As we await the first Spring blooms, we find ourselves thinking even more about bringing nature into our spaces. The theory that humans have the instinctive tendency to seek a connection with nature is actually termed "Biophilia". Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis in his book, Biophilia (1984). He defines biophilia as "the urge to affiliate with other forms of life". Fast forward to today, our environments are more urban, we are digitally focused, and living fast-paced lives which has lead to a lost connection to nature and the outdoors. An antidote to these changes has been to redirect our focus back to nature through Biophilic design, which is an extension of biophilia. It incorporates natural materials, natural light, vegetation, nature views and other experiences of the natural world into the modern built environment.
Our brain craves the complexity that the natural world brings to our lives. In recent years, brain science has discovered surprising ways that our brain can heal itself through various forms of stimuli of which nature plays a role. And yet, EPA research shows the average American spends 90% of his or her time indoors. This is why design plays a fundamental role in stimulating the brain with positive influences from biophilic design which can strengthen our neural network as well as support well-being. Incorporating biophilic elements helps people feel they have spaces to settle, explore, adapt, and be creative which leads to stronger connections, collaboration, and an opportunity to rejuvenate during the workday.
It is good to start small. According to Accent Office "47% of workers have no natural light in their work environment and 55% no natural greenery like plants. These are the most literal interpretations of biophilia and are not very difficult to integrate into an existing space.
Work with what you've got and simply try to maximize the biophilic effects already present in your environment. For example, consider an open concept floor plan with minimal obstructions such as benching workstations topped with glass to allow natural light to filter throughout a large space.
If you're looking to dive a little deeper into your biophilic design this is the time to move away from literal interpretations and introduce subtle cues. Since biophilic design focuses on reducing stress levels, symbolic representations of nature can produce almost as significant of an impact as the real thing. In the materials you choose, consider the colors, textures and patterns and how they mimic nature. An organic, earth-tone color palette is a fantastic backdrop for natural materials like wood tables and chairs, stone accents, and organic-shaped furniture. Some manufacturers have designed products specifically with biophilia in mind.
Interface flooring's product collections "incorporate materials, patterns and methods that evoke the natural order." Urban Retreat™ "visually explores where concrete gives way to grass." And Net Effect™ reflects the "precise moment when the sea foams into the shore" and captures the "fluidity of water with a shared color palette drawn from the deepest ocean blues to the sun and salt bleached wood and stones of the shore."
Another creative option is Arc Com's Digital Solutions wallcovering which provides endless possibilities to transform a space. Their product is the ultimate in visual imagery with limitless scale and infinite colors for your design concept. They offer a variety of surface textures and finishes, including matte and textural embossing that help create a truly realistic feel.
Recently, Designtex released a collection of commercial textiles that subtlety (and stylishly) incorporate biophilia. The collection takes cues from studies and hypotheses that emphasize the importance of connections with nature by utilizing color, texture, and pattern to evoke the principles of the natural world. The collection is comprised of nine textile designs in a wide range of options—from coated upholstery fabrics to high-performance woven textiles. The designs incorporate timeless organic shapes and patterns such as the Fibonacci Sequence and fractals. With names like "treeline", "air", and "rainwater" these textiles are sure to appease our biophilia.
As always, a well-designed space has many benefits and the inclusion of biophilic elements shows promising results. If applied appropriately, you'll notice people spending more time in these spaces, engaging more frequently with co-workers, and being more engaged with their work.
"The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and re-invigoration to the whole system.”
- The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design
Good reads: Interface - Act Natural