Humans have a fundamental affinity with nature. Yet we continue to build dense urban spaces that alienate us from our natural environment, and sometimes with destructive effects on our planet. The concept of biophilic design isn’t new, but it’s exploded onto the contemporary scene in recent years. A sharp departure from concrete high rises and fluorescent lighting, it’s an ideal design approach for a world that desperately craves more connection to the organic. By leaning on our desire to be in nature, biophilic design allows brands to create experiences that are uplifting and therapeutic, tapping into our connection with the outdoors. The biophilic trend is heavily influencing experiential design, and it’s something we embrace and invest in at Studio Messa.
Japanese Garden, by Six N Five
REINVENTING FOR HUMANS Traditional, man-made structures rarely consider our basic human needs. For years, we have been building closed habitats with artificial lighting, unhealthy materials, and restricted flows that isolate from the world around us. As we now spend almost 90% of our time indoors (United States EPA) and most of our waking lives on digital devices (Fottrell, Q. 2018), we need to evolve our processes to combine the natural world with modern built environments in a more intelligent, sustainable way. Biophilic design answers this need by designing environments for people at the most fundamental, natural level. It draws inspiration from the surrounding landscape, lighting, plant life, and organic materials to design immersive spaces that link us back to nature. Technology leaders such as Google and Etsy have integrated plant life into the workplace as a way to spark creativity and happiness at work. Businesses in India are using plants to create an interior green lung and purify the air in an intensely polluted environment. Beyond this, constant exposure to nature, directly or indirectly, is deeply restorative and can halve our risk of mental health problems (Schwab, K. 2019).
Kamal Meattle's Green Air
BRINGING THE OUTDOORS INDOORS At its simplest level, brands can harness biophilic design by bringing the outdoors indoors through using plant life and organic materials. Singapore’s stunning Jewel Changi Airport is a masterpiece of biophilic design. The mall’s towering water vortex and terraced gardens a refreshing green lung for weary travelers and those looking for respite from the city’s heat. Biophilic design techniques work to build memorable experiences that tap into our affinity with nature, while also creating sharable content marketing opportunities. At Studio Messa, we had the privilege of working with Chandon for their Picnic Pairing Series, an indulgent wining and dining experience. Installations created from fresh greenery, wooden textiles and nature-inspired soundscapes brought the magic of an outdoor picnic indoors, creating an ethereal space of multisensory immersion.
CAPTURING THE ESSENCE OF NATURE THROUGH ORGANIC SHAPES Whilst greenery is a natural starting point, impactful biophilic design taps into more than just plant life. Biophilic design also captures the essence of nature, and reinterprets it for the built environment. Biomorphic patterns, such as the Fibonnaci sequence and fractals, are found everywhere in the natural world, from snowflakes to seashells. When we weave these forms into experience design and digital content in our surroundings, they can deliver a complex and rich environment that soothes and inspires. Ampersand in Soho, London, executes this concept flawlessly in their office’s architectural centrepiece. Their hypnotic spiral staircase emerges as a source of calm in the space, while providing nooks and alcoves to stop, read, write and think. Fractals and biomorphic patterns are just as impactful in experiential design. The Nike Free Studio, a holistic training space along the Melbourne Tan running track, used undulating waves and curves to echo the natural motion of running and connect runners to the fundamentals of natural motion.
Ampersand Green Staircase
INTERPLAY OF SPACE AND NATURAL LIGHT Going hand-in-hand with greenery and biomorphic shapes, lighting is another technique that enhances natural elements into the urban environment. Every day, we are exposed to isolated spaces that rely on artificial lighting. These spaces disconnect us from the outdoors, and deprive us of our natural source of light. Natural lighting keeps us in tune with our circadian rhythms, and links us to the world around us — even while indoors. When we design spaces that embrace sunlight, we create therapeutic spaces of healing and rejuvenation. There are endless possibilities to bring natural light into experience design. Glass hotels and skylight dining pods provide the ultimate link to nature, creating seamless harmony between the outdoors and indoors. Floor-to-ceiling windows are another simple, yet effective, design feature to bridge the natural and man-made. The Nike Free Studio’s light-flooded design connected runners with Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Garden using floor-to-ceiling windows and built an invigorating space where nature prevails. Biophilic design is a modern design revolution. By tapping into our connection with nature, we can create immersive, natural experiences that restore the body and mind, and resonate with people at the most fundamental level.