Amplifying Nature in the Built Environment: Evolution of Biophilic Design

Amplifying Nature in the Built Environment: Evolution of Biophilic Aesthetics On The Rise?

May 16, 2022

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By 

Elke Tiotuico

The ornamentation of nature within our spaces, on our bodies, and in culture has been a known truth of our being since time immemorial. This was exemplified in the ‘60s, and again in the ‘80s, when the term Biophilia was first termed by psychologist Eric Fromm and later by biologist E.O. Wilson. To combine both their definitions, primarily it is love (philia) for all that lives (bio), and in some ways mankind’s innate affection for the organic— an emotional affiliation.

In architecture, nature has been favored in space planning for its functional role, through indoor environment solutions like cooling courtyards and pocket gardens. However, biophilic aesthetics have also remained part of our affection in other aspects of design. We might recall the banana leaf motif wallpapers made popular by the Beverly Hills Hotel as early as the 1940s-50s, or the infamous green jungle-print Versace dress worn by Jennifer Lopez just two decades ago. Luxury South African ceramics and décor brand Ardmore, started in 1985, remains relevant today for its beautifully detailed and colorful depictions of African flora and fauna. In 2017, designer-writer Justina Blakeney re-imagined these biophilic aesthetics, juxtaposing nature and natural imagery with vintage pieces, color, and organic materials.

Wallpaper and interiors from Justina Blakeney’s décor brand Jungalow

Biophilia has not been forgotten even with the emergence of new design technology. As a result, more unfamiliar parts of the natural world have been repurposed as neo-eco materials and building solutions, such as The Growing Pavilion out of mycelium from 2019 Dutch Design Week or Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven’s PALMLEATHER.

With the recent influx of home décor micro-trends, we also find that the more visually aesthetic aspects of Biophilia have not been left out from this upswing of innovation. Badie Architects’ rich greenery seems right at home in the fluid forms they have created for a restaurant’s interior in New Cairo, Egypt. Its visualization was made possible through computational design, capturing the spontaneity of nature with technicality—like a synthetic rock canyon.

Restaurant Interiors by Badie Architects

Now, recalling the “emotional affiliation” of Biophilia, Danish-born ceramicist Anders Herwald Ruhwald has interpreted this in a literal sense with his vessel collection This is the ‘Living Vessel: Body’. Inspired by the organic process of birth and decay, both in human and non-human life, Ruhwald created amorphous brightly glazed sculptures dependent on the plant life they hold in their multiple orifices. Bringing to notice the sculptures’ need for nurturing and care, Ruhwald highlights the act of sculpting as a form of producing new life as well. This fresh take on organic aesthetics inspires that sense of empathy between all forms of life as exemplified by Biophilia and ACIIID forecasted macro-trend Emo(tiva)tions.

‘Object for 3 plants’ by Anders Herwald Ruhwald on display at Morán Morán, Mexico City

Left: ‘Holder #5’ and ‘Holder #4’, Right: ‘Yesterdays Dream (The Future)’ by Anders Herwald Ruhwald on display at Morán Morán, Mexico City

Biophilia in design has come so far, in forms of natural imagery, indoor planting, and environmental building solutions. Could a new evolution of biophilia be on the rise, propagating the abstraction of nature in both poetic and technological forms? There are numerous causes for amplifying nature within today’s built environments. And with the constant, and almost rapid, evolution of our environment we can only expect a paralleling evolution in our affection and translation of it as human beings.

All images are from the designers.