biophilic design: nature in the space
in biophilic design
Nature in the space is the first of the 3 categories of biophilic design patterns.
Not surprisingly, Nature in the space refers to the use of real natural elements in interiors. This includes:
- Plants and greenery
- Natural light
- Outdoor views
- Natural ventilation
The above elements are described in more detail in the 7 Nature in the space patterns. Let’s discover them one by one!
1. visual connection with nature
View of natural elements from within a space.
Research has proven the benefits of natural outdoor views in terms of reduced stress and improved mood, concentration and recovery rates.
“Visual access to biodiversity is reportedly more beneficial to our psychological health than access to land area (i.e., quantity of land).”
(Fuller, Irvine, Devine-Wright et al., 2007)
This is a great finding, especially if we think of dense urban areas, where increasing the quantity of green land is no easy task. A substantial variety of visible biodiversity is then the essential point for a successful biophilic design.
To increase the visual connection with nature, big windows or fully glazed walls are an amazing design choice. Adding greenery indoors is another great move. But this means more than having a few potted plants here and there! In the scope of biophilic design, greenery needs to be a cohesive element in the space and include diverse plant species (living walls are a very good example of that).
Read more about Visual Connection with Nature
2. non-visual connection with nature
Interactions with nature through other senses: sound, touch, smell and taste.
This is an interesting point because the other senses (except sight) are often undervalued in the design of interiors.
What sounds are characteristic in your home? Does it have a defined smell?
These are questions we often cannot reply to, because those senses were not taken into account in the design of the space.
Here are some ways to incorporate all 5 senses in a biophilic design:
- Introducing natural sounds, both recorded or created naturally.
- Using a variety of touchable natural materials like plants, wood, stone…
- Incorporating natural scents, preferably from flowers or plants.
- Allowing natural ventilation and preferring seamless connections between indoor and outdoor.
Read more about Non-Visual Connection with Nature
3. non-rhythmic sensory stimuli
Unpredictable and non-repetitive movements that happen in nature like birds chirping or leaves moving in a breeze.
These features are part of every natural environment. Plants always attract birds, insects and butterflies. And the wind moves grass and branches.
These movements catch our attention and are highly regenerating for the mind, especially thanks to their irregular and non-repetitive nature. Applying this biophilic pattern in a design is a way to make the space interesting, stimulating and slightly different at all times.
Read more about Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
4. thermal and airflow variability
Variability in air temperature and flow, changes in relative humidity and varying surface temperatures.
Introducing temperature and air flow variations makes an indoor space invigorating and alive, like a natural outdoor environment would be. One way to introduce this pattern is by prioritizing natural light and ventilation. This will let the outdoor breeze come in and create an alternation of sunny and shaded spots.
Another way to play with this pattern is through the use of materials. For instance, wood is naturally warm whereas stone is cold. Mixing them in a design can introduce some interesting temperature variability among surfaces.
Read more about Thermal & Airflow Variability
5. presence of water
Water as a design feature.
Water is a powerful tool in biophilic design as it affects different senses simultaneously.
Naturally-moving water (like a waterfall or fountain) is preferable as it can be seen, heard and/or touched. But the movement should never be too violent, as this would end up feeling uncomfortable and intimidating.
Even if it may not seem so, a wall fountain is not too hard to install, and could fit even in a smaller balcony. Just remember to incorporate a system of continuous water recirculation to prevent water waste!
Read more about Water as a design feature
6. dynamic and diffuse light
Varying lighting intensities and light changes over time that recall the natural cycle of day and night.
In indoor spaces, dynamic lighting can be achieved with a layered lighting system, that includes a mix of general ambient lighting, task lighting for specific activities and some accents. Dimmable solutions are also precious to create a dynamic lighting system. But what’s most beneficial to us is the use of artificial lighting to recall the natural cycle of day and night. This takes the name of Human Centric Lighting and has been the focus of the latest innovations in lighting design.
Read more about Dynamic & Diffuse Light
7. connection with natural systems
Awareness of seasonal and temporal changes.
The easiest way to achieve this pattern is by having an outdoor view. The passing of seasons will change the outdoor scenario, creating a stronger connection with nature.
Read more about Connection with Natural Systems
Keep exploring biophilic design through its other patterns:
Or take a look at my Biophilic Design Guide for a recap of all 14 patterns of biophilic design + links to more in depth articles.