One of the preferred ways to introduce patterns in biophilic design is taking inspiration from fractals in nature.
But let’s start with the big question first: what are fractals???
Fractals are patterns created by repeating indefinitely one single shape in different sizes (which is why they're said to be self-repeating patterns). In practice, just think of a big branch that splits into smaller ones or the inside of a sunflower.
Examples of fractals in nature are everywhere: from leaf veins and pinecones, to tree branches, to snowflakes and shells. And that's what inspired me for the Biophilic Moodboard of this month!
The reason why fractals are so fascinating is that they are complex and simple at the same time; they give a sense of order but at the same time they mesmerize because one cannot find a beginning or an end.
BUT WHAT DO FRACTALS IN NATURE HAVE TO DO WITH INTERIOR DESIGN?
To start with, fractals are ultimately the repetition of one single shape. And repetition has always been used in interior design as a way to give order to the space and lead the eye in a certain direction.
Even more, several studies * have highlighted that the ordered complexity of fractals in nature can reduce stress. Avoiding any mathematical detail, it turns out that the proportion between the parts of a fractal is the same "used" by our eyes. Indeed, when looking at complex images, our pupils first scan the big picture and then concentrate on increasingly smaller details. And these details are not randomly smaller, but they follow – surprise surprise – a fractal ratio! It has also been observed that birds use the same technique to scan what they see below them when they're flying, and that's why their sight is so efficient!
Back to the effects of fractals...by matching the way our sight works, fractals don't strain the eyes, which in turn gives us an overall sense of relaxation.
Fractals can also be tricky though: when they are too busy (or high-dimensional, as they’re technically called), they have been shown to be overwhelming and stressful!
So – with moderation in mind – it looks like a good idea to introduce fractal patterns in interiors! And their positive effect on our wellbeing is the reason why they've been included in the natural analogues patterns of biophilic design. Let's then see some interior design examples that take inspiration from natural fractals!
FRACTALS IN NATURE
The texture of natural materials is often fractal; think about wood graining. So here is yet another good reason to choose natural materials in interiors! In particular, biophilic design suggests to keep natural materials at their original state as much as possible. In the case of wood, this means embracing the graining and – why not – making it become THE design feature!
REPRODUCING NATURAL FRACTALS
From finishes to accessories, there exist plenty of interior design products that reproduce natural textures and shapes. Wallpapers are a particularly good example, as they often reproduce the fractals we find in nature.
Artworks are also an easy way to introduce a fractal pattern and nature-inspired ones are my favourites!
And what about a lamp that reproduces natural fractals? There exist many, from very detailed to more stylized and minimal.
Fractal patterns can also be man-made out of precise geometric shapes. And these can be applied everywhere in interiors! Only caution: staying away from patterns that look too busy.
FRACTAL INTERIOR DESIGN
Let's close with a gallery of interiors that have taken inspiration from natural fractals!
- Hägerhäll, C.M., T. Laike, R. P. Taylor, M. Küller, R. Küller, & T. P. Martin (2008). Investigations of Human EEG Response to Viewing Fractal Patterns. Perception (opened in a new window/tab), 37, 1488-1494.
- Hägerhäll, C.M., T. Purcella, & R. Taylor (2004). Fractal Dimension of Landscape Silhouette Outlines as a Predictor of Landscape Preference (opened in a new window/tab). Journal of Environmental Psychology. 24, 247-255.
- Salingaros, N.A. (2012). Fractal Art and Architecture Reduce Physiological Stress (opened in a new window/tab). Journal of Biourbanism, 2 (2), 11-28.
- Taylor, R.P., (2006). Reduction of Physiological Stress Using Fractal Art and Architecture (opened in a new window/tab). Leonardo, 39 (3), 245–251.