Biophilic Design What Is It and What You Should Know

In bustling urban jungles, many people find themselves yearning for a deeper connection with nature. The relentless concrete cityscape separates us from the very essence of life and ignites a desire to bridge the gap between the man-made and the natural. 

Humans embarked on a quest to achieve harmonious coexistence, giving birth to biophilia and the revolutionary concept of biophilic design. 

But what is biophilic design? 

Let’s delve into the science behind this philosophy. 

What Is Biophilia and Biophilic Design?

Our deep-seated love for the natural world is not a newfound revelation. It’s an intrinsic part of human nature. 

But it took a while for a brilliant mind to find a connection with our psyche. And that brilliant mind was German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, who first coined the term “biophilia” in 1973. In his book, “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness,” he defined it as “the passionate love of life and all that is alive.” 

But the concept was further expanded upon by Edward O. Wilson, a renowned biologist. He recognized that the human-nature bond is not just a physiological link but an evolutionary consequence of our dependence on the natural environment for survival.  

The term itself is a combination of two Greek words: “bio” meaning “life” and “philia” meaning “love.” So, it literally translated to “love of life” (i.e. all that is alive). 

How Did Biophilic Design Come to Be?

image 78
image 78

As many clamored to bring this connection into their lives, the concept of “biophilic design” emerged as a creative solution. It seeks to weave the organic into the fabric of our built environment and inspire a sense of tranquility and productivity. 

Scholar and author Stephen R. Kellert further explored the topic in his book called “Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life,” where he highlighted how this approach positively affected the contact between people and nature in modern buildings. 

The Pillars of Biophilic Design

This hypothesis isn’t a mere flight of fancy. It’s supported by a growing body of scientific evidence confirming the positive impact of natural elements on our physical and mental health. 

To make things easier for researchers and enthusiasts, pioneers have established 3 pillars of biophilic design: nature in the space, nature of the space, and natural analogs. 

  • Nature in the space – This pillar brings the outdoors inside and is the most accessible way to achieve biophilic design. It can manifest as (artificial) living walls adorned with lush greenery, cascading water features, nature views from the windows, roof gardens, and access to courtyards. 
  • Nature of the space – The second pillar outlines the importance of incorporating natural shapes and forms into the built environment. This concept refers to how space planning affects our responses and bounces off the fact that we’re intuitively drawn to environments that serve us. 
  • Natural analogs – The final pillar harnesses the power of mimicry by employing patterns, colors, and textures inspired by the natural world. To achieve this, incorporate artificial plants, natural materials like wood, and furniture with organic shapes found in the wild. 

Key Principles of Biophilic Design

image 79

Drawing inspiration from nature’s serene landscapes and vibrant ecosystems, designers and architects have established principles for including biophilia in urbanism.  

While this is by no means a complete list, here are some prominent aspects of biophilic design to help you reinforce the natural energy inside your home:

Connection With Nature

At the heart of biophilic design lies the pursuit of a meaningful and visceral connection with nature. To achieve this, decorate your home with elements like leafy indoor plants, earthy colors, natural materials, ample sunlight, and images of animals and nature sprinkled in throughout.  

Natural Shapes

The natural world is an amalgam of curves, lines, ebbs, and flows. Mimic these organic shapes in your interior design as best you can. From arched doorways resembling tree canopies to furniture with smooth contours mirroring the flow of water, these elements invite relaxation and a calming ambiance. 

Refuge Spaces

Amidst our busy lives, we often relinquish our time to relax. But biophilic design addresses this need by creating refuge spaces – cozy nooks where people can seek solace and rejuvenation. These sanctuaries provide a retreat from daily hustle and bustle, allowing us to recharge and reconnect with ourselves and our surroundings. 

Rich Patterns 

Natural shapes and forms aren’t the only way to include biophilic design on a budget. You can also incorporate patterns that naturally occur in the environment into textiles, wallpapers, and architectural details. This can be as easy as embracing patterns with florals, ripple effects, wood grain, leaves, and honeycombs. 


Following extensive research on the effects of natural ventilation, designers and architects began using subtle changes in air temperature, humidity, and airflow to imitate natural environments. The dynamic atmosphere in nature can be replicated through adjustable ventilation systems, strategically placed windows, and variations in light and sound. 

Diffused Light

Sunlight filtering through the canopies creates shadows that break up the monotony underneath. You can achieve this effect by allowing enough space for sunlight to seep inside your home by making use of skylights, light wells, and translucent materials. This resulting dappled sunlight brings a unique glow to indoor spaces and enhances aesthetics. 


In this increasingly disconnected world, biophilic design emerged as a holistic approach to architecture, helping humanity reconnect with its roots. Through its key principles, it tides people over the urban landscape and closer to the natural world, reminding us that we’re not mere observers of nature, but active participants. 

There are many ways to do biophilic design right. The question is – how will you start?