Biophilic Design Patterns

“…the enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it;
and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to
the whole system.”

Biophilic design can reduce stress, improve cognitive function ,creativity, and improve our well-being and expedite healing. As the world population continues to urbanize, these qualities are ever more important.

Biophilia is humankind’s innate biological connection with nature. It helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why a garden view can enhance our creativity; why shadows and heights instill fascination and fear; and why animal companionship and strolling through a park have restorative, healing effects. The following posts covers Biophilic design in context with architecture, health sciences
and touches on key implementation considerations, and presents biophilic design patterns.

A piece of land – not so very big, with a garden and, near the house, a spring that never fails, and a bit of wood to round it off

roman poet

Biophilic Design can be organized into three categories: nature in the Space, natural Analogues, and nature of the Space – providing a framework for understanding and enabling thoughtful incorporation of a rich diversity of strategies into the built environment.

Nature in space

Nature in the 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.The
strongest nature in the 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 includes 7 biophilic design patterns

  • Visual Connection with Nature: A view to elements of nature,
    living systems and natural processes.
  • 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 that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.
  • 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 & Diffuse Light: Leverages varying intensities of light and shadow that change over time to create conditions that occur
    in nature.
  • Connection with Natural Systems: Awareness of natural processes, especially seasonal and temporal changes characteristic of a healthy ecosystem.

Natural Analogues encompasses three patterns:

  • Biomorphic Forms & Patterns: Symbolic references to contoured, patterned, textured or numerical arrangements that persist in nature.
  • Material Connection with Nature: Materials and elements from nature that, through minimal processing, reflect the local ecology or geology and create a distinct sense of place.
  • Complexity & Order: Rich sensory information that adheres to a spatial hierarchy similar to those encountered in nature.

Natural Analogues

It addresses organic, non-living and indirect evocations of nature. Objects, materials, colors, shapes, sequences and patterns found in nature, manifest as artwork, ornamentation, furniture, décor, and textiles in the built environment.

Nature of the Space

Addresses spatial configurations in nature. This includes our innate and learned desire to be able to see beyond our immediate surroundings, our fascination with the slightly dangerous or unknown; obscured views and revelatory moments; and sometimes even phobia inducing properties when they include a trusted element of safety.

Nature of the Space encompasses four biophilic design patterns:

  • Prospect: An unimpeded view over a distance, for surveillance and planning.
  • Refuge: A place for withdrawal from environmental conditions or the main flow of activity, in which the individual is protected from behind and overhead.
  • Mystery: The promise of more information, achieved through partially obscured views or other sensory devices that entice the individual to travel deeper into the environment.
  • Risk/Peril: An identifiable threat coupled with a reliable safeguard.

PatternsStress ReductionCognitive performanceEmotion, mood & preference
Visual Connection with Naturelowered blood pressure and heart rateimproved mental engagement/ attentivenesspositively impacted attitude and overall happiness
Non-Visual Connection with Naturereduced systolic blood pressure and stress hormonespositively impacted on cognitive performanceperceived improvements in mental health and tranquility
Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimulipositively impacted on heart
rate, systolic blood pressure and sympathetic nervous system activity
observed and quantified behavioral, measures of attention and exploration
Thermal & Airflow Variabilitypositively impacted comfort, well-being and productivitypositively impacted concentrationimproved perception of temporal
and spatial pleasure
Presence of Waterreduced stress, increased
feelings of tranquility, lower heart
rate and blood pressure
improved concentration and memory restoration,enhanced perception and psychological responsivenessobserved preferences and
positive emotional responses
Dynamic & Diffuse Light.positively impacted circadian system functioning, increased visual comfort
Connection with Natural Systemsenhanced positive health responses; shifted perception of environment
Biomorphic Forms & Patternsobserved view preference
Material Connection with Naturedecreased diastolic blood pressure,improved creative performanceimproved comfort
Complexity & Order.positively impacted perceptual and
physiological stress responses
observed view preference
Prospectreduced stressreduced boredom, irritation, fatigueimproved comfort and perceived safety
Mysteryinduced strong pleasure response
Risk/Perilresulted in strong dopamine
or pleasure responses

Empty cells: minimal research available to support relationship

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