What is Biophilic Design?

What is Biophilic Design?

What is Biophilic Design

An underlaying premise of incorporating nature into the built environment is that “when people are regularly in contact with nature, personal health, and wellbeing will improve in a manner and to a degree that contributes meaningful to public health, community resilience and environmental stewardship”
“Nature Inside” – William Browning and Catherine O.Ryan
The word biophilia originates from the Greek, 'philia' meaning 'love of'. It literally means a love of life or living things. Humans have a deeply engrained love of nature which is an intuitive and natural drive imprinted into our DNA.
The term was popularized by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in the 1960s. In his work, he used biophilia to describe the biological drive toward self-preservation.
In the 1970s American biologist, Edward O. Wilson extended the word’s meaning, to denote “the rich, natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by living organisms.” In his best-known work, Biophilia (1984), Wilson used the term to describe the genetic drive to focus on and affiliate with nature and other life forms.


Modern-day spaces are increasingly inspired by biophilia and art as a holistic approach to design.

 Interior spaces with a Biophilic design are based on this human connection with nature, purposefully integrating natural elements, materials, and life forms into architecture and design. People have always preferred spaces with great outdoor views and it’s a place we gravitate to holiday, socialise or participate in a hobby or sport. Beaches, forests, lakes and snow fields are some of our favourite places to relax and recharge whilst reconnecting to nature.

Biophilic interior designs take it one step further to bring the outdoors in. It takes our bond with natural surroundings and works to apply it to our living spaces, resulting in measurable physical and psychological benefits.

Biophilic interior spaces are not just visually appealing and soothing, but evidence shows that such spaces have the power to heal and create a sense of happiness and well-being. Far from being a luxury, biophilic designs have been termed a “birthright” of human beings by the author of “Biophilic Design”, Stephen Kellert.

Artwork: Yallaroo - The Australian Scented Gumtree

Research from around the world confirms that connections to nature and natural patterns are both appealing and stress-relieving.  According to environmental psychologist Stephen Kaplan, it’s because they engage the mind effortlessly, an outcome that many of us crave in an effort to relax in these modern times.

Physicist Richard Taylor says it’s also because nature features the presence of repetitive, self-similar patterns called fractals, something our human visual system has learned to process with ease and enjoyment. Through brainwave and skin conductance research, Taylor and his team discovered that simply looking at fractal patterns in nature, whether through a window or within a piece of art, resulted in a shocking 60 percent reduction in stress.

Example of nature's fractures

Even NASA researched ways to help the psyche of astronauts living in windowless rooms in outer space. What they learned is that observation periods of nature’s fractals, even for less that 10 seconds and with only a periphery view, were sufficient enough to trigger the desired effect of reducing stress.

Fabric designs displaying examples of nature’s fractal 


 Designing a Healthy Living and Working Space

Biophilia is more than just a philosophy—documented research into biophilic design has been found to support cognitive function, physical health, and psychological well-being. To incorporate biophilic design into your home or office space is to encourage the connection between humans and nature, promoting staff wellness and productivity.

Biophilia and art influences in interior designs help architects and designers create a space that caters to the physical, mental, and emotional needs of people.


* Improve Health

* Increase mood and feelings of wellbeing.

* Improve productivity

* Reduce stress levels

* Mental restoration and reduced fatigue


Artwork: Beacon of the Bush - The Australian White Waratah

Key Elements in Biophilic Design

 The best biophilic design examples can now be found all around the world in any variety of settings, but they all have one thing in common - interiors that use natural materials, plants, lighting, artwork, imagery and other sensory design elements to give the user an experience energizes, refreshes, and connects them to nature. 

Nature Views & Images

Gives a sense of security, reduces anxiety and helps with focusing. Paintings and photographs of nature have also been proven to have the same positive effect on mental well- being as being in nature.

Plant Life

Live plants increase oxygen levels. When oxygen reaches the brain, it encourages the release of endorphins, chemicals that produce feelings of pain relief and well-being.

Natural Lighting

Helps make you feel more awake and sleep better. The body's circadian rhythm relies on the changing of light to determine when to wake up and when to sleep.


Has a significant effect on you mentally. Ambient 'nature' sounds, such as birdsong or beach waves have been linked with feelings of calm and a better ability to focus

Examples of Biophilic Design in the Workplace

While stress is common in fast-paced working environments, companies like Metagenics are staying health and wellness focused with biophilic design elements built into their new office design

 Metagenics new office space

Companies like Orgain are putting their health and wellness focus on display with a comfortable lunch room and adjacent game room designed to provide that often needed “mental break” to assist work fatigue. Outdoor, “de-stress” zones include a Zen garden, putting a green and tranquil water feature offering opportunities for employees to rest and relax or build connections with their colleagues.


In the words of Dr. Richard Jackson from the University of California Los Angeles School of Public Health, “We now know that developers and architects can be more effective in achieving public health goals than doctors in white coats.”

On average, one-third of a workday outside of the home is spent at the office. Therefore, in order to achieve public health goals and employee wellbeing and productivity in the workplace, Biophilic natural elements, eclectic spaces and creative thinking are essential factors to consider and adopt now in corporate design.



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