Biophilia 

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WHAT IS BIOPHILIA?

Biophilia refers to the innate human affinity and connection with nature and living organisms. Coined by biologist Edward O. Wilson, the term “biophilia” literally means “love of life” or “love of living things.” It suggests that humans have an inherent biological and psychological need to be connected with the natural world.

In the context of design and architecture, biophilia is often applied as a design philosophy called biophilic design. This approach seeks to incorporate elements of nature into the built environment, such as natural light, plants, water, and natural materials. The aim is to create spaces that evoke the positive and restorative qualities of nature, promoting well-being, productivity, and a sense of connection with the natural world.

The concept of biophilia is supported by neurological and physiological evidence. The human body’s autonomic nervous system comprises two components: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
The sympathetic system stimulates the body during times of cognitive activity, while the parasympathetic system promotes relaxation and
internal processes like digestion. The body is in an optimal state of balance, known as homeostasis, when there is a natural equilibrium between these two systems.

In non-restorative or chaotic environments, the sympathetic system becomes overstimulated, triggering a “fight-or-flight” response and leading to sensory overload. Consequently, the parasympathetic system is suppressed, disrupting the body’s physiological regulation and resulting in mental fatigue. This combination of factors induces stress, frustration, irritability, and distraction.

Urbanization has brought about negative impacts such as increased stress, crime, and depression, as well as decreased productivity and learning. As reversing the trend of people moving to cities is unlikely, it is essential to enhance the livability of urban environments. One approach is to incorporate biophilia, which involves integrating nature into the design of cities. This strategy aims to provide people with greater access to nature, which has been found to restore mental health and overall well-being.

Research indicates that engaging with nature increases parasympathetic activity, thereby reducing sympathetic activity. As a result, stress and irritability decrease, while concentration levels increase. These findings highlight the importance of incorporating nature into urban environments to mitigate the negative effects of urbanization on mental well-being.

Core concepts

The biophilic design ethic encompasses three core concepts or tools that can be utilized to create or transform spaces in a way that reconnects people with nature. These tools are:

1. Nature In The Space

This tool involves incorporating direct elements of nature into the designed environment. It may include features such as indoor plants, green walls, water elements, or natural materials. By bringing actual elements of nature into the space, it enhances the visual and sensory experience, providing a direct connection to the natural world.

Learn about Indoor plants

2. Replica

Natural analogs refer to the use of materials, patterns, or motifs that mimic or evoke natural elements or processes. For example, using wood-grain patterns on furniture or employing colors inspired by the natural environment. These analogs create a sense of familiarity and evoke the feeling of being in nature, even if there are no actual natural elements present.

Learn About Moss Walls and Artificial Plants

3. Nature Of The Space

This tool focuses on the overall spatial qualities and characteristics that emulate natural settings. It involves designing spaces that simulate the natural environment through factors like light, ventilation, acoustics, and spatial configuration. Considerations such as maximizing natural light, creating views of nature, or incorporating natural airflow patterns contribute to the biophilic experience.

Learn About Exterior Landscaping

Design solutions utilizing biophilic principles may employ one, two, or all three of these tools to varying degrees. The aim is to create or retrofit spaces that provide inhabitants with a stronger connection to nature, thereby promoting well-being, reducing stress, and improving overall quality of life.

References: The Biophilia Hypothesis – Edward O Wilson | Nature by Design the Practice of Biophilia Design- Stephen R. Kellert | The Impact of Natural Environmental and Biophilic Design as supportive and Nurturing spaces on a Residential College Campus- NIH Library of Medicine PMID: 35785135 PMCID: PMC9248534DOI: 10.1080/23311886.2021.2000570 | Physiological Benefits of Viewing Nature: A Systematic Review of Indoor Experiments NIH Library of Medcine PMCID: PMC6926748 PMID: 31783531 | Biophilic architecture: A review of the rationale and outcomes- Jana Soderlund & Peter Newman