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biophilic design: nature of the space

in biophilic design

The first 10 biophilic design patterns (Nature in the Space and Natural Analogues) focus on the material aspect of nature, introducing and replicating textures, patterns and sensory aspects of nature.

But living in contact with nature is more than that. And the last 4 patterns – grouped under the Nature of the Space category – cover what’s been missing so far: the feelings that arise when we are in contact with nature.

11. prospect

Uninterrupted view over a distance.

This pattern originates from research stating that we are naturally drawn to environments that recall African savannahs, i.e. the habitat where we evolved as a species. Wide-open spaces feel comforting and give us a reassuring feeling of control.

Open floor plans are a great way to translate this pattern in interiors. When separation is needed, see-through partitions or glass mezzanines can divide the space, while maximizing the quantity of natural light in the space. Open bookshelves used as room dividers are another option, as they partition the space without blocking the view. Plus, they add storage, which is always a good thing, right?

To maximize the available prospect, this pattern advises that views should extend from 6 metres (20 feet approx.) to 30 metres (100 feet approx.). Similarly, limiting the height of partitions to 1 metre (42 inches) is preferable to separate the space while keeping the view uninterrupted.

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Open plan minimal apartment, with uninterrupted view from the kitchen to the patio, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: DX Architects (Photo by Tatjana Plitt)
Glass partition between living and dining room, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Velaria sliding door by Rimadesio
Open bookshelf room divider between kitchen and dining area, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Essence Ri-flex by Veneta Cucine

12. refuge

Sense of protection from environmental conditions and activity.

When living in nature – and in interior spaces as well – it’s important to have some refuge areas. Creating a sense of safety and calm, they allow us to disconnect from the outdoor environment, which includes both weather conditions and the hectic pace of modern life.

Ideally, a refuge area should provide protection from three sides, and leave the fourth open to still have a view on the surroundings.

Reading nooks and window seats are ideal examples, as they create a more intimate area into a bigger space. Enveloping armchairs and canopy beds are also ways to add refuge without the need for structural works.

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Refuge area - a cozy reading corner in a living room.
Credit: Design by Bellas Artes - Visualization by Nurik Karanavidani (via Behance)
Window seat in a modern bedroom, great option to create a refuge area in a biophilic design.
Credit: Bark Design (Photo by Christopher Frederick Jones)
Canopy bed in a minimalist home, great option to create a refuge area in a biophilic design.
Credit: Igor Sirotov
Walk-in shower, great option to create a refuge area in a biophilic design.
Credit: Ranquist Development (via Trendir)

13. mystery

Partially obscured views stimulating curiosity about the unknown.

Humans are naturally drawn to exploration and find pleasure in spaces that alternate open views and shielded areas.

A biophilic design will reproduce this feeling by hiding some areas of an interior and inviting occupants to explore the space with carefully designed leading paths created with lines (mainly curved), light, scents and sounds.

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Curved shape corridor, great option to create a mysterious path in a biophilic design.
Credit: Hironaka Ogawa (via Home Adore)

14. risk/peril

Balance between a sense of risk and the feeling of protection.

Spaces are immediately perceived as more intriguing and stimulating when they provoke some kind of risky feeling. Potential risks include:

It’s important to mention that all these risks should be just a perception, namely the space needs to be 100% safe in reality. Also, the perception of risk should always be paired with a reasonable feeling of protection to avoid becoming threatening.

Good examples are infinity pools, glass floors or full-height windows with very thin profiles. All these features are totally safe, but can trick people in thinking that they may fall.

Read more about Risk

Infinity pool, great option to create a sense of risk in a biophilic design.
Credit: Alka Pool
Glass floor, great option to create a sense of risk in a biophilic design.
Credit: Metaform Architects
Full-height window looking into the forest, great option to create a sense of risk in a biophilic design.
Credit: Paul Kaloustian

Human beings have always lived in close contact with nature. It is part of who we are and studies keep proving the benefits of nature on us. With the evolution of metropolitan areas, humans have left nature behind. And with it also the benefits it has on our wellbeing!

Biophilic design puts health and wellbeing at the core of urban areas, workspaces and homes. This is not just beneficial for human beings, but for the environment as well. To start with, biophilic design gives nature more physical space to thrive. Also – by re-creating a positive relationship between humans and nature – it makes people generally more prone to caring for nature in everyday life!

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.

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