If a person were to imagine a setting of complete relaxation, odds are the first image that comes to mind is a place surrounded by nature, be it a forest, the mountains, the sea, or a meadow. Rarely does one imagine an office or a shopping mall as a source of comfort and relaxation. Still, the majority of people spend almost 80-90 % of their time indoors, going back and forth from their houses to their workplaces.
Architects and designers are now searching for design solutions that will resonate well into the future, turning to 'biophilia' as an important source of inspiration that promotes well-being, health, and emotional comfort.
What is biophilia?
Since the earliest civilizations, nature served as humans’ natural habitat, providing shelter, food, and remedies. Fast forward to modern days, the industrial and technological revolutions took over, reshaping the way humans interact with nature. The term ‘biophilia’ translates to ‘the love of living things’ in ancient Greek (philia = the love of / inclination towards). Although the term seems relatively new and is gradually trending in the fields of architecture and interior design, biophilia was first used by psychologist Erich Fromm in 1964, then popularized by biologist Edward O Wilson in the 1980’s, when he detected how urbanization is leading to a disconnection with nature.
What is biophilic design?
The main principle behind biophilia is rather simple: connecting humans with nature to improve well-being. How can architects accomplish this connection? By integrating nature in their designs.
The main strategy is to bring characteristics of the natural world into built spaces, such as water, greenery, natural light, elements like wood (where the grain is visible) and stone. The use of botanical shapes and forms instead of straight lines is a characteristic of biophilic designs, as well as establishing a visual relationship, for example between light vs shadow.
Why do we need biophilic design in our workplaces?
A lot of studies were conducted on the benefits of integrating nature in workplaces. An employee spends an average of 8-9 hours daily sitting inside an office, a habit which eventually takes its toll on the human body. The negative impacts include: decreased metabolism rates, increased risk of diabetes and heart diseases, increased risk of depression, lower back and neck pain. Recently, architects have integrated biophilic designs in modern workplaces, resulting in an increase in productivity and creativity, and a decrease in employee absence. In other words, the more the office doesn’t feel or look like an office, the better the results are.
How do biophilic designs and wood go hand-in-hand?
While there are many ways to integrate biophilic designs, one popular solution is the use of wood. Wood is a natural and versatile material, and creates a great connection with the outdoors. Studies have shown that wood where the grain is visible relaxes the autonomic nervous system, resulting in lowered stress responses.
Appearance wise, wood offers a unique visual connection with nature, due to the abundance of types, textures, and colors. Whether it’s used as flooring, panels, or furniture, the material’s appeal is universal. While some architects choose to polish wood for a more refined look, others use the material as it is and highlight the design complexity that wood grains provide.
When it comes to functionality, wood can be applied in all types of interior spaces (offices, hotels, restaurants, and houses) and still provide the same visual and emotional connection with nature. Oftentimes, architects combine wood with greenery and an abundance of natural daylight to create a rich biophilic design palette that promotes well-being.