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A natural approach to construction and interior design

Discover what lies behind the concept of biophilic design

The trend towards city living remains strong, and more and more people are moving to metropolises. Yet while space in these urban areas is becoming increasingly scarce, residents are experiencing a heightened longing for nature and its promise of tranquillity, rest and fresh air. With biophilic design, natural elements are brought into city apartments or offices. But what does biophilia actually mean? And what exactly do green architecture and living close to nature look like in practice? Find out here!

Biophilic design by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Photographed by Victor Garcia, this green wall on the outside of a house follows the principles of biophilic design. (Photo: Victor Garcia on Unsplash)

Biophilia: what does it mean?

Erich Fromm, the famous psychoanalyst and author of many books, including “The Art of Loving”, was the first to coin the term biophilia in 1973. What biophilia essentially means is “love of life”. Fromm understood biophilia as the deep, innate affection humans feel for all living beings – whether people, animals or plants.

As a result of industrial and technological progress, humankind has become increasingly disconnected from the natural world in the 20th century. In recent years, however, we seem to have begun returning to our roots, with thoughts turning to sustainability . The concept of biophilia is thus also gaining more and more attention. The natural environment, with its promise of well-being and a slower pace of life, has become somewhere we long to escape to. In the world of architecture and interiors, this newly discovered connection is reflected in so-called biophilic design. But how is it actually put into practice?

The elements of biophilic design

According to the consultancy firm Terrapin Bright Green , biophilic design consists of 14 elements or patterns. These include sensory experiences, such as touch, sight, smell and hearing, as well as biomorphic forms – i.e. shapes inspired by nature – and natural materials. For example, large, floor-to-ceiling windows create a connection to the outside world, not only opening up the view to the outdoors but also allowing birdsong, daylight and the interplay of light and shadow to penetrate the interior. The boundaries between the indoors and outdoors become blurred ..

Material connections are created by using natural building materials and textiles, such as solid wood, bamboo, natural stone, clay, linen, wool or cork. These are joined by shapes and patterns found in nature, from wallpaper featuring plant leaves or floral designs and furniture incorporating organic forms to building facades whose irregular, open-pore structures bring coral reefs to mind. The overarching idea is to create a sense of vitality through openness, playfulness and a sense of release.

Organic facade by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

Organic facades like this house wall with its cellular structure, photographed by Meriç Dağlı, are reminiscent of the patterns and structures found in nature. (Photo: Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash)

Green architecture and interior design inspired by nature

There are a wealth of options open to you if you want to bring nature into your home. Floors made of natural stone, sourced from Antolini Luigi , for example, and wood, from suppliers like Mafi Naturholzböden , are a good place to start. Another possibility is to use recycled materials, like old ceramics incorporated into terrazzo tiles . Carpets made of robust sisal or hard-wearing wool make for a cosy atmosphere. Wallpapers made from a natural flax backing and flower petals by Organoid conjure up nature on the walls. Natural light is provided by windows recessed into the ceiling thanks to products such as Sky Windows from Hera . Dynamism can be injected into a room by adding sophisticated suspended lamps like Half&Half from Hind Rabii or G row plant lamps from Zuiver .

Real indoor plants are, of course, also part of the interior design of a space and contribute towards a pleasant indoor climate, while herb containers and vertical indoor planting systems provide a supply of fresh salad and herbs. Water and stone are also finding their way inside the home in the form of calming indoor stone fountains, for example. The result is an oasis of well-being that has literally sprung from nature.

Biophilia through "Half&Half" lamp by Hind Rabii

In accordance with biophilic principles, the Half&Half lamp from Hind Rabii is composed of two parts. While the frosted glass bulb at the bottom produces warm light, the ceramic hanging fixture at the top plays with daylight when the lamp is switched off. (Photo: Hind Rabii)

Sustainable urban construction

Resources are becoming increasingly scarce, prompting the construction industry to change its approach. Renewable and recyclable materials are experiencing growing popularity. Untreated wood is experiencing a real renaissance because it is light, breathable, renewable and recyclable. Building materials are also being used more sparingly, and sustainable construction projects like UMAR are investigating how effectively they can be recovered – with stunning results.

Further to the use of sustainable materials, nature-inspired building design is also increasingly making use of open floor plan concepts and plants . It makes sense that this is particularly evident in co-working spaces and office buildings, given that we spend much of our time at work. According to various studies, walking in natural surroundings enhances our ability to concentrate, lifts our mood and even prevents illness. Since offices are not usually located in the vicinity of forests, nature has to come to us. Roof terraces, balconies and panoramic windows are becoming more and more popular, as is the use of planting systems, green walls and modular furniture to divide rooms. Features like these help to create healing buildings and spaces that promote work–life balance.

What does the future hold? A return to our roots!

Modern lifestyles have led many people to become distanced from their roots. But we are all part of nature and are gradually remembering our place in it. From sustainable construction to biophilic design, natural elements are finding increased use in the world of architecture and design for reasons of sustainability and thanks to their beneficial qualities. In the future, the boundaries may become increasingly blurred. Whether modern tree houses, forest huts with reflective exterior walls or green city apartments constructed from renewable raw materials – these concepts are combining the best of technological progress and the natural world. Discover more inspiration on the theme of natural living in our magazine .