Biophilic Design and Wellness: Visual & Non-Visual Patterns
To continue our series on biophilic design and wellness, we’ll be taking an in-depth look today at the first two principles: visual and non-visual patterns. Together, these help to create a space that encourages a multi-sensory experience and establishes a key connection to nature. As we know, there are extensive benefits to this type of design, and by incorporating these elements, we can actively exchange stress triggers for calming and energizing effects within our interior environments.
We believe that the spaces we inhabit should not only be beautiful and functional, but should also positively impact our psychological and physical health. Imagine coming home to a space that naturally lowers your blood pressure and brings your mind and body back into balance via visual views of greenery and animals, or non-visual elements of texture and scent. Considering the positive outcomes of a work or home environment that emphasizes such components, we can say with certainty that biophilic design is a must for productivity, self-confidence, and overall health.
Visual Connection with Nature
At its core, the pattern of visual connection centers on creating an experience that is attention-grabbing, promotes life, and is either stimulating or calming. This area of biophilic design can be achieved by using a variety of natural elements to create diversity; layering different plants, water flow, or even visual movement from a breeze is key. Ideally, a space with visual connections to nature would include moments that can be enjoyed for 5-20 minutes each day, and though real nature is always preferred in these situations, if simulated nature is the only option, it is vastly more influential than none.
Visual connections can be established via a wide variety of design elements. In the naturally-occurring realm, it’s worth considering incorporating unique terrains, views of animals or insects, naturally-flowing water, fossils, or vegetation. For simulated options, designs may include water flow that is mechanically powered (e.g. fountains), a green wall that imitates exterior plant growth, an artificially-created pond or aquarium with non-native fish, or artwork or videos that depict aspects of nature.
Additionally, incorporating random variation is important to mimic the unpredictability of nature. Designs should include elements that recall moments in the outdoors. For instance, consider how grass billows in the wind – it isn’t precisely the same movement each time, and each blade can shift direction at any given moment. Likewise, interior designs are the most effective when using the same inclination towards unpredictability. A naturally-occurring water feature with varying water pressure is better than one with unchanging pressure. Window boxes are much better suited to the outdoors where unexpected breezes may ruffle the vegetation. Even simulated movement – such as a sheer curtain that sways ever so slightly every time the HVAC turns on – can help to form a connection from our spaces to the outdoors.
Non-visual Connection with Nature
A non-visual connection with nature emphasizes the remaining senses: touch, taste, smell, and sound. With a focus on incorporating simultaneous and overlapping elements, this area of biophilic design creates an experience with depth and collaborative dimension. With the ultimate goals of reducing blood pressure and stress, increasing mental health and cognition, and shifting the focus to calming and energizing environmental components, non-visual patterns are accessible by all.
Sounds may be comprised of singing birds, the trickle of water flow, the crackling of a fireplace, or simulated digital nature sounds. Scent elements may include naturally-fragrant plants or a mechanized scent release (e.g. essential oil diffusers). Aspects that incorporate touch or taste might be created via natural or artificially-textured materials, opportunities to interact with animals (pets), hands-on gardening work, plants that are edible, natural ventilation, or surfaces that are warm or cool (e.g. the cozy feeling of a warm sun-soaked tile floor can be achieved naturally via direct sunlight exposure, or simulated in an otherwise air-conditioned space with in-floor heat).
Whether a design leans more heavily towards a visual or non-visual pattern collection, the two are meant to be experienced together and cohesively with the remaining patterns of biophilic design. As we progress further in our series, we’ll dive deeper into each pattern, emphasizing key elements and describing how their relations to nature impact both mind and body in extremely critical ways.
Until then, consider the importance of visual and non-visual patterns in your own home or workplace. Are there sufficient opportunities to glimpse nature, or to feel or smell its richness? If not, consider adding in your own biophilic touches. After all, even a small reminder of the outdoors can work wonders on our self-motivation and personal sense of peace.
By Megan Johansson, Contributor to Vela Creative