Biophilia. It’s a word you’re about to start hearing a lot more of. And it’s going to have an increasing influence on interior design and architecture.
The word ‘biophilia’ literally means a love of life or living things. (It stems from Greek and is the opposite of phobia. Phobia = fear of. Philia = love of.) We have an intuitive and deeply ingrained attraction to nature, and a biological need for contact with the natural world.
If I asked you to imagine a place where you feel calm and relaxed, chances are you would imagine a place in nature. Researchers have found that more than 90% of us imagine a natural setting.
We feel good in nature. But even more than this, our physical and mental well-being depends on continued engagement with the natural environment. It affects our personal well-being, productivity and even relationships with others.
Biophilia – a short history
The word biophilia was first used by a psychologist called Erich Fromm in 1964. He described it as “the passionate love of life and all that is alive”.
The concept was popularised by Edward O Wilson, an American biologist in 1984 with his book ‘Biophilia’. He defined it as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”.
In the last couple of decades biophilia has been recognised by the scientific and design communities. And there have been studies that show convincing evidence of the positive benefits of interaction with nature. Research shows that it can improve productivity, lower stress levels, enhance learning comprehension, and increase recovery rates from illness.
The term biophilia may be a relatively new one. But the concept isn’t. People have been intuitively aware of it since ancient times. It is an inherent tendency.
It’s only in the last 250 years – since the age of the industrial revolution – that there has been a major transformative shift towards urban living and increased isolation from the natural world.
Until that time, our lives and homes were integrated with our natural surroundings. And because of that, our development was influenced by interactions with nature and the spacial properties of natural landscapes.
Many architects and designers came to realise that there is a connection between some of our urban ills and the impoverished design of a lot of modern buildings and environments. This in turn led to the creation of a new practice: biophilic design.
Biophilic design integrates nature and natural elements, materials and forms into architecture and interiors.
The benefits of biophilic design for your home and well being
Biophilia is so important for our physical and mental well-being. If we are deprived of the ability to affiliate with nature, it does affect us.
Have you ever been in a drab room, without windows, only artificial light and piped air – and felt lethargic and sapped of energy? Depressed even? If so, you have an understanding of just how important biophilic design is.
According to Stephen Kellert (author of several books on the subject) after a time spent in an environment like that, you would start to experience a kind of sensory deprivation.
Studies have shown that our ability to directly access nature can alleviate feelings of stress, promote recovery from mental fatigue, enable better focus, mental stamina, and productivity.
Perhaps surprisingly, it has been found that even looking at pictures of scenes of nature has the ability to lift our spirits and make us feel more relaxed.
Exposure to natural daylight is another important element. It can help to elevate our mood as well as balance the hormone that regulates sleep.
Biophilic design, therefore, isn’t just another design style to improve the look of your interior. It is essential for your happiness and well-being.
You may remember a few months ago I wrote how plants are more than just an interior trend. Their increasing popularity is a part of this growing new awareness of the importance of biophilic design in our homes.
Biophilic design too is not another passing trend. But a practice that will become inherently more important in the future of design, interiors and architecture. Even more than this, it’s going to be one of the guiding principles.
PS: Interested to learn more on the subject? Read more about biophilia here.
[Images: 1 – Mocha | 2 – Mondo Landscapes ]