Biophilic design: the most natural path towards well-being

in Biophilic Design

We’re hearing much talk these days about sustainable design and reducing our impact on nature, but this is really just one side of the human-nature relationship, the other side being biophilic design. If sustainable design focuses on the impact we have on nature, biophilic design considers the effects of nature on us.

It has been extensively proven that nature has a good impact on us in terms of mood, health, productivity and ultimately well-being. And it is a fact that most of us live something around 90% of our time inside a building.
From which, the importance of creating a deeper connection with nature in our indoor spaces.

Biophilic design does exactly that, approaching the design of buildings and interiors with the aim of increasing our contact with the natural world.

Vertical garden in Milan, an example of biophilic design by Stefano Boeri Architetti.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Vertical Garden by Stefano Boeri Architetti. Credit: DforDesign

But how does biophilic design work?
The idea behind this complex term is really quite straightforward. Humans have always been relating to nature over the ages and have relied on it to survive. Today, many of us live in cities, that often are the furthest opposite of nature. And the effects on our well-being are not good at all. Reduced productivity, stress, sadness can all be imputed (at least partially) to moving too far away from nature.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful to restore a deep and healthy connection with nature while keeping on living our modern lives? This is the objective of biophilic design: bringing nature inside modern buildings to increase our quality of life.

Waterfall shower with full height plants behind.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Exto London (opened in a new window/tab)

Several studies have narrowed down 14 elements of nature that mostly impact our well-being. In the jargon of biophilic design, they’re called patterns, and are divided in 3 categories:

Patterns can inspire every aspect of a design, from the structural elements of the building itself, to the selection of materials, lighting and accessories in the interior.When all of these elements are connected in the design, the resulting space will be pleasant, healthy and productive.

Slack European Office, which applies biophilic design using wood partitions and plants.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: ODOS Architects (opened in a new window/tab) (via Dezeen (opened in a new window/tab))

And there are plenty of examples out there of schools where learning performances improved, hospitals where healing was facilitated and offices where productivity increased thanks to a better and deeper contact with nature.

View of a nursery biophilic design.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Hibinosekkei + Youji no Shiro (opened in a new window/tab) (via Archdaily (opened in a new window/tab))

Biophilic design is not yet the norm in building and interior design, but it’s becoming more and more widespread. The key is not seeing it as the new trend, but really acknowledging how much our mental and physical well-being depends on a constant and engaging relationship with the world around us.

Stephen Kellert*** gave a very hopeful view on this subject, stating that

"[…] environmental degradation and alienation from nature are not inevitable consequences of modern life but rather failures and how we have deliberately chosen to design our buildings and our cities. We designed ourselves into this predicament and we can design ourselves out of it with the help of biophilic design."
Cit. Stephen Kellert

*** Stephen Kellert has been Professor Emeritus at Yale University in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, author of several books and has actively engaged in the topic of biophilia (opened in a new window/tab).



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