nature. Plants will attract birds, insects and butterflies and the wind will move grass and branches.

These movements are highly regenerating for our mind, especially for their irregular and non-repetitive nature, and always catch our attention.
Plus, applying this biophilic pattern in a design is a sure way to make the space interesting, stimulating and slightly different at all times.

Modern kitchen with view to the outdoors, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Espresso Design (opened in a new window/tab)

4. Thermal & Airflow Variability

Variability in air temperature and flow, changes in relative humidity and varying surface temperatures.

Introducing temperature and air flow variations has the power to make an indoor space invigorating and alive, like a natural outdoor environment would be.
Access to natural light and ventilation will automatically make it happen, allowing the outdoor breeze to come in and creating sunny (warmer) and shaded (cooler) spots.

Minimalist bedroom with big window, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Studio Esteta (opened in a new window/tab)

Another way to play with this pattern is through the use of materials in the space. For instance, wood is naturally warm whereas stone is cold. Mixing them in a design can introduce some interesting temperature variability among surfaces.

Minimalist kitchen with wood cabinets and stone countertops, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Studio Esteta (opened in a new window/tab)

5. Presence of Water

Water as a design feature.

Water is a powerful tool in biophilic design as it affects different senses simultaneously.
Naturally-moving water (like a waterfall or fountain) is preferable as it can be seen, heard and/or touched. But the movement should not be too violent either, as this could end up feeling uncomfortable and intimidating.

Even if it may not seem so, a wall fountain is not too hard to install, and would fit even in a smaller balcony. Just remind to incorporate a system of continuous water recirculation to prevent water waste!

Wall water fountain, great and easy example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: CL Garden (opened in a new window/tab)

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6. Dynamic & Diffuse Light

Varying lighting intensities and light changes over time that recall the natural cycle of day and night.

In indoor spaces, this can be achieved with a layered lighting system, that includes a mix of general ambient lighting, task lighting for more detailed tasks and some accents. This will also contribute to give depth and interest to the overall space.

Minimalist kitchen design with lit shelves.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Obumex (opened in a new window/tab)

Dimmable lighting is one way to introduce variability in artificial lighting: if dimmable, the same light fixture can provide both intense and soft light according to what is needed. But we can do more than that these days! Human Centric Lighting is much easier to achieve then it was in the past, and this can really benefit our wellbeing while we are indoors!

7. Connection with Natural Systems

Awareness of seasonal and temporal changes.

The easiest way to achieve this pattern is having an outdoor view. The passing of seasons will change the outdoor scenario, creating that desirable connection with nature.

Bedroom with winter outside view, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Niseko (opened in a new window/tab) (via Interiørmagasinet (opened in a new window/tab))

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Clearly, not all of these aspects are always achievable in every interior, but they are certainly a useful and highly inspiring guideline! And for every time we can incorporate one, we will be one step closer to a beautiful and healthy design!
 

Check out the other patterns of biophilic design:

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