Biophilia-Based Design

Wellness in today’s world can mean many things to many people. For some, it relates to medical and health services; for others, it is an expression of a positive lifestyle or spiritual mindfulness.

In essence, wellness is defined as the state of being in good health: feeling happy while indulging in activities that promote wellbeing.

Early wellness design efforts focused on reducing the use of hazardous materials, improving air quality and energy efficiency.

One way to set your home or business apart is, in addition to providing great services, to create an environment that enhances the guest experience.
Biophillic design is a tool that allows us to create and innovative and socially connective environment.

What is Biophilia?

The term biophilia, stemming from the Greek roots meaning love of life, was coined by the social psychologist Erich Fromm. It came into use in the 1980s when Edward O. Wilson, an American biologist, realized the implications of this departure from nature and consequently pioneered a new school of thought focused on the need to bring humans back in contact with nature.

“Biophilia is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms.”

Although the concept of biophilia is relatively straightforward to grasp, its neurological and physiological underpinnings and their impacts on the environment are the keys to its value.

Biophilia-Based Design

Biophilic design – or design that connects us to the natural world – affects the way we feel, work and create. Design that connects us to nature is proven to inspire us, boost our productivity and even contribute to a stronger sense of well-being.

Biophilia-based design is divided into 3 pillar concepts according to Terrapin Bright Green: Nature in the Space, Natural Analogues and Nature of the Space.

Biophilia-Based Design Trends

Nature in Space

Nature in the Space refers to the incorporation of plants, water and animals into the built environment. Examples include potted plants, water features, aquariums, and courtyard gardens, as well as views to nature from the inside of a building.

Nature in the Space takes into account the parts of design that give us direct physical contact with nature from within an interior. The prevalence of the courtyard in traditional architecture is a good example of our early attraction to incorporating nature directly into our built environment.

These direct connections to nature—especially dynamic nature that incorporates movement—produce the strongest biophilic reactions.

Biophilia-Based Design Trends

Natural Analogues

Natural Analogues are one degree of separation away from true nature. Natural Analogues are materials and patterns that evoke nature and are characterized by four broad types: representational artwork, ornamentation, biomorphic forms, and the use of natural materials.

Pictures of trees and water, building elements that mimic shells and leaves, furniture with organic rather than geometric shapes, and visible wood grain fall under the umbrella of natural analogues. By mimicking the finer details of nature with textiles, artwork, light, shapes or patterns you can re-create the biophilic human connection, and therefore the healthy responses, to the great outdoors.

Biophilia-Based Design Trends
via Interface


Biomorphic patterns are particularly effective from a biophilic perspective. Biomorphic patterns “are symbolic references to contoured, patterned, textured or numerical arrangements that persist in nature.”

Nature of Space

Nature of the Space, a similar concept, refers to the way humans respond psychologically and physiologically to different spatial configurations. We have an innate desire to want to see beyond our immediate surroundings and can be fascinated with the slightly dangerous or unknown.

Obscured views, design revelations, installations and moments of mystery or peril excite us and maintain our interest and enthusiasm. Combining these elements with patterns from the other two groups provides maximum impact in biophilic design.

The design concepts of prospect and refuge—elevated views coupled with protected spaces—as well as enticement and peril—exploring unseen space and evoking pleasurable distress—are examples of Nature of the Space.

Biophilia-Based Design Trends
The London School

One of the many components of the influence of biophilia is the connection that humans have with certain fractal patterns that appear commonly in the natural world. Fractal patterns found in nature can positively affect human neural activity and parasympathetic system mechanisms.

When incorporating Biophilia-based principles into your space keep in mind one very important distinguishing feature of biophilic design –  its emphasis is on the overall setting or habitat and NOT a single or isolated occurrence of nature.  For instance, adding a potted plant to your office does not mean you’ve incorporated biophilic design – you’ve added a plant.

Biophilia-Based Design Trends


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