10 Features of Biophilic Design

Biophilia is a predominately right brain experience. The right brain is visual, emotive, and physical. This is where art, non-linear complexes, and intuition arise. Naturally this is also where biophilia flourishes.

Deep crimson, red, rocky hill overwhelms the central plane, as the bleached bones of a creature lie aft in the foreground.

Georgia O’Keefe’s Red Hills and Bones

Artists have always been very much in tune with biophilia. Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Monet’s water lilies, and the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe’s all immediately spring to mind. Similarly, look to the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. His buildings stand out because of his conviction that architecture should harmoniously intersect with the nature of place.

Here are the ten features of biophilia in design and artwork that are universal, as identified by Stephen R. Kellert.

1.) Beauty

Yes, when we view beauty we are engaging our hearts and minds. By feeling and connecting with the beauty, we are taking interest in a world outside ourselves, promoting joy, and developing our capacity to care.

2.) Cycle and Season

Signs of the season and their cycle tell the story of a year’s revolution. We express and connect our point in place and time and the season’s symbols,
translating far more than words can tell. Seeing and feeling are both activities of the right brain.

3.) Interactive

This is where we learn and enjoy the most. Why? We are utilizing all parts of our nature! Our senses, intellect, body, and emotions must all converge when we engage. Good design and good art inspire us toward movement, immersion, and participation. Isn’t that why we’re here? To live and discover what being alive is all about.

4.) Intrinsic Connection

Again it reinforces the interconnectedness of all life. Humans, nature, and the built environment, too. It reminds us that we’re all in this world together, and to take notice and to honor this interdependence.

5.) Mindfulness

It is no coincidence that the lotus is the sign of enlightenment and yoga. Being contemplative has been shown to improve our mental, emotional, and physical health. Patterning mindfulness into biophilic design reinforces the power of calm and release. It awakens our ability to breathe more deeply and simply be.

Tucked between autumn foliage is what at first looks to be two waterfalls, slowly descending, then you see the precipice is a multilevel building, with innovative use of planes and angles, enmeshed in the forest scape

Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Falling Waters

6.) Rethinking the Possible

How many times have you looked at an obscure organism and wondered, “How on earth?” How on earth is right! Nature’s creations are a riotous marvel. The more we immerse ourselves within the realm of earth’s creations, the less likely we are to engage in negative thinking and limited beliefs. Man drew boundary lines. Nature pushes the limits. Good art and design provoke, defy, and mystify convention.

7.) Scale

This is where we develop a sense of proportion. Sometimes we shrink, sometimes we aggrandize, either way it puts all elements of nature into perspective. It helps accentuate  interconnection and unearth the truth of the sacred scale of all things.

8.) Sensory Rich

Nature is by definition sensory rich. You know you’re near the ocean by the smell and the sounds of rolling waves. Our typical buildings and designs underestimate the need for sensory rich patterns, within the human environment. Fluorescent lighting, right angles, and toxic materials have all contributed to sick building syndrome and the epidemic of so-called sensory and attention disorders. Biophilic design re-engages bodies and settles the mind. It regulates heartbeats, and allows us to reconnect with the body’s natural wisdom.

9.) Subtlety

There is a choice to pay attention to the subtleties of nature. It requires us to harness the ability to discern nuances, details, and layers of experience. This subtlety is something we often overlook, but always appreciate. It engenders balance and harmony.

10.) Symbolic Geometry

Known to ancient cultures, represented in music, art, and architecture, is the natural language of geometry. This fundamental geometry has literally shaped and built our world. These repeating shapes and proportions have been shown to physiologically improve people’s overall candor, connection, and state of wellness.

Vibrant red Celosia blooms, interlaced with green arborvitae sprigs ring the outermost circumference. Working inward are circles of tree rings, pine cones, peach and cream shells, and river washed stones.

Natural elements arranged to form a mandala.

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