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Holly Keenan headshot

Biophilic Design: It’s Not a Trend, It’s a Movement

By Holly Keenan
Biophilic Design

Biophilic design is gaining traction, and more designers and architects are incorporating it into the places in which we live and work.

Whether it’s a run through the forest or a swim in the ocean, being immersed in nature has the power to bring clarity and tranquility to our minds. However, for many of us, living in the cities prevents us from enjoying natural surroundings. Instead, we are immersed in a world of concrete, traffic fumes, and all the other harsh elements of the urban environment. The drastic increase in population has led to a demand for more construction and housing. As a result, nature has been carved out of the equation.

But what if we could change this? What if design could bring us closer to nature? Biophilic design has long been redefining the way we create our built environment. Not only is this style of architecture proving to be beneficial for the environment, but scientific studies show it can drastically improve our mental health and productivity.

What is biophilic design?

Biophilic design is an approach to architecture that seeks to connect building occupants closely with nature. Traces of biophilic design go as far back as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. However, The concept was first articulated in 1984 by the renowned biologist E.O. Wilson. He described it as “the desire for humans to emulate nature in the structures of everyday life.”

What is driving the increase in biophilic design?

With the growing concern for our climate, biophilic design is not just useful for its aesthetic qualities but can help in the fight against climate change. Green infrastructure has the potential to attenuate CO2 emissions, increase the biodiversity of plants and wildlife and help regulate the temperature of buildings.

One architecture firm that has taken full advantage of the power of green infrastructure is Stefano Boeri Architecture. The Italian architect Boeri rose to fame when he became the first person to design the vertical forest tower in Milan. Following the success of the vertical towers, Boeri Architecture is now constructing its new, master project, Liuzhou Forest City. The design proposes a solution to one of China’s most smog-affected cities as the infrastructure will be able to absorb up to 10,000 tons of CO2 every year. This revolutionary biophilic design will support as many as 40,000 trees and 1 million plants from a diverse range of species. In addition, the city will host over 30,000 people.

The pandemic has also accelerated the popularity of biophilic design in homes. With an unprecedented amount of people working remotely, creating a peaceful ambiance to our houses has become essential. During a recent interview for Architectural Digest, the esteemed designer Clodagh stated that “People have woken up and realized that being surrounded by nature can have a positive impact on their mental and physical health and boost their mood.” Over the years there have been many scientific studies to support this claim. For example, in 2020 scientists found that “biophilic environments had larger therapeutic impacts than non-biophilic environments in terms of reducing physiological stress and psychological anxiety levels.”

Looking ahead to the future of workspaces

Nevertheless, this is not necessarily news to the corporate world. the knowledge that biophilic design can increase productivity; lower stress levels have also resulted from many companies incorporating elements of nature into their workspaces. So, what kind of unique, green designs can we expect in 2022?

One architect expanding the boundaries is Carlo Ratti, the manager of MIT’s Senseable City Lab. Ratti's most recent design features a 51 story skyscraper that contains a large-scale vertical hydroponic farm. The skyscraper is set to be built in Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China. The farm will provide food for more than 40,000 people.

Ratti’s innovative thinking sets a precedent when it comes to future interior design. Indoor vertical farming has the potential to reduce land and water usage, offering a solution for soil degradation. Yet, most importantly, integrating farming into a workspace can help employees connect directly to food production, as they could have a role in helping to grow food. Our current global agricultural supply chain follows a long obscure road, so shortening this chain can help connect them more to the food they eat.

Image credit via Adobe Stock

Holly Keenan headshot

Holly is a recent graduate from the University of Southampton with a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Philosophy. She is currently working as a freelance writer and has a strong interest in the outdoors lifestyle, environmental issues and sustainable solutions. In her free time, she trains and competes internationally as a professional kite surfer.

Read more stories by Holly Keenan