Eric Fromm, a social psychologist first minted the term “biophilia” which was later popularized by biologist Edward Wilson. Evolved from the assorted denotations from biology, and psychology, the term “biophilia” has been adopted in the fields of neuroscience, architecture, and beyondall relating to a yearning for a (re)connection with nature and natural elements. Biophilia in architecture has been an intuitive part of the architectural design process, precisely from product design to structures to landscape.

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The Psychology of green for interior spaces ©Maarten Willemstein
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The Psychology of green for interior space ©Tomas Cytrynowicz

The notion of biophilic design is rather simple; connecting humans with nature to enhance their well-being. The principle of biophilic design focuses on bringing elements of the natural world into built spaces such as natural light, water, plants, natural materials such as wood, and stone, the feel of textures, patterns, and shadows. Integrating organic forms in architectural design emphasizes the characteristics of biophilic design by establishing a relationship with the user. 

Biophilic design has become popular in office buildings to enhance productivity and interiors to bring emotional comfort. Colors play a significant role in architectural design as it evokes certain feelings; for example, lighter shades make the spaces seem larger while darker shades make the space compressed.

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Bringing the outdoors inside © Patrick Bingham-Hall

Biophilic design can be coordinated into 3 categories; Nature in the space, natural analogs, and nature of the space; which provides an understanding of the unique diversities of the design of any space. For any space to infuse with nature, the physical, direct, and ephemeral presence of nature should exist to experience continuous significant connections through movement, diversity, and multi-sensory interactions. 

Biomorphic forms are natural analogs that speak the language of nature in a rich and organized manner that evolves the non-living inbuilt structures through ornamentation, décor, furniture, and much more.

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Use of natural light and organic forms in the design © Eiichi Kano

More than a century ago, Antoni Gaudi designed the largest Roman Catholic basilica in Barcelona, Spain, La Sagrada Familia that remains unfinished till now. The church amalgamates the gothic style with the curvilinear form of art nouveau style and is one of the finest examples of biophilic designs. 

The passion façade resembles the bones of the skeleton by using bare stone carved with linear lines. The branching columns in the nave mimic the shape of a tree and branches; in the interior structure of the church.

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The passion facade of La Sagrada familia © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia
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Interior of La Sagrada familia © Renate Dodell

The Jewel in Singapore designed by Moshe Safdie is an epitome of biophilia in architecture that emerges as an embodiment of urban public space. The nature-defined entertainment and retail complex on the inside of Changi Airport comprises the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the Rain Vortex, at the center of the promenade encircling decks of the forest. 

The high-performance glass panels used for the façade ensure transmission of light in the promenade and reduce heat gain thereby enabling the plants to grow and intercepts the indoors from heatwaves.

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The Jewel in Singapore ©

Multi-sensory design is another aspect of Biophilia in architecture design that inculcates the 5 senses of human interaction with spatial design, and influences the way we feel, think and behave. The Shanghai Garden emphasizes the integration of olfactory senses to represent sensory or biophilic architecture. 

The scents of the horticulture exhibit give you a sense of a surreal experience in the garden. A fragranced atmosphere helps in bringing back memories, as well as engaging the user in fostering a serene environment.

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Shanghai Gardens, the Beijing Horticultural Exhibit ©

A trio of glass spheres, the iconic element of the Amazon Headquarters in Seattle houses a multi-level botanical garden within, replenished with 40,000 plants from high-altitude cloud forests from 5 continents. The spheres represent a structure within a garden as well as a garden within a structure. The spheres were particularly designed as a space to bring people together; places to meet, dine and work, from a wood-slatted bird’s nest to terraces with seating. The pentagonal module that configures into an organic form is a blend of mathematical and biological entities that is pragmatic as well as idyllic.

The spheres of Amazon Headquarters in Seattle ©

Healthcare facilities demand a space that can implement a strong sense of design and planning. Biophilic design tends to offer an intrinsic design methodology that is user-centric along with a connection to natural elements. The interpretation of nature in the built environment aids in the healing process of patients. 

The benefits of including an outdoor garden can have a positive effect on the employees as well as the patients. The choice of color, texture, and pattern also defines the comfort level of the space allowing for a more holistic healing process.

The large windows let in natural light, and the use of wood in the interior serves a connection to nature ©

Biophilic design is the essence of human connection to nature. Nature essentially releases negative energy and stress to relax our senses. To comprehend the notion of biophilic design, the aspects include 14 patterns that will define the space as per the elements present in the design. Biophilic design is particularly associated with the visual and non-visual connection to nature, sensory stimuli, thermal and airflow variability, presence of water, dynamic light, biomorphic forms, material connection, complexity and order, and nature of reaction space will perceive in the presence of people. 

The science supporting biophilic design is still being recognized. Nevertheless, modern design is striving to inculcate biophilia in its design and recreate the space to restore the interconnection between nature and humans.


  1. Archdaily [Online]

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  1. Terrapin Bright Green [Online]

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  1. Design Wanted [Online]

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Abha Haval is an Architect who has a vivid imagination of this world. She believes that every place has a story to tell and is on a mission to photograph the undiscovered whereabouts of various cities and narrate the story of its existence.