Connection with Natural Systems

Connection with natural Systems is the awareness of natural processes, especially seasonal and temporal changes characteristic of a healthy ecosystem.

The Experience

A space with a good Connection with natural Systems evokes a relationship to a greater whole, making one aware of seasonality and the cycles of life. The experience is often relaxing, nostalgic, profound or enlightening, and frequently anticipated


There is limited scientific documentation of the health impacts associated with access to natural systems; however, much like [P5] Presence of Water, this pattern is suspected to enhance positive health responses. In Biophilic Design (Kellert et al., 2008), Kellert frames this as “natural Patterns and Processes” , whereby seeing and understanding the processes of nature and can create a perceptual shift in what’s being seen and experienced. This pattern has a strong temporal element, which can be expressed culturally such as in the Japanese love of the ephemerality of cherry blossoms.


The objective of the Connection with natural Systems pattern is to heighten both awareness of natural properties and hopefully environmental stewardship of the ecosystems within which those properties prevail. The strategy for working with the pattern may be as simple as identifying semantic content in a view to nature (e.g., deciduous trees in the back yard or blossoming orchids on the window sill), or it may be a more complex integration of systems, such as by making evident the relationship between building occupant behavior and rainwater infrastructure (e.g., raingardens bioswales, storm sewers) capacity, by regulating domestic activities (e.g., howering, laundry) during rain events. In either case, the temporal component is usually the key factor in pattern recognition and the triggering of a deeper awareness of a functioning ecosystem.
Design considerations and opportunities that may help create quality connections with natural systems:

  • Integration of rainwater capture and treatment into the landscape design that respond to rain events
  • In some cases, providing visual access to existing natural systems will be the easiest and most cost effective approach. In other cases, the incorporation of responsive design tactics (e.g., use of materials that change form or expand function with exposure to solar heat gain, wind, rain/moisture, or shading), structures (e.g., steps wells), and land formations (e.g., bioswales, arroyos, dunes) will be necessary to achieve the desired level of awareness
  • Design for interactive opportunities, especially for children, patients, and the elderly (e.g., integrative educational curriculum; horticulture programs, community gardens; seasonal cooking/diet)

Naturally occurring
• Climate and weather patterns
• Hydrology
• Geology
• Animal behaviors
• Pollination, growth, aging and decomposition • Diurnal patterns
• night sky and other cycles
• Seasonal patterns

Simulated or Constructed
• Simulated daylighting systems
• Wildlife habitats
• exposure of water infrastructure
• Step wells for seasonal rainwater storage and social convergence
• natural patina of materials

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