Biophilia is considered to be the missing link in sustainable design.
Biophilia aims to provide space for respectful and enriching relationships between human society and the natural world. Anyone looking for the key to a future of prosperity that respects the Earth and improves everybody’s life should know about biophilia. Community gardens, healing gardens, and even gardens for prisoners – all of these types of landscapes are designed with biophilia in mind. Biophilia is the last missing piece in the puzzle of sustainable and healthy cities.
The Definition and Meaning of Biophilia
Originating from the ancient Greek (bios “life” and philia “love”), the term biophilia literally describes the love for life and expresses the ethos of maintaining and developing the life of mankind in all dimensions (physical, psychological, social, artistic, moral, etc.).
It was Harvard University biologist Edward O. Wilson who coined the term biophilia for design, defining it as “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life” and arguing that every person has an innate and evolutionary-based affinity for nature.
WATCH: Biophilic Design
How Does Biophilia Affect Human Life and What Are the Impacts on Landscape Architecture?
Even if lots of people would call city dwellers or technology freaks their own separate species, it cannot be denied that all human beings evolved within nature and that we will always feel most comfortable surrounded by green landscapes.
Numerous studies over the last few years have proven the positive impact of green spaces on the lives and work quality of every human being. However, biophilic design goes even further.
In biophilic spaces:
- patients recover more quickly,
- students learn better,
- retail sales are higher,
- workplace productivity increases, and
- absenteeism goes down
How to Design with Biophilia
Integrating biophilic design strategies into your projects starts with using sustainably produced, natural materials from the region and incorporating views to natural textures and colors, as well as natural sounds and fragrances. But the most interesting part is to arouse the forgotten human connectedness to nature through those various elements.
Joseph Clancy, an emerging expert on biophilia and a colleague of mine, already has given us an interesting insight into biophilic design on a bigger scale with his article What Makes a Biophilic City? Regardless of scale, people find peace and relaxation and can draw strength from biophilic spaces.
Healing gardens at hospitals are one of the best examples of biophilic design. The “Garden of Healing and Renewal” at the McLaren Health Care Village inMichigan is one of those great examples. The different water elements, sculptures, and the plethora of different views of nature bridge the gap from a random park to a sustainable biophilic garden.
Various seating options allow visitors to regenerate and find inner peace. Plenty of fountains and lush gardens allow active interaction with natural elements for both adults and children. Visitors can also experience the seasonal changes close up, which helps people synchronize their internal clocks in periods of personal change.
Singapore’s “Gardens by the Bay” is another example of biophilic design. This park offers a green oasis in the midst of the city for those who want to escape from the stress of everyday urban life. The vertical gardens of the so-calledSupertree Grove are not only an architectural highlight that serves to provide air intake, but they also mimic natural shapes and give visitors insights into nature.
The different play of light during the day and in the night creates different tensions and varies the sensory experience of a space within time, change, and transition.
Biophilia owns the power to stimulate a wellspring of profitable innovations. While some of the leading examples of green design incorporate aspects of biophilia, many others unfortunately do not. Now it is up to us to implement the concept of biophilia into the everyday design process, because we as designers have the power to change our designs.
We have the responsibility to restore natural stimuli and experiences into the built environment, to create places that are not only beautiful to look at, but also give people the chance to improve their lives and experience their innate human affinity for nature in these new, sustainable biophilic places.