Biophilic Design: The (New) Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Biophilic Design: The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.
If I were to tell you that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life, you wouldn’t frown upon me. We may argue how, and to what extent, but it is somewhat overall accepted that we look to nature as a way to connect, almost spiritually, with, well, possibly ourselves.
This hypothesis, known as biophilia, is present in various forms of human expression — case in point, design. It goes beyond an inspiration in fauna or flora and related motifs. Its copious remark is in the design altered in function incorporating natural light, embodying living elements in buildings, and even the impact of said building in its surroundings — agreeable, sustainable, and even participative.
When we think of sustainability, we analyze the human impact on nature; in biophilia, we turn our heads to see the effect it has on us. Opposing to the passé polarization between cities and nature, this concept goes back as far as Babylon, where it was hard to tell where the buildings stopped and the gardens began. Even though it was alw505ys somewhat present throughout the history of architecture, it wasn’t necessarily articulated — it just seemed right.
Stephen Kellert, one of the pioneers of the voicing and writing of biophilic design, explored the direct and indirect ways to experience nature in architecture — the first, mainly via the incorporation of natural light, air, plants or even animals, and the latter through images, materials or colors that depict our perception of a more natural environment. Taking this to the next level, Timothy Beatley defies us not to limit our vision for a building, but to a city — where urban planning takes into consideration the integration of green elements into people’s lifestyles.
Buildings Integrated in Nature
As an icon of harmony between humans and nature, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house is a tour de force of organic architecture. Its strong Japanese influence emphasizing the importance of interpenetrating exterior and interior spaces, dynamism, and integration with its striking natural surroundings makes it Wright’s biophilic masterpiece.
Nature Integrated into Buildings
From buildings integrated into nature, we go to nature integrated into buildings — Bosco Verticale, in the heart of urban Milan and designed by Boeri Studio, is home to 900 trees, 5,000 shrubs, and 11,000 floral plants. These buildings are self-sufficient due to the use of solar panels and filtered wastewater to sustain their plant life, while also improving the overall air quality and attracting biodiversity. Besides its overall enhanced footprint, the vegetation also moderates the buildings’ temperature, provides shade and protection from harsh winds, noise pollution, and street-level traffic. It is a living reflection on the change of developing cities to accommodate nature not only trough parks and gardens but in its edifices as well.
Biophilic design defies the notion that the idea of a city, attached to those of urbanism, evolution, and technology, is a polar opposite of a more natural environment, commonly associated with rural, unsophisticated living. Given the innate need for humans to not only experience nature, but feel part of it, the overall benefits of this concept surpass any lingering drawbacks.
Biophilia & Health
As for health, the impact of biophilia is clearly positive with hospitals using “green gymnasiums” to improve patients’ mental health, even increasing pain tolerance, and improving social interactions and physical activity. The use of trees and plants on buildings also improves the edifices’ health, protecting it from wear and weather — and the overall health of Mother Earth enhancing air quality and boosting biodiversity.
Literally meaning “love of life or living systems”, biophilia comes into design with a single question — wouldn’t you love to live in a place like this?