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BIOPHILIC DESIGN: THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ARCHITECTURE AND NATURE

Biophilia, which is defined as the appreciation for all living things, is a solution which integrates the natural world in all the settings of everyday life. This term became widely known thanks to the American biologist Edward O. Wilson, who owns the distinction of also coining the term biodiversity and author of the multiple Pulitzer Prize winning book “Biophilia”.

In his investigation, Wilson studied the consequences of rising urbanization rates and how these progressively led to the average person’s disconnect from the natural world. Likewise, he references the genetic link between human beings and their biological context, inherited by our ancestors who coexisted with agrarian environments. Based on this premise, Wilson contends that architectural, industrial, technological and evolutionary progress must be clearly focused on human well-being and not, on the contrary, become an obstacle against our very nature.

At present, his predictions have become reality, finding further support after the social inconformity and the environmental implications of a completely industrialized environment, which has neglected the planet’s most vulnerable domains. With the arrival of a new decade, this hyper industrialized mindset has been called into question, seeing as thanks to technological advancements and the informational maelstrom of the Digital Age, we are developing a deeper understanding into the improvement of our habitats and how this in turn can ameliorate our physical and mental health.

Kettal’s Cala and Vimini Collection
It seems that the environmental and psycho-emotional aftershocks that arose from the extended Covid-19 confinement have corroborated that which has been debated for such a long time. The pause imposed by the pandemic has been fundamental to reflect about the society that we have been building. As such, in the present, new solutions centered around the human well-being are starting to arise and are being widely manifested in the new trend of architecture and interior design; welcoming this new current which will revolutionize our way of living.

In architecture and interior design

This style takes inspiration from the natural world, departing from the guidelines established by contemporary design. It’s aesthetic is renewed through the usage of organic patterns, to develop a setting built so as to strengthen the human-nature bond. It seeks to generate spaces whose interior and exterior areas are as interlinked as possible, so that they are perceived as a natural extension of themselves; basing their designs on the textures, forms and sensorial experiences afforded by nature.

Sustainability

Thanks to the incessant work of “information campaigners” that seek to raise awareness and conscientiousness over human behaviors that harm the environment, during this last decade we have grown more informed over the effects of the overproduction of construction materials and their general impact. By doing so, the focus on sustainability goes beyond simply diverting waste from the landfill or generating potentially reusable commodities. Instead, it seeks to reduce mass production by avoiding the usage of virgin materials, substituting them with recycled material.
Kettal’s Cala Collection
As such, materials of biological and recycled origins can positively affect the environment as it not only reduces carbon emissions, but also energy consumption, greenhouse gasses of all kinds and the extraction of non-renewable resources. Consequently, in accordance with the vanguard of sustainable design, it is important to go beyond the theoretical and instead incite concrete action where the ideal would be to develop a circular economy; in a cycle where materials that are discarded can be recycled.
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Natural Experience

An architectural and interior design trend that has become notable in these last few years is the growing desire to create experiences tied with nature. This aspiration is a need engendered by the lack of nature in developed urban environments or due to a hectic lifestyle, brought forth by the consumerism of a technologically advanced and unceasing society.

The yearning for these sensorial stimuli has caused the burgeoning of this novel criteria that breaks paradigms to reduce the stress and anxiety levels of its users by creating a livable space within the blessings of nature. Additionally, it is predicted that this new approach will be strengthened after the new normal imposed by the threat of harmful biological agents, which have limited contact with the exterior.

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In architecture, this ideal manifests in all its forms; formal, functional, aesthetic and interior. In its formation, the envelopes begin to have a permeable boundary with its adjacent geological surroundings and becomes aesthetically inspired by it. Its forms begin to break with the conventional rigidity of minimalism, generating more nuanced silhouettes that weave natural patterns.
Is Biophilic Design Just Another Trend
Concerning functionality, the spatial transitions between external and internal areas are characterized by an almost imperceptible fluidity, composed of sustainable materials and natural elements. Additionally, in the field of construction, its structure takes advantage of the natural resources proffered by nature and it is supported by sustainable materials, which take inspiration from our biosphere’s own support systems, such as bamboo.

