Using Biophilic Design to Improve Habitability


"Biophilic design is the deliberate attempt to translate an understanding of the inherent human affinity to affiliate with natural systems and processes, known as Biophilia."

- From the paper Biophilic Design, Kellert, Heerwagen, Mador.
Using Biophilic Design to Improve Habitability

Mipibu House, Designed by Terra e Tuma

A relatively new trend in architecture, Biophilic design is based on biologist Edward Osborne Wilson's theory about humanity's relationship with their environment. He calls this theory Biophilia: biophilic design postulates that humans are affected negatively by environments that are not entirely natural and are alternatively benefited by greenery and organic shapes and textures. Wilson's theories have proven to be controversial: whether the concept is accurate has yet to be demonstrated completely, but some discoveries to support it have been made.

Healing is improved by natural elements, even if represented symbolically. People living in natural settings present fewer health problems; office settings with natural lighting, fresh air, and other natural elements present less stress; contact with nature improves cognitive functions; human brains respond to sensory patterns related to nature; and urban settings with natural spaces present a higher quality of life than those that are lacking.

Biophilic design aims to incorporate natural elements into the design, either by directly including nature or by simulating a natural environment conceptually.

At any rate, the architectural application of his theory could be, if anything, a thought-provoking means to approach design, resulting in interesting projects with the potential to positively improve users' lives.

If you are interested in giving this trend a try, here are some useful design pointers:


Using Biophilic Design to Improve Habitability

Bosco Verticale, by Boeri Studio

Incorporating vegetation into the design is the easiest way to include nature in a project. There are many ways to add greenery to a design, such as interior gardens, green roofs, and green walls. Playing with vistas is also a clever way to include vegetation in a project, by connecting the interior virtually to its surrounding landscape and making use of strategically placed windows and translucencies.


Using Biophilic Design to Improve Habitability

Pitcairn House, by Richard Neutra

Water adds rich sensory stimuli to a design by the means of sound and sight. For the incorporation of water into the design to be successful, it must follow a fundamental rule: it must be clean and moving. Water could be incorporated into a design by either making it part of the layout or incorporated within it in the shape of an interior fountain, ideally paired with vegetation to create a more natural atmosphere. Indirectly, the design could be surrounded by a body of water, either natural or artificial.

Natural Textures

Textures such as wood, stone, soil, mosaic patterns and weathered metal can bring a natural feel to a design, even if the shapes they follow are not exactly organic. These textures can be incorporated into the whole structure of the building, in the form of cladding or by leaving structural elements naked, or in focused areas to create accents, such as staircases, doors or in-situ furnishing.

Organic Shapes

Using Biophilic Design to Improve Habitability

Zighizaghi Park, by OFL Architecture

Organic shapes, sinuous curves and patterns found in nature are another way to include biophilic design into a building. These shapes can either be patently natural looking, imitating nature or symbolical, evoking natural shapes in a more conceptual way. In theory, organic shapes catch the human eye in a more effective and pleasant way.

Natural Light

Using Biophilic Design to Improve Habitability

Tema Art University Library, by Toyo Ito

Natural light has a proven positive impact on people and is one of the fundamental elements of biophilic design. Natural light can be incorporated into the project via translucent facades, strategically positioned windows, skylights, perforated screens and all manners of structural fenestrations. Natural light can be complemented by shadows that might evoke a natural surrounding, as light in a natural setting tends to be interrupted and direct lighting can be too harsh; this can be accomplished by designing fenestrations in negative so the light coming through falls through them, thus creating dynamic patterns on the project's surfaces.


Using Biophilic Design to Improve Habitability

Studio Tropique, by Studio Modijefsky

Colors that evoke natural settings such as shades of green, blue, brown and gray can give a natural feel to a design. The effect is enhanced when mixed with patterns that follow organic lines or shapes; if you are willing to go literal, you may even experiment with vegetation prints.

Be sure to join our email list to stay abreast of other innovative trends, brands, and materials in architecture.

Looking to stay inspired every day? Follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter, to see daily projects and architecture highlights!

Read More

Add a comment to this news