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biophilic travels: an urban forest as a workplace

in biophilic travels

The biophilic aim of reconnecting design with the natural world is something uncommon with respect to how we’ve been operating so far. This invites to question common ideas about how spaces are supposed to be. Workplace design is a good example; more than for other space types, there is a rather strong common idea of what a workplace should be like.

In this episode of Biophilic Travels, we’re touring a biophilic office that goes above and beyond common ideas, reimagining workplace design in many ways…

indoor landscaping

As the name suggests, The Spheres develops into 3 sphere-shaped buildings. At first sight, the space looks more like a botanical garden than a workplace. Dense vertical gardens fill the space with life, and waterfalls introduce more sensory richness through water.

The space spans several stories. Pathways flow in between the flora, tickling the desire to explore the space. Seating areas punctuate the way, with open spaces to welcome group conversations and smaller nooks that accentuate a sense of refuge and silence. Notably, there’s also a bird nest-shaped seating area, that recalls a real nest in the form as well as for its seemingly unstable structure, which prompts a sensation of apparent risk. Same for the suspended bridges and cantilevered observation points that make the experience of the space more varied and compelling.

Natural materials, textures and shapes contribute to blending the man-made elements with the vegetation, creating a cohesive and rich indoor landscape.

Bird nest seating area.
Credit: NBBJ – Ph: Bruce Damonte
Bottom up view of the bird nest area.
Credit: NBBJ – Ph: Sean Airhart
Inside view of the bird nest seating area.
Credit: NBBJ – Ph: Mike Kane/Bloomberg
A suspended bridge.
Credit: NBBJ – Ph: Mike Kane/Bloomberg

a creative space

The Spheres is one area of a bigger workplace that also includes desks and more conventional office environments. It is a space that – incorporating biophilic elements – has been specifically conceived for people to meet, develop ideas, and be creative.

This highlights the importance of crafting different spaces for different activities.
The office is a place to concentrate, create, exchange, grow… Hence, the workplace should be a diverse and articulated space that reflects the variety of a workday. A dimension that is too often overlooked in traditional office design.

Seating areas along a flowy pathway.
Credit: NBBJ – Ph: Sean Airhart
Close-up of the abundant vegetation.
Credit: NBBJ – Ph: Bruce Damonte

communicating with the city

This project goes beyond that of a workplace, providing value to the community as a plus. The plan includes plazas, gardens, and other amenities that are open and accessible to everyone. The spaces of The Spheres themselves are open to the public on weekends.

Blurring lines between office and urban design, this project takes into account its context (a bustling city) and the potential impact of a new build, creating valuable shared spaces for the community as well as a private workplace.

Pathway incorporating green areas.
Credit: NBBJ
View of a tall indoor tree.
Credit: NBBJ – Ph: Mike Kane/Bloomberg
Close-up of a flower.
Credit: NBBJ
Tall vertical garden.
Credit: NBBJ

Imagine if the same approach was extended to the entire urban space. Moving towards a biophilic urban environment, the whole experience of being in the city would change, bringing city dwellers closer to the natural world and to each other.

Design: NBBJ
Photography: Bruce Damonte, Sean Airhart, Mike Kane/Bloomberg

find more biophilic inspiration on anooi Visual Library

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