If there is one positive to come out of the turmoil of these past months, it is our ability to adapt, change and come out on the other side better, more thoughtful and more fully engaged in conversation that promotes our overall health and well-being. Biophilia is a design concept that has been trending for several years, and is quickly becoming part of the design dialogue.
While the term biophilia was not coined until the 1970’s, designers and architects have embraced the concept for centuries. From Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Falling Water to the Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel at Powell Gardens outside Kansas City, humans have sought to connect the natural world with their everyday structures. Meaning “love of living things,” biophilia is a design concept that incorporates natural elements into a designed space.
Biophilia has many positive benefits in homes, office spaces and particularly in senior living facilities. It reduces stress, improves mental and spiritual health, evokes a sense of calm, helps with focus and can even enhance creativity. Here are seven ways to incorporate biophilic principles into a design:
Maximizing natural light is an important first step in biophilic design. Windows not only provide light from the sun, but views of the natural world around us. Even in busy urban areas, the view of the sky, clouds, passing birds and treetops can create that connectedness to the outside world. Natural light has shown improved recovery times in patients, higher performance in students and increased productivity in workers. In public spaces, natural light can be enhanced with atriums, skylights and window wells.
Color has deep psychological effects on how a person relates to the spaces they are in. The color green evokes the shades of nature, but has physical effects, as well. It reduces activity in the central nervous system, calming the body. It can also improve reading ability. It represents luck, good health and abundance, all beneficial to an occupant of a space. Reminiscent of both sky and sea, blue is associated calm and clarity and is known to reduce blood pressure and tension.
Nature has a way of being both unstructured and highly organized. Biomimicry brings the shapes and forms of nature into a design. From the symmetric detail of a leaf to the complex spiral of a seashell to the amorphous rhythm of river pebbles, biophilic design incorporates shape both visually and texturally. It also honors the complex designs found in nature by mimicking their structure in order to solve a design problem.
The careful selection of materials adds a both a physical and visual texture to a space. Wood, natural fabrics, smooth glass all conjure the natural world and have psychological effects on a person, as well. Wood creates a sense of calm. Moku-iku, a recent Japanese concept, means “growing with trees” engages children with the beauty of wood and trees, and the benefits they provide to our daily lives. Natural fabrics such as linen, cotton and wool evoke warmth and authenticity and tend to be more aesthetically pleasing. In commercial spaces, textiles that mimic natural patterns and colors will create a more inviting space.
Biophilic design is holistic design, and the biophilic structure often incorporates its natural surroundings as part of its whole. Look to the prairie style houses so prevalent in the Midwest. Wide and low like the horizon, these homes take full advantage the prairie land, with deep overhanging eaves that keep out the heat of the sun.
Using native plants around the exterior of a structure, incorporating patios and green spaces available at different levels of the building and using locally sources or inspired material will connect our manmade architecture to its natural surroundings.
Nature does not move linearly, nor is it defined by angles and rarely does it sit perfectly still. Good biophilic design honors the gentle ebb and flow of our outside world. Curved walls, ambling patterns in the flooring, and the softening of sharp corners all create a more inviting and relaxing atmosphere. More than just visual, motion can be felt in subtle changes in air flow and in sound such as that of a babbling water from a fountain.
Plants Plants Plants
Biophilic design would not be complete without plants. Not only potted or planted in the ground, but living walls, roof gardens, room partitions are all creative ways designers are introducing plants into a space and making them an integral part of the architecture. Plants provide a natural air filtration system, reduce mental fatigue and increase oxygen levels.
These plants are easy to care for:
- Spider plants: adaptable and easy to divide and share
- Pothos plants: bright indirect light or low light; can be grown in water or dry soil
- Snake plant: very low maintenance, helps keep air clean, low water needs
- Moss: low maintenance, can be installed almost anywhere
About Tran + Thomas
Built on the foundation of a 30-year, family-owned Interior Design business, Jill Tran and Carmen Thomas opened Tran + Thomas Design Studio in 2011 bringing a combined 36 years of experience to their projects. They work on both residential and commercial projects across several styles. Interested in their services? Call (913) 268-9595 or schedule a consultation below.
Help Kansas City Homeless Teens Break the Cycle; Avenue Youth House Designed and Supported by Tran + Thomas