Biophilic design: Living and working in environments inspired by nature itself

From the plants on our desks to the roses climbing up trellis on the front of our houses and our architectural obsession with panoramic windows, the physical signs of the human “love of life and the living” are all around us. And yet the concept of “biophilia” – a term first coined by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm back in 1964 to describe this ‘love’ – is still far removed from the reality of modern everyday life: According to one study, the average person spends up to 90 percent of their day indoors. The United Nations estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in so-called mega-cities by 2050. And as for nature – there won’t be any left. To counteract this worrying prediction, architects and designers are turning to a new concept known as biophilic design.

Biophilic design: Boost creativity, reduce stress

Regardless of whether you take a stroll through a meadow of wildflowers or pause for a break beside a gently burbling stream, spending time in nature helps us feel less stressed and more creative.

Countless studies have proven the positive effects of nature on our health. The concept of biophilic design aims to recreate this sense of well-being in the home or office, by using designs that stimulate and strengthen our innate connection with nature.

Interior designers are using this sense of connection as the inspiration for creating natural environments in homes, offices, schools and kindergartens, tailoring the concept to suit the space. In offices, biodynamic lighting is used to replicate daylight; plants get the light they need to thrive even in the darkest spaces with innovative light screens, while green walls filter toxins out of the air. Colours and textures from nature underpin the natural aesthetic, stimulate the senses and promote creativity.

Replicate daylight in offices. Source: Luctra /  YouTube

Biophilic design: When architecture fuses with nature

In biophilic design, the concepts applied to interior spaces can also be transferred outdoors. A great example is the One Central Park apartment complex in Sydney, Australia. Renowned architect Jean Nouvel worked with French botanist Patrick Blanc to seamlessly fuse architecture and nature. The facade of each of the two blocks forms a vertical garden that extends 34 storeys into the sky.

With more than 36,000 individual plants and 250 species growing on 15,000 metres of steel rope, the green wall keeps the apartments cool in the summer without any need for air conditioning. The plants are automatically watered with recycled water. The benefits of the wall are enjoyed not just by the inhabitants of the apartments, but also by anyone passing on the street below – this attractive green addition to the city landscape promotes a sense of well-being and removes toxins from the air.
Jean Nouvel has created a masterpiece of biophilic design. Source: The Age & Sydney Morning Herald / YouTube

The architects from Konos Designs in the Japanese metropolis of Tokyo have created a special form of urban gardening. In urban gardening, unused spaces in densely populated areas are made available for members of the public to grow plants and maintain gardens, enabling city dwellers who may not have their own gardens to grow their own vegetables.

In the nine-storey building occupied by employment agency Pasona, the employees grow rice and up to 200 varieties of fruit and vegetables – in some areas even without daylight. Rather than buying products in the supermarket, the employees are encouraged to grow their own produce using the company’s 4000 square metres of cultivation space. The fruits of the employees’ labour are then used in meals in the company’s canteen.
Fresh vegetables for the company canteen. Source: Kirstin Dirksen / YouTube

The Farmhouse project by Chinese-Austrian architect couple Fei and Chris Precht also merges architecture and agriculture into an indivisible entity. Their idea is based on modular wooden houses that provide space to live and grow fruit and vegetables.

The individual prefabricated triangular frames can be combined and expanded to add more living, growing or balcony space.

Nature and architecture form an inseparable unit. Source: Chris Precht / YouTube

Nature inspires architecture and interior design concepts

Living in a city has many benefits, but in densely populated areas, there are few opportunities to really feel connected to nature.

In biophilic design, new concepts for architecture and interior design enable us to live and work alongside nature in the city – without giving up any of the benefits that urban living brings.

Have you drawn inspiration from nature in your home? Share your thoughts on biophilic design in the comments.

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