It’s on this basis that we start to see interior design trends such as recuperative spaces, which is inspired by natural experiences, for instance, showers that are capable to simulate rain or the feeling of bathing in a waterfall. Another example is the incorporation of green systems in different areas of the home, which allows the cultivation of vegetables and provides the means to generate a user’s own sustenance. On the other hand, it is important to create environments with surroundings similar to their natural context. As such, it is necessary to outline in its planning stage the ecological surfaces that mimic natural textures such as wood, rock, metal or vegetation.

Gessi Afilo System

Color

Color is another straightforward manner of harnessing nature in order to create a homelike ambience which, besides being comprised of an environment that imitates natural color palettes, contains a sensory load that carries the benefits of the open air. Similarly, it is possible to develop spaces inspired in tonalities of climactic or natural origins, such as: the sunrise, the beach, a starry night or the forest. Its result would boost its users’ mood due to the psychological connotation carried by this chromatic style.
CEDIT Chromatic Tiling
Pedrali Sofa Reva

Benefits

This approach’s most important attribute is that it is centered around human needs, which turns it into an empathetic process which satisfies its demands and links it to its innate attraction to nature and its processes. The Earth provides one of our greatest sources of renewable energy, which is intrinsically related with an emotional and mental well-being. As such, by emulating these stimuli through the medium of design it is possible to generate a beneficial space that not only sustains, but also provides positivity, tranquility and relaxation.

Another benefit is that it simultaneously focuses on a technologically driven energy efficiency and the need to conserve the environment. When it comes to climatization, it is important to improve the level of thermal comfort by simulating the temperature changes produced by the atmosphere, ensuring a better ventilation that has the additional benefit of improving air quality, resulting in a solution that reduces the level of toxins emitted by harmful agents.

Smart Dubai

What is more, it is also concerned with improving the processes of natural and artificial illumination, optimizing its systems through the means of humans’ natural biological processes. Numerous studies throughout the years have provided figures that promote the benefits of an environment that improves the connection with the natural world, among them:

Corporate Sector: Productivity can increase by 8%, well-being by 13%, accompanied by a surge in creativity and a decrease in absenteeism.

Hotelier Sector: Guests are willing to pay 23% more for rooms with a view towards biophilic elements.

Educational Sector: An increase in learning rates between 20-25%, improved test scores, concentration and attendance, accompanied with a reduction in the impacts of ADHD.

Health Sector: Post-op recovery times were reduced by 8.5%, as well as reducing analgesic use by 22%.

Commercial Sector: It was discovered that the presence of vegetation and landscaping increases the average rent fees in commercial spaces and clients indicate that they were willing to pay 8-12% more for goods and services.

Housing Sector: Homes can become more soothing and restorative, with a 7-8% decrease in offences attributed to areas with access to nature and can generate a 4-5% increase in a property’s value.

Fantoni Acoustic Room M

Why is implementing this strategy so important?

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that a majority of diseases are developed due to the consequences of 2020’s societal context, be it related to stress, surging mental disorders or cardiovascular disease. As such, in an urban environment developed without beneficial natural considerations and with the omnipresent informational torrent produced by technology and our attachment to it, we have diminishing opportunities to recover our physical and mental energy.

Given this, biophilic design represents the hope of change, for a society worried over a counterproductive lifestyle. In a post-pandemic future, the superfluous would be phased out and we would prioritize the most fundamental of needs: the physical-emotional well-being. This phenomenon would be reflected in a global scale, creating a community with a singular purpose, which would by any means necessary, seek its recovery and mend its past mistakes, promote a common responsibility over the preservation of the biosphere.

Companies located at the vanguard, like Apple, Google and Microsoft, are making considerable investments in biophilic designs. It is proven that when applying these principles in an office there are considerable improvements in concentration, compromise and worker’s cognitive functioning, as well as the attraction and retention of personnel in a usually ultra-competitive field.

Lastly, this drive will reframe the way we observe our buildings and analyze their effects. We will demand our environments to be restorative, that they reflect our values and passions and allow us to develop a space that provides better means to live better, rest, spend leisure time, socialize, connect with others, ourselves and our environment. Biophilic design represents a lifestyle and trend which we predict will face continuous growth in the future.

Microsoft House Milano Project La Palma Furniture

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