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biophilic moodboards: the benefits of "risky" interiors

in biophilic moodboards

It is no surprise that nature is filled with risky situations and environments. What’s less intuitive is the extent to which such situations have any positive consequences, as well as how the whole concept of risk applies to biophilic spaces.

This episode of Biophilic Moodboards looks into the effect of apparent risk and its application to designed spaces…

Moodboard showing the concept of risk in biophilic design. 1. A bed with glass legs. 2. A seemingly unstable shelf. 3. A floating staircase.
Credits (from top left): Lago, Joel Escalona – Ph Mariana Achach, Steven Harris Architects – Ph: Scott Frances. Moodboard: anooi studio

about apparent risk

All designed spaces fulfill a function, which is in turn linked to a set of feelings that range from relaxation to excitement. If a bedroom calls for a soothing ambiance, a stimulating environment will be more appropriate when creativity is desired (like in office design) or to craft an overall rousing experience. This is where risk features come into play, as they create a compelling and exciting atmosphere.

Yet not just any type of risk will work… What’s in scope to support positive feelings is a balanced combination of perceived risk and a rational knowledge of safety. In practice, situations that seem risky while in fact being safe.
Such feelings of apparent risk are connected with short releases of dopamine in the brain, which can stimulate motivation, memory, and problem-solving. On top of this, apparent risk design features are among the most spectacular. They trigger a sense of excitement that leaves people surprised and amazed, achieving what is commonly called wow factor.

Full-height window looking into the forest.
Credit: Paul Kaloustian

apparent risk in designed spaces

Introducing apparent risk features in interiors and other designed spaces is a matter of shapes, materials and perspectives that create the perception of risk while keeping everything safe.

Clear glass is a good example, as it makes things visually disappear. This can create a sense of instability while still being structurally sound. Suspended and cantilevered elements are also an option, as they give a sense of precarious balance.

Bed with clear glass legs and floor-to-ceiling window overlooking a steep cliff.
Credit: Lago
A floating staircase.
Credit: Steven Harris Architects – Ph: Scott Frances

playing safe with risk

Apparent risk features are definitely not suitable for all situations nor for everybody. But there is one instance of risk that is less extreme yet equally effective: the risk of getting wet.

Examples could be a floating pathway across a water pond, or a hanging chair swinging over a water body.

A floating pathway across a water pond.
Credit: Iván Quizhpe Arquitectos – Ph: Sebastián Crespo
Hanging chair over a water body.
Credit: Dedon

As a whole, apparent risk features translate feelings of excitement and adventure into design solutions, making designed spaces highly stimulating and engaging.


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