Biophilia in Architecture: Nature Indoors and Outdoors

Have you ever wondered why you feel different after spending time in nature? Even for those of us who live urban lives, time outside refreshes and relaxes us. Not surprisingly, researchers have studied this connection, in hopes of applying knowledge to our day-to-day lives to make them richer and more fulfilling. The term “biophilia” refer to the innate biological connection that humans have with nature. 

Because it addresses the relationship of humans with their surroundings, biophilia is fundamentally linked to architecture. Biophilic design takes into account our attraction to the natural world, using modern techniques to promote well-being. Concepts include visual and nonvisual connections with nature, the impact of water, sound, and light, and a sense of refuge. 

Connection with Nature

Biophilic design has as a primary focus the engagement of the resident with the natural world, through both visual and nonvisual connections. Visual links include the use of large windows and a highlighting of the building’s landscape and natural elements. Greenery is also often used inside as a way of bringing nature into the space. 

But connections can also be nonvisual. By incorporating materials and techniques that are related to nature, a designer can promote a feeling of balance and well-being. Natural textures and colors play up the connection to the outside and reduce the feeling of manmade isolation. 

Water, Sound, and Light 

The presence of natural elements is not just vegetation. Biophilic design includes a focus on water, sound, and light, all key to our relationship with the physical world. 

By consistently emphasizing the presence of water, the designer creates a connection between the building and its natural surroundings. Water features allow for an attractive, universally appealing way to provide a calming influence on the users of the building. 

Another significant factor in the wellness benefit of nature is sound. Beyond the incorporation of natural sounds such as water and wind, a biophilic design will work to eliminate unwanted sounds, considered one of the most frustrating aspects of traditional buildings. This can be accomplished through the use of technology such as acoustic panels and sound systems. 

Light may be one of the natural elements whose significance we feel most dramatically. Throughout the day, a change in color and intensity can directly impact our energy levels and sense of well-being. The use of both controlled sunlight and modern, variable lighting allows the user to control the space and the effect of lights throughout the day.

A Sense of Refuge

In most basic sense, a home is a refuge, a place to find physical and emotional safety. This is intimately related to our relationship with the outdoors, as throughout the ages, humans have made their way into caves and other spaces in order to protect themselves from danger. Biophilic design imparts a sense of emotional and physical security by creating spaces where the user can relax. Layout design keeps this need for safety in mind. 

Through thoughtful incorporation of biophilia principles, architects can create buildings that reduce stress and increase wellness. A focus on our relationship with the natural world allows for the creation of spaces that are both state of the art and down to earth. These concepts can translate into a more fulfilling experience at home, work, and play.