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anooi a nourishing intent

a biophilic year: the key to reproducing nature effectively

in a biophilic year

“reproductions of nature
always intend to convey the
essence of the real thing”

cit. a biophilic year - #140

One of the elements of biophilic design is reproduction of nature. Also indicated with the name of natural analogues, reproduction refers to the recreation of nature’s shapes and features in designed spaces.

But not all reproductions are created equal. So let’s explore what makes the recreation of nature’s features effective!

conveying the essence

The overall objective of a biophilic approach to design is bringing people closer to nature, filling the gap between natural environments and man-made ones, and refining designed spaces with the richness of nature.

As such, nature’s reproductions shouldn’t just be a formal copy of nature. They should also communicate the essence of the real thing, the sensations and feelings evoked by the original natural element. This will make the design compelling and – by capturing the essence of nature – allow people to truly get closer to it.

Let’s then review the main ways to convey the essence of nature through reproduction.

Glass light fixture reproducing the texture of water with light.
Credit: M.R. Studio

sensory richness

Nature is rich in detail and stimulating to the senses. A successful reproduction of nature should do the same.

For instance, a faux wood or natural stone finish will be more effective when it reproduces the richness of the texture, the variety of colours, and the temperature of the real element. A faux plant will be more authentic when it replicates the leaves’ veining, shine and colour variations, as well as the way in which the branches sit.

Overall, the reproduction of nature’s shapes and textures will be more successful when it recreates the detailed richness that makes the natural counterpart so compelling and interesting to the senses.

Living room with a vertical garden in the tones of red.
Credit: Sirotov Architects
Carved wood finish recalling the richness of a real tree trunk.
Credit: Credit: Muto
Wallpaper reproducing leaves.
Credit: Credit: Glamora

feelings and sensations

Nature is also uniquely precious for the feelings it communicates (the so-called nature of the space) and reproduction will be best when it’s able to convey those same feelings.

For instance, does the reproduction of leaves moving in the wind convey the same feeling of peace and freshness as real ones? Does the recreation of a cave-like space convey the same sense of exploration and intrigue as the real thing?

Nature’s reproductions can definitely help enrich the experience of a designed space, but only if they communicate the same depth of emotions.

Wallpaper reproducing leaves moving in the breeze.
Credit: Credit: Glamora
Interior reproducing the shape and atmosphere of a natural cave.
Credit: Koichi Takada Architects – Ph: Tom Ferguson

natural processes

Another reason why nature is so rich and engaging lies in the processes that make it alive. Processes that design might want to recreate.

In this sense, successful reproduction of nature will be one that effectively communicates a sense of growth, conveys the idea of graceful aging over time, or reproduces how nature has solved a practical problem.

Tree-shaped column conveying a sense of growth.
Credit: Koichi Takada Architects – Ph: Tom Ferguson
Wood pavillion shaped according to biomimetic computations.
Credit: ICD

To sum up, reproducing nature in biophilic design is much more than imitating a shape or texture. According to what it wants to communicate, effective nature recreation might aim at being as equal to the original as possible or be formally more abstract. What counts the most is what it conveys and whether it is successful in bringing people closer to the natural world.

This article is part of the book-to-blog initiative, that continues online the experience of my book ‘a biophilic year: 365 thoughts on the essence and practice of biophilic design’. If you have the book, you’re welcome to reach out and request which topic you’d like to see next in this series!

Preview of my book, a biophilic year: 365 thoughts on the essence and practice of biophilic design
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