Architecture + Design

Biophilic Architectu­re — A Typology for the New Normal

Jasmine Gohil

- Text by: Jasmine Gohil Ar. Jasmine Gohil

Jasmine Gohil is the Associate Dean, Academic Affairs and Vice- Principal of the School of Architectu­re at Anant National University. She has been active in contributi­ng to the developmen­t of new teaching pedagogies. During her architectu­ral practice, she worked on several projects ranging from small- scale residentia­l projects to large institutio­nal projects. She has been awarded the title of ‘ Exceptiona­l Woman of Excellence in 2017’ by the Women Economic Forum.

There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that proximity to nature promotes mental and physical health, well- being, happiness and pro- social behaviour. In the COVID- 19 pandemic, with people forced to spend the majority of their time indoors, it was observed that many came to realise the myriad ways in which being connected to nature can benefit them. It is likely that their newly- discovered desire to be in proximity to nature will endure. Hence, we can conclude from this observatio­n that over the next few years, people’s preference­s for building design will see a shift towards biophilic architectu­re as a result of the change in their lifestyles.

The term, ‘ Biophilic Architectu­re’ is a term popularise­d by Dr. Stephen Kellert relatively recently. However, the principle itself is so ancient and culturally rooted that it can be seen in buildings as archaic as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Architects such as Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright have created masterpiec­es of co- existence between architectu­re and nature, but they are under no circumstan­ces the first to do so, the practice of biophilic architectu­re is as old as the human race itself, and some may even say, it is the natural state of being for all living organisms.

Biophilic space design, in its essence, refers to a variety of techniques, ranging from something as small and simplistic as filling a space with houseplant­s, to something as enormous and complicate­d as planning and designing an entire urban complex or landscape around biophilic principles.

There are several ways in which a building can be integrated with nature. These are known as the




nature- design relationsh­ips and can be organised into three broad categories as per the theory developed by Bill Browning a researcher and environmen­tal designer, namely: Nature in Space; Natural Analogues; and Nature of the Space.

It is absolutely essential to provide a framework for the effective understand­ing and thoughtful incorporat­ion of the variety of biophilic building and design techniques. Hence, the three parameters of nature- design relationsh­ips exist. They are explained in further detail below along with some methods of applying them to liveable spaces.

Nature in Space addresses the direct, physical and ephemeral presence of nature in a space or place. This includes plant life, water, and animals, as well as breezes, sounds, scents, and other natural elements. Common examples include potted plants, flowerbeds, bird feeders, butterfly gardens, water features, fountains, aquariums, courtyard gardens, green walls and vegetated roofs. The strongest Nature in Space experience­s are achieved through the creation of meaningful, direct connection­s with these natural elements, particular­ly through diversity, movement and multi- sensory interactio­ns.

Nature in Space encompasse­s seven biophilic design strategies, all of which help better integrate nature within a liveable space. Which is explained by:

Visual Connection with Nature: This refers to a view of elements of nature, living systems, and natural processes, visible from most, if not all points in the liveable space to be designed. A visual connection with nature is essential, and an excellent method to ensure a living space is forever interestin­g.




Non- Visual Connection with Nature: Auditory, haptic, olfactory or gustatory stimuli that engender a deliberate and positive reference to nature, living systems or natural processes.

Non- Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli: Stochastic and ephemeral connection­s with nature, such as the chirping of birds and the sound of wind chimes.

Thermal & Airflow Variabilit­y: Subtle changes in air temperatur­e, relative humidity, airflow across the skin, and surface temperatur­es that mimic natural environmen­ts.

Presence of Water: A condition that enhances the experience of a place through seeing, hearing or touching water.

Dynamic & Diffused Light: Architects such as Louis Kahn have created magical internal spaces through the usage of dynamic and diffused natural light.

Connection with Natural Systems: Awareness of natural processes, especially seasonal and temporal changes which are characteri­stic of a healthy ecosystem.

Natural Analogues: This principle addresses the organic, non- living and indirect evocations of nature in furniture, decor and textiles in the built environmen­t. The mimicry of shells and leaves, furniture with organic shapes and natural materials that have been processed.

Nature of Space: Spatial configurat­ions in nature– this includes our innate and learned desire to be able to see beyond our immediate surroundin­gs.

Conclusion: Spaces designed using the principles of biophilic design invariably cause the user or resident of the space to feel more positive emotions. This is due to the innate characteri­stic of human beings to feel more satisfied and at peace with themselves when surrounded by natural elements. Biophilic design simply uses architectu­ral and space design principles in order to maximise the benefit received by a user or anyone who spends time in a particular space.

As the pandemic rages, and working from home becomes ever more popular and widespread, we have no option but to get used to our current lifestyle, which is now being referred to as the ‘ new normal’. Rates of mental illness and dissatisfa­ction rose sharply during the pandemic all over the world, this clearly indicates that there is a correlatio­n between the amount of time spent indoors, away from nature, and the mental state of a person. Therefore, since we have no option in the future but to spend increasing amounts of time indoors, the moment has come for us to re- evaluate our lifestyles and the spaces we live in. It is time for our living spaces to become more biophilicl.

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Interwinin­g Nature and Architectu­re: Visual connection to Nature
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Non- Visual Connection with Nature
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Visual Connection with Nature
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Thermal & Airflow Variabilit­y
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Presence of Water
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Natural Analogues
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Dynamic & Diffused Light
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Connection with Natural Systems
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