How to bring biophilic design into wellness centers

in Biophilic How To

Wellness centers are spaces aimed at relaxation, regeneration, and self-care.
These feelings can be the starting point of a design strategy that – embracing biophilic principles – supports mental and physical restoration, allowing guests to experience the most recharging retreat.

A space for the self

Generally speaking, a wellness retreat is a time to disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with the self.

The design of wellness centers should go accordingly, introducing refuge features as often as possible to facilitate these private moments.
Or, the entire space could be conceived as a refuge, with lower ceilings, enveloping shapes, diffuse light, and cave-like atmospheres.

Wooden sauna with rounded enveloping walls.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Mizu Onsen Spa (opened in a new window/tab)

Functional biophilic details

Biophilic design features are not just decorative additions and can be incorporated into the very functions of a space.

One example above all is water; a central element in any wellness center.
A pool, a shower, a basin...all of these are occasions to stimulate multi-sensory connections with the water element. This can be achieved using movement, surrounding water with rich textures that recall natural landscapes, and encouraging interaction with water. In this sense, wellness centers benefit from the fact that water is meant to be experienced anyway. Pools, showers and basins are meant to be used, and a biophilic design can make the experience richer and more engaging.

Deep pool enclosed in a glazed facade.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Tredistudio (opened in a new window/tab)
Rock basin with rough texture.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Molos Group (opened in a new window/tab)

Local is special

Wellness centers are often connected to their ecological surroundings in that they benefit from local features, such a thermal waters.

Why not highlight this bond with local nature in the design as well?
Framing natural views, salvaging materials that hold a strong local history, recalling elements of the local culture...All these design choices will root the space deep into its surroundings, getting guests closer to a strong sense of place.

Hanging chairs looking into a beautiful thermal pool.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Blue Lagoon (opened in a new window/tab) - Ph. by Giorgio Possenti

New perspectives

Design decisions often originate from studying the use of a space.
In a wellness center, most of the time is spent sitting…or lying down. A change in perspective with respect to standing, which gives special relevance to an otherwise often disregarded surface: the ceiling.

Ceilings can be turned into true pleasures with compelling features that add one more layer of relaxation to the time spent looking upwards.

Dark room with black bathtubs and blue drop lights covering the entire ceiling.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Department of Architecture (opened in a new window/tab)
Massage room with ceiling lights in the shape of a star constellation.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Sundukovy Sister (opened in a new window/tab)

The importance of transition spaces

Design has a crucial role in shaping the experience of a space. It influences how occupants move around an interior and how they feel inside it.
Continuity is key and the best results are obtained when all the areas of an interior work in synergy with one another. And this includes transition spaces too.

For example, a corridor can become an invitation to explore the space, taking advantage of mystery features.

Curved corridor with light strips leading the way.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: U.lab (opened in a new window/tab)
Curved corrieor with light reflections drawing shapes on floor and ceiling.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Sundukovy Sister (opened in a new window/tab)


To conclude, wellness centers do have some connections to the natural world in themselves (especially when compared to other interior types like retail spaces).
A biophilic approach to their design can leverage those aspects, crafting the most reinvigorating experience for all occupants.

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