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Biophilic moodboards: creating unexpected stimuli in interiors

in biophilic moodboards

Being immersed in nature is a rich experience that involves all senses. Every natural environment is full of sounds, movements and scents, many of which are not predictable and just happen, such as birds chirping or branches swinging in the wind.

Seeking to reproduce the same feeling in designed spaces, biophilic design highlights the importance of unexpected sounds, movements and other sensory elements.

This episode of Biophilic Moodboards looks into the role and the design of unexpected sensory stimuli

Biophilic design moodboard explaining unexpected stimuli in interiors: 1. Curtains moving in the wind. 2. Landscape with grass swinging. 3. Shadows casting on a table.
Credits (from top left): Patrick Ponseele, Bas van den Eijkhof, Block 722. Moodboard: anooi studio

about unexpected stimuli

In biophilic design terms, unexpected movements, sounds and smells are called non-rhythmic sensory stimuli.
Non-rhythmic – because they don’t follow a predictable pattern.
Sensory – because they involve the senses.
Stimuli – because they draw attention, diverting it from what it was concentrated on.

Unexpected sensory experiences like those happening in nature act as a restorative break for the mind. They distract it for a moment, helping it get back to whatever it was doing more focused than before. Such positive distractions are therefore ideal in offices, as well as other spaces devoted to concentration and creativity.

Curtains moving in the wind.
Credit: Patrick Ponseele

framing outdoor life

Sensory experiences naturally happen outdoors and can easily become part of indoor life by means of outdoor views.

All natural views provide interesting elements. The sky draws the eye to clouds moving and birds chirping while passing by. Greenery has branches and leaves moving in the wind, and it attracts wildlife. The ocean is an ever-changing expanse of water and life…

Outdoor space with plants swinging and interesting light reflections.
Credit: Teke Architects – Ph: Yercekim Architectural Photography
Home office in front of a glazed wall.
Credit: Nicolas Schuybroek Architects – Ph: Claessens & Deschamps

designing for unexpected stimuli

Unexpected stimuli can be introduced in interiors and other designed spaces in a variety of ways.

The 4 elements come with their distinctive stimuli: a breath of fresh air, a bubbling water feature, a crackling fire… Light and water also create unexpected stimuli through reflections. Light and shadow plays vary during the day and with seasons, strengthening the connection between designed spaces and natural systems. Similarly, water reflections create changing movements and sounds that fill the space with life.

Outdoor space with a lively water feature.
Credit: Depth of Field
Sunlight reflection on a patio table.
Credit: Block 722
Water pond reflecting on the wall.
Credit: Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos - Ph: Miguel Angel Acevedo

Unexpected changes in nature are clear signs that the environment is alive. In the same way, they give life to designed spaces, crafting an interesting, restorative and nourishing experience.

Biophilic design resources by anooi:
A Biophilic YearApplying Biophilic DesignVisual Library of Biophilic Design