Prospect is one of the elements of biophilic design that is sometimes perceived as intimidating for its strange name. But it really isn’t anything that difficult!
Imagine you are on a beach.
You look towards the sea and your sight gets lost in the boundless deep view, down to the horizon.
This is prospect.
Now imagine you are in a park or a rather sparse area of a forest.
If you look in front of you, you'll have trees here and there, but if you watch through the branches you’ll still be able to see in the distance.
This is also prospect.
In short words, what biophilic design calls prospect is an uninterrupted view over a distance, like the ones I’ve put together in the Biophilic Moodboard of this month…
The benefits of prospect views
Coming to the benefits on wellbeing, prospect views have been shown* to reduce stress levels and create a sense comfort and safety.
This is because being able to see far into the distance conveys a sense of control and supervision, hence safety. This is an automathic reaction of our brain, that goes back to our ancestors. They lived in wild savannahs and being able to see into the far distance made them sure there were no predators nor any other danger coming. So for them, prospect views were providing safety in the literal sense!
For us that’s not the case anymore, but our brain still responds in the same way to open uninterrupted views.
How biophilic design creates prospect in interiors
In interior design, prospect views have the ability to visually elongate a space, making it feel airy and spacious.
One of the main ways to create prospect into an interior is something that has been trending for the last few decades: open spaces.
Knocking down walls and having one big living area that includes different functions does exactly what prospect suggests: it creates the deepest possible view.
From a functional point of view though, separation might still be needed for privacy or just to divide different functional areas. The best way to provide separation without defeating prospect is using dwarf walls or some kind of see-through partition.
Smoked glass doors, shelving units that are open on both sides and perforated room dividers are all good ideas.
And room divider is also one of the uses of plants in interiors.
Designign prospect in small spaces
When large square footage is available, it will be enough to knock down a few walls to end up with a good-sized open space. But what about small spaces?
When the space indoors is not that big, it is still possible to create prospect. And that’s done using windows in the right way.
Designing the biggest possible windows stretches the view from indoors to outdoors, as far as the eye can see and this will do wonders in making the space feel larger than it actually is! Even better, if the window is full-height we might even achieve a real indoor-outdoor living space!
Creating a view into the distance by using windows also comes with further benefits.
When designing with the view in mind, the landscape becomes part of the interior, and this creates a better connection with the surrounding environment. If there’s some greenery outdoors, this will also provide a good dose of nature to look at, with all its colours, textures, movements and seasonal changes.
For an even more stunning effect, prospect can also be mixed with risk. That's the case – for instance – of a huge floor-to-ceiling window that is elevated with respect to the view it looks into. This will create a perceived risk of falling down, while being totally safe in reality!
To sum up, prospect views are another precious tool in biophilic design.
A balanced combination of prospect and cozy refuge areas can really transform the feeling related to an interior, making it calming, welcoming and astonishing at the same time! And of course, all that while valuing the natural surroundings!
- Grahna Patrik, Stigsdotter Ulrika K. "The relation between perceived sensory dimensions of urban green space and stress restoration." (opened in a new window/tab) Landscape and Urban Planning Volume 94 (2010), Issues 3–4: 264-275.
- Dosen, Annemarie S., Ostwald Michael J. "Prospect and Refuge Theory: Constructing a Critical Definition for Architecture and Design." (opened in a new window/tab) The International Journal of Design in Society, no. 6 (1) (2013): 9-24.
- The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design is a framework conceptualized by Terrapin Bright Green