In the bustling urban landscapes of today’s world, a transformative concept is taking root, one that seeks to seamlessly blend the vitality and serenity of nature with the concrete and steel of cities. This concept, known as “Biophilic Design,” represents a visionary approach to urban planning and architecture, driven by the innate human connection to the natural world. As the boundaries between urban and natural environments continue to blur, the concept of Biophilic Design offers a compelling solution, inviting us to reimagine our cities as vibrant, living ecosystems where nature and humanity coexist harmoniously.

 In this exploration of Biophilic Design, we embark on a captivating journey to understand the principles, benefits, and innovative applications that enable us to weave the tapestry of nature into the very fabric of our urban spaces. From rooftop gardens and vertical forests to sensory-rich public spaces, this voyage delves into the remarkable ways in which Biophilic Design not only enhances the aesthetics of our cities but also nurtures our well-being and fosters a sustainable future for generations to come. 

What is Biophilic Design?

The word ‘biophilia’ can be interpreted as ‘the fondness for living organisms’ in ancient Greek, where ‘philia’ denotes a fondness or tendency towards something. The term “biophilia” was first used by psychologist Erich Fromm in 1964, but it gained widespread recognition in the 1980s when biologist Edward O. Wilson highlighted the growing phenomenon of urbanization leading to a significant alienation from the natural world. According to his biophilia hypothesis, humans have an intrinsic inclination to pursue connections with nature and other forms of life.

Hence, Biophilic Design is a concept revolving around the deliberate creation of living and working spaces that prioritize and include our inherent affinity for the natural world. The focus of this inquiry is on the deliberate establishment of a meaningful connection between individuals and the natural environment throughout the process of constructing Biophilic structures and biophilic urban spaces.

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The Sfer Ik arts centre at AZULIK Uh May in Mexico_@

Principles of Biophilic Design

According to the publication “The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design: Improving Health and Well-Being in the Built Environment” by Terrapin Bright Green in 2014, the principles of biophilic design can be categorized into three distinct groups: nature in the space, nature of the space, and natural analogues.

The concept of nature in space pertains to the immediate existence of natural elements and often encompasses engagements that stimulate several senses. These encounters include several types of senses, including thermal, visual, tactile, olfactory, and other forms that involve a distinct and immediate natural presence. 

An example of this could potentially be the New York Times Building located in New York City, where a birch tree and moss garden are prominently featured. The architectural setting exhibits a commendable integration of visual elements that provide a strong connection with the natural world. The aforementioned space refers to a centrally located area inside the structure that serves as a thoroughfare for those entering or exiting the premises. Situated near a dining establishment and the primary meeting spaces, the birch garden serves as a tranquil sanctuary among the frenetic energy and commotion of Times Square.

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The Birch tree and moss garden in the New York Times Building in New York City by Renzo Piano_@

The nature of the space is about mimicking or being inspired by spatial configurations in nature. This pertains to the process of recreating the emotional experiences evoked by natural environments, including sensations of safety, enigma, anticipation, or danger. 

The Levitated Mass installation situated at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a colossal boulder that extends over a pedestrian ramp, serving as a pathway for tourists to go under it. This landscape ignites emotions of danger and fear. 

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The Levitated Mass at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art by Michael Heizer_@Kate Dollarhyde/Flickr

Natural analogues use indirect techniques to mimic nature, shown by the utilization of non-natural materials or highly modified materials that include naturally-inspired patterns and structures. The aforementioned principles may be used either alone or collectively to establish a rapport with the natural world inside a constructed setting. The crux of biophilic design principles is in seamlessly integrating these elements in a manner that evokes a sense of authenticity.

Examples of natural analogues are biomorphic forms and patterns from nature and materials that connect to nature and reflect the local environment or geography to create a sense of place.

When visitors enter the area, they can sense the serene mood as well as the balance of building and nature.”Bamboo Pavilion” is a metaphor for architecture’s imprint, as if a seed has been disseminated and grown, symbolizing our future hope and desire of providing a better livable world for our children.

