Biophilic design: Nature of the space

in Biophilic Design

This post is a continuation of the mini-series on biophilic design.
Previous posts on the series:

Looking at the 10 biophilic design patterns we’ve seen so far, we can notice that they all have one thing in common; they all focus on the material aspect of nature, trying to introduce or replicate textures, patterns and sensory aspects of it.

But living in contact with nature is more than that! And the last 4 patterns – grouped under the category of Nature of the Space – cover exactly the feelings that arise when we are in contact with nature.

11. Prospect

Uninterrupted view over a distance.

This patterns originates from research stating that we are naturally drawn to environments that recall African savannahs, i.e. the habitat where we evolved as a specie. Wide open spaces feel airy and give us a reassuring feeling of control.

Open floor plans are the number one way to translate this pattern in interiors.

Open plan minimal apartment, with uninterrupted view from the kitchen to the patio, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: DX Architects (opened in a new window/tab) (Photo by Tatjana Plitt (opened in a new window/tab))

When a separation is needed, a good idea is preferring see-through partitions or glass mezzanines, that also maximize the quantity of natural light in the space.

Glass partition bewteen living and dining room, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Velaria sliding door by Rimadesio (opened in a new window/tab)

Open bookshelves used like a room divider are another precious option, as they divide the space without blocking the view. Plus, they add storage, which is always a good thing, right?

Open bookshelf room divider between kitchen and dining area, great example of biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Essence Ri-flex by Veneta Cucine (opened in a new window/tab)

To maximize the available prospect, this pattern advises that views should extend from 6 metres (20 feet approx.) to 30 metres (100 feet approx.). Similarly, limiting the height of partitions to 1 metre (42 inches) is a good strategy to separate the space while keeping the view uninterrupted.
 

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12. Refuge

Sense of protection from environmental conditions and activity.

When living in nature – and in interior spaces as well – it's important to have some refuge areas. Creating a sense of safety and calm, they allow us to rest from the outdoor environment, which includes both the strength of weather conditions and the hectic pace of daily life.

Ideally, a refuge area should provide protection from three sides, and leave the fourth open to still have a view on the surroundings.

An enveloping armchair is a first simple way to add refuge in an existing space. And these high-back armchairs are getting more and more popular these days...a sign that biophilic design is getting more attention? Maybe, but for sure it's helpful to have a raising choice of pieces to choose from!

Selection of enveloping armchairs, great option to create a refuge area in a biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit (clockwise from top left): Nest Egg by Studio Stirling (opened in a new window/tab), Caristo by SP01 Design (opened in a new window/tab), Ladle large by Arflex (opened in a new window/tab), Undecided by Manerba (opened in a new window/tab)

Reading nooks, window seats and canopy beds are also ideal examples, as they create a more intimate area into a bigger space.

Reading nook in a modern living room, great option to create a refuge area in a biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Samantha Gluck Interiors (opened in a new window/tab) (Photo by Alison Bernier (opened in a new window/tab))
Window seat in a modern bedroom, great option to create a refuge area in a biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Bark Design (opened in a new window/tab) (Photo by Christopher Frederick Jones (opened in a new window/tab))
Canopy bed in a minimalist home, great option to create a refuge area in a biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Igor Sirotov (opened in a new window/tab)

If a refuge area is a place for healing, the bathroom is the one room that comes to mind!
Conceiving a bathroom like a home-spa can really make a difference. A walk-in shower – maybe even with a seat – is the perfect invite for some moments of relaxation.

Walk-in shower, great option to create a refuge area in a biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Ranquist Development (via Trendir (opened in a new window/tab))

But something as simple as natural scents and a diffused light will also create a cozy atmosphere!
As a general guideline, cozy elements, softer light and dropped ceiling heights (also achieved with fabric like in a canopy), are all great strategies to create a refuge in a biophilic design.

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13. Mystery

Partially obscured views stimulating curiosity about the unknown.

Humans are naturally drawn to exploration and find pleasure in spaces that alternate open views to areas where we can just guess what will be around the corner, just as it happens in nature.

A biophilic design will reproduce this feeling by partially hiding some areas in a space, while directing people to explore them designing leading paths that make use of lines (mainly curved), light, scents and sounds.

Curved shape corridor, great option to create a misterious path in a biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Hironaka Ogawa (opened in a new window/tab) (via Home Adore (opened in a new window/tab))

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14. Risk/Peril

Balance between a sense of risk and the feeling of protection.

When it provokes some kind of risky feeling, a space will immediately be perceived as more intriguing and stimulating. Potential risks include:

  • falling
  • getting wet
  • getting hurt
  • losing control

but they should always be paired with a reasonable feeling of protection to avoid becoming threatening.

Good examples are infinity edges, glass floors or full-height windows with very thin profiles. For the way they look, they all make us feel like we could fall, but practically they are totally safe.

Infinity pool, great option to create a sense of risk in a biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Alka Pool (opened in a new window/tab)
Glass floor, great option to create a sense of risk in a biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Metaform Architects (opened in a new window/tab)
Full-height window looking into the forest, great option to create a sense of risk in a biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Paul Kaloustian (opened in a new window/tab)

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Biophilic design is not (yet) the norm these days, but its importance becomes evident if we just look at history.
Human beings have always lived in close contact with nature and this is part of who we are. It is only in the last 250 years that metropolitan areas grew, and today the majority of the world's population lives in cities.
But this doesn't t mean that we have to forget nature!

Biophilic design is the answer to conceive urban areas, work spaces and homes in a way that can really improve our health and well-being. And this will also benefit our planet at the same time, giving nature more space to thrive.

I hope this mini-series inspired you and took a bit of the technicality away from biophilic design!
For more, you can take a look at my Biophilic Design Guide, where you'll find a recap of all 14 patterns of biophilic design + links to more in depth articles.

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