Biophilic design is a concept that aims to reconnect humanity with the natural environment. Humans have an inherent need to connect with the natural environment fueled by centuries of co-dependence between man and nature. Studies have shown that Biophilic Design positively impacts the physical and mental well-being of the occupants and nurtures productivity in work environments. Natural lighting, ventilation, landscape features, and other aspects are incorporated into biophilic-designed buildings to improve occupant happiness and health. 

The ideas of biophilia are explored further in biophilic design, which integrates natural aspects into both architectural and interior design. This design form creates spaces with a seamless blend of built and unbuilt elements. Introducing natural stimuli into built areas makes spaces more sustainable and can contribute to a better lifespan for its inhabitants.

Here are ten examples of Biophilic interior design that one can incorporate into any space.

Indoor Plants

Dotting interior spaces with plants is an age-old way of incorporating nature into the built form. It is also one of the best ways of creating biophilic interiors. Plants can ease stress, increase comfort, brighten the mood, and promote healing. Adding vegetation into a built space fosters the connection between humans and nature.

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Use of Plants as decorative elements._©Nicholas Calcott

Along with a connection to nature, plants also provide various health benefits. Adding plants to any interior space can improve the indoor air. The 1989 Clean Air Study conducted by NASA explored that plants not only help in releasing oxygen but also filter airborne toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, all of which are present in furniture and construction materials that surround us constantly in cities.

Biophilic Interior design combines the calming power of plants with their health benefits to create naturally aesthetic and productive spaces.

Use of Natural Materials

The employment of naturally available materials is integral to Biophilic Interior Design. Using materials that are readily available in nature can bridge the gap between the indoor and outdoor environment. Wood, stone, bamboo, and straw are some materials that are effective in creating a biophilic space. These materials not only reflect the natural environment but also achieve an aesthetically pleasing look.

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Use of Bamboo as a design element._©Ruijing Photo

One can also use natural materials to symbolize aging as natural substances develop a patina over time. Most designers gravitate towards wood and stone as ideal choices for flooring when designing biophilic interiors. Aside from flooring, natural materials can also be used for wall cladding, furniture, roofing, etc.

Natural Lighting 

Using natural lighting to illuminate interior spaces is a dominant feature of biophilic interior design. Daylight can be introduced into interior spaces by the use of skylights, and large windows overlooking the garden. Natural lighting improves the circadian rhythm of the body and makes the occupants feel energetic and positive. The presence of natural light indoors can create the illusion of being outdoors in the natural environment which encourages the concept of biophilia.

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Skylights bring in natural light to a space._©Chris Snook

Use of Water Elements

Access to water has various health benefits including lower heart rate and blood pressure, improved concentration and perception, increased feelings of tranquility, reduced stress, positive emotional responsiveness, and memory restoration. Water can also help humidify the air in a room, making the area pleasant. Adding water elements in the interior spaces adds a natural touch to the surroundings while providing a feeling of tranquility. 

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Shallow pools can add tranquility to a space._©Nelson Kon

Features like fountains, cascades, or wall-mounted water elements are some examples of biophilic water elements.

Biomimicry

Biomimicry is the concept of looking at natural forms for inspiration. In architecture and product design, biomimicry refers to the imitation or adoption of naturally occurring processes in structures and goods. The use of biomimicry in interior design is a relatively new practice and has arisen due to the need for sustainability in design.

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A tree inspired light feature._©Kelly Hill

This design form looks at a building as an organism and aims to create comfortable spaces that imitate nature. Interior spaces benefit from biomimicry by emulating the comfort and familiarity of the natural environment. Natural patterns can be mimicked by painting the floor a dark hue, the walls a mid-level tone, and the ceiling a light color. This straightforward fix subtly establishes a sense of balance and order while facilitating easy spatial comprehension for users.

Auditory Stimulants

The sounds of nature can often provide a sense of tranquility and solace to humans. This is why people often find themselves falling asleep to the sounds of birds chirping, or the melody of waves crashing onto rocks. Auditory stimuli in spaces contribute to the entire sensory experience of individuals. 

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Fountains as an auditory stimulant._©Breeze Giannasio Interiors

According to research, listening to natural sounds rather than urban or office noise speeds up physiological and psychological recovery after a psychological stressor by up to 37%. It also lessens cognitive fatigue and boosts motivation. Biophilic interior design can incorporate phonics often found in nature into the spaces making the auditory experience calming and productive. The use of fountains that mimic the sound of streams and rivers is an effective biophilic auditory strategy.

Olfactory Stimulants

Scents are processed directly in the brain by the olfactory system. These scents can be used to trigger strong memories. According to ’14 patterns of Biophilic Design’ by Terrapin, “Studies have also shown that olfactory exposure to herbs and phytoncides (essential oils from trees) have a positive effect on the healing process and human immune function, respectively.” Plant oils have been used since ancient times to calm or energize people. Biophilic Interior design uses materials that give out a natural scent like sandalwood, cedar, pine, etc.

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Use of scented timber to create sensory experiences in the Finland Pavilion EXPO 2020._©Anas Thacharpadikkal

Abundant Greenery

Going green is a prominent part of including biophilia in interior design. The use of green walls, moss walls, vertical farming, or just providing ample greenery is a foolproof way of assimilating nature into built spaces. Green walls are preferred in closed spaces like offices, receptions, or areas with little to no natural light.

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Lots of green spaces to create tranquility._©Katsumasa Tanaka
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SFMOMA Living Wall._©Garry Belinsky

 

Biomorphic Forms & Patterns

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Biomorphic shapes occur frequently in the Nautilus House._©Javier Senosiain

Humans have always looked at nature for inspiration when designing spaces. Architects have designed structures inspired by trees, leaves, flowers, bones, wings, etc. So mimicking natural forms is not a new concept. The goal of Biomorphic Forms & Patterns is to offer symbolic design components for the built environment that enable people to interact with nature. The goal is to use biomorphic shapes and patterns to produce a more aesthetically pleasing environment that improves cognitive function while assisting in stress reduction.

Vernacular Practices

Vernacular architecture is the practice of using locally available materials and building practices. The practice is deeply connected with the local environment and culture. Biophilic design can be used to incorporate naturally occurring materials of that environment in the interior spaces of a building. This design practice mimics the natural environment found in that locality through the imitation of the area’s landscape. Rammed earth walls, brick cladding, and wooden partition walls are some examples of vernacular interior design elements.

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Vernacular materials like stone in interior design._©Amit Pasricha
Rammed earth Walls._© C.S.B.N.E

Citation:

  • HMC Architects. 2022. Create Access to Nature Through Biophilic Architecture and Design Principles | Thought Leadership | HMC Architects. [online] Available at: <https://hmcarchitects.com/news/create-access-to-nature-through-biophilic-architecture-and-design-principles-2019-01-23/> [Accessed 6 October 2022].
  • Doshi, A., 2022. Biophilic design in architecture: Nature meets concrete – DesignWanted. [online] DesignWanted. Available at: <https://designwanted.com/biophilic-architecture/> [Accessed 6 October 2022].
  • Terrapinbrightgreen.com. 2022. 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design. [online] Available at: <https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/reports/14-patterns/> [Accessed 7 October 2022].
Author

Badurunissa is an architect, history enthusiast, Literary fiction aficionado, and aspiring writer. She likes to weave worlds through words and is always trying to find ways to understand the parallels between culture and architecture. A lover of the lively and vibrant, she seeks to create spaces that emulate the same.

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