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Bamboo Pavillion by Zuo Studio_@Shih-Hong Yang

Benefits of Biophilic Design in Urban Spaces

Biophilic design in urban environments provides a plethora of advantages that benefit both persons and the environment. Among these benefits are the following:

Enhanced Well-being and Mental Health: Biophilic design incorporates natural components, such as plants, water features, and enough natural lighting, which have been empirically shown to mitigate stress, anxiety, and depression. Exposure to natural environments and the observation of natural patterns have been shown to have positive effects on relaxation, mood enhancement, and general mental well-being. The environment has high levels of oxygen and elevated levels of oxygen in the brain can reduce stress and anxiety significantly.

Improved Physical Well-being: The incorporation of biophilic features in urban environments promotes increased levels of physical activity and mobility. The provision of green spaces and the availability of outdoor recreational options have been shown to facilitate physical activity, hence contributing to enhanced cardiovascular well-being, decreased prevalence of obesity, and overall better public health.

Biophilic design has been associated with elevated levels of productivity and creativity. The incorporation of greenery and the utilization of natural light inside work environments and public areas have the potential to augment cognitive function, problem-solving aptitude, and inventive cognition among people.

The integration of plants and green walls into urban architecture has the potential to enhance air quality via the filtration of pollutants and the augmentation of oxygen levels. Enhancing indoor air quality has the potential to mitigate the likelihood of respiratory ailments and allergic reactions.

The implementation of green roofs and vertical gardens in urban settings may effectively enhance thermal insulation and regulate temperatures, therefore mitigating the urban heat island phenomenon and lowering the energy consumption required for building cooling and heating purposes.

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Audian Art Museum, Whistler, BC _@James Dow

The use of biophilic design components, such as the incorporation of vegetation and water features, may serve as effective means of reducing noise pollution caused by urban traffic and other activities. These elements possess the ability to absorb and disperse sound, thereby acting as natural sound barriers.

The presence of biophilic urban spaces contributes to the promotion of community contact and social cohesion. These spaces serve as venues for various social gatherings, community events, and recreational activities, facilitating the establishment of connections among inhabitants and encouraging enhanced social interactions.

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Human friendly spaces at Jewel foster healthy social connectivity_@Buro Happold

The incorporation of biophilic design elements in urban environments increases their aesthetic appeal, resulting in increased visual allure and a heightened sense of invitation and attractiveness. Furthermore, this augmentation in visual appeal has the potential to positively impact property values.

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Jewel at Shanghai Airport is a great example of visual allure and a heightened sense of invitation and attractiveness_@Buro Happold

The integration of sustainable design principles, such as the implementation of rainwater harvesting, natural landscaping, and energy-efficient technologies, within Biophilic design may enhance the environmental sustainability and resilience of metropolitan environments.

The integration of native plant species and habitats into urban architecture plays a crucial role in supporting local biodiversity and maintaining ecological equilibrium. Consequently, this phenomenon has the potential to allure pollinators and other forms of animals, making a positive contribution to the overall well-being of the urban environment.

Educational Opportunities: Biophilic urban settings have the potential to function as valuable educational resources, facilitating the acquisition of knowledge for both inhabitants and tourists about indigenous ecosystems, botanical varieties, and the need for environmental preservation.

Creekside Discovery Centre is a nonprofit that works in one of London’s most biodiverse areas, Deptford Creek, by providing ecological walks and teaching residents and tourists about the biodiversity of the Creek.

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Exploratory and Educational walks in the biodiverse Deptford Creek_@

Biophilic design in urban areas functions as a means of connecting nature and urban living, providing several advantages that enhance human welfare, environmental sustainability, and overall resident satisfaction.


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A Postgraduate student of Architecture, developing an ability of Design led through Research. A perceptive observer who strives to get inspired and, in doing so, become one. Always intrigued by the harmonious relationships between people and space and the juxtaposition of the tangible and intangible in architecture.