Biophilic Design and Wellness: Dynamic & Diffuse Light and Connection with Natural Systems

This point in our series on biophilic design brings us to patterns six and seven: dynamic & diffuse light and connection with natural systems – both incredibly beneficial to the ways in which we function on a daily basis. Read on for details on how these patterns can help to bring our spaces to life in highly impactful ways.


Dynamic & Diffuse Light

We know that as the sun moves, our world shifts, and this can have a profound impact on our moods and creativity. The early morning light can be soft and mystifying, while mid-day shadows provide a respite from heat and direct light, and at the end of the day a sunset can turn our surroundings a beautiful shade of pink or orange. Yet each of these moments are not exclusive and immediate; they shift and change as time and the sun’s arc progress. Thus, pattern six centers on light – both moving and accompanied by elements of shadow. 

Incorporating this pattern into design simply means harnessing the natural ebb and flow of lighting in our world and using it to create interest and visual complexity. Whether through skylights that bathe a communal space in natural brightness or via strategically-placed window treatments or sculptural pieces that cast a myriad of shadows upon the ground, dynamic and diffuse light has the power to tie us back to nature and eliminate the sterility of certain environments.

This exposed brick lobby comes to life thanks to a ceiling filled with skylights. The exterior foliage is fully visible, making guests feel as though they are one with nature, and the moving shadows are cast upon the floors and walls as the sun shifts, providing visual movement and intrigue. / Source: ASID Academy

This exposed brick lobby comes to life thanks to a ceiling filled with skylights. The exterior foliage is fully visible, making guests feel as though they are one with nature, and the moving shadows are cast upon the floors and walls as the sun shifts, providing visual movement and intrigue. / Source: ASID Academy

In our SVL project, the windows are a focal point in the design, providing interior sunshine patterns across the floor throughout the day. The natural visual shift helps to create a sense of movement in the space, infusing this office area with a burst of creative energy. / Source:    Vela Creative

In our SVL project, the windows are a focal point in the design, providing interior sunshine patterns across the floor throughout the day. The natural visual shift helps to create a sense of movement in the space, infusing this office area with a burst of creative energy. / Source: Vela Creative

 
A skylight in our Midcentury Revitalization kitchen provides natural light throughout the day, creating interest via shifting shadow patterns on the floor as the sun changes its position. / Source:    Vela Creative

A skylight in our Midcentury Revitalization kitchen provides natural light throughout the day, creating interest via shifting shadow patterns on the floor as the sun changes its position. / Source: Vela Creative

 
Slatted outdoor privacy fences and diffused window treatments provide a multitude of lighting perspectives in this living room, shifting as the day progresses. A mix of ambient and direct light makes this the ideal space filled with calm and serenity. / Source: ASID Academy

Slatted outdoor privacy fences and diffused window treatments provide a multitude of lighting perspectives in this living room, shifting as the day progresses. A mix of ambient and direct light makes this the ideal space filled with calm and serenity. / Source: ASID Academy

Interior frosted windows with etched geometric designs work as special dividers in this workplace, simultaneously providing privacy and creating visual drama upon the surrounding walls and floors as the light shifts. / Source: Jacob Thibodeau via    Unsplash

Interior frosted windows with etched geometric designs work as special dividers in this workplace, simultaneously providing privacy and creating visual drama upon the surrounding walls and floors as the light shifts. / Source: Jacob Thibodeau via Unsplash


Connection with Natural Systems

We are inherently connected to nature, and it is never more apparent than when we experience shifts in seasons or environments. Autumn evokes nostalgic memories of apple picking or warm baked goods while the heat of the summer can make us yearn for a cool body of water or a juicy slice of watermelon. Even a shift in location can invigorate the senses – a sensation we often feel the moment we step foot on uncharted ground while on vacation. Suddenly colors become sharper, and we start to notice every sound and smell. It is an intoxicating experience, and one that we all certainly deserve to have in our daily lives.

To incorporate this connection to the world’s intricate shifts and nature’s beautiful displays, it is essential to layer visual, sensory, and auditory elements. While this pattern can certainly be simulated via strategic indoor systems like water features or lighting displays, it is most effective when produced naturally by simply opening up the barrier between the indoors and outdoors. Window views are critical, whether showcasing a pond or wildlife preserve, or simply a glimpse of the tops of trees within a city, and if auditory capability is possible, this can produce another layer of connection (for instance, a thunderstorm is more than visual darkening and the ushering in of heavy clouds – it is the rumble of thunder in the distance and the growing patter of raindrops against the roof or window pane). 

Ultimately, connections with our environments are complex and multi-sensory, and our indoor environments should absolutely reflect this same diversity.

Seasonal shifts have a major impact on our environments, and as the weather and temperatures shift, so do the accompanying colors and landscape design. By tying ourselves to nature, we come alive each season in a unique and sensory way. / Source: ASID Academy 

In our Arden Hills Midcentury Revitalization project, the home centers on an open-air indoor atrium (to the right of the kitchen island above). This space provides year-round foliage and abundant natural light, offering glimpses of changing weather patterns and shifting visually as the light changes throughout the day. / Source:    Vela Creative

In our Arden Hills Midcentury Revitalization project, the home centers on an open-air indoor atrium (to the right of the kitchen island above). This space provides year-round foliage and abundant natural light, offering glimpses of changing weather patterns and shifting visually as the light changes throughout the day. / Source: Vela Creative

Surrounded by rolling hills and open fields, this beautiful historic chapel is nested right in the heart of nature. As a storm rolls in, colors come to life and the change in environment is almost tangible. / Source: Luke Stackpoole via    Unsplash

Surrounded by rolling hills and open fields, this beautiful historic chapel is nested right in the heart of nature. As a storm rolls in, colors come to life and the change in environment is almost tangible. / Source: Luke Stackpoole via Unsplash

 
The open-air indoor atrium in our Midcentury Revitalization project provides a relaxing escape in any season, helping the home come alive and its owners stay connected to nature, whatever the weather may be. / Source:    Vela Creative

The open-air indoor atrium in our Midcentury Revitalization project provides a relaxing escape in any season, helping the home come alive and its owners stay connected to nature, whatever the weather may be. / Source: Vela Creative

 
An upper level kitchen perches on the same level as the surrounding tree canopy, offering unfiltered views of the shifts in season as the leaves progress in their annual life cycle. / Source: Ewa Stepkowska via    Unsplash

An upper level kitchen perches on the same level as the surrounding tree canopy, offering unfiltered views of the shifts in season as the leaves progress in their annual life cycle. / Source: Ewa Stepkowska via Unsplash


Whether you are drawn to dynamic and diffuse light or are particularly in tune to the multi-sensory aspects of connections to the natural world, these two patterns often move together, working as a team to create spaces of joy and well-being. It is through their intentional placements and abilities to capture the beauty already in full bloom around us that their true powers emerge, and we are able to thrive in our indoor environments and reach our fullest potentials.

  

By Megan Johansson, Contributor to Vela Creative

Megan Johansson