DESIGN MATTERS: Biophelia and how it relates to Design
You’ve had a stressful week. Kids, work, deadlines, the house not being as clean as you’d like it. What would you do if you could just relax? A beach somewhere listening to the roar of ocean waves, or a beautiful spa with a waterfall somewhere in the background? A walk through a botanical garden filled with flowers and lush greenery? Or maybe just puppies. All of these scenarios have something in common, nature and life. Think of your workspace, adding a few plants or a water element always makes it feel better. This feeling is called biophilia.
The etymology of the word is Ancient Greek and comes from “bio” meaning life and “philia” the love of. Biophilia therefore is the love of life, more specifically it refers to “a purportedly instinctive drive that impels humans to favor certain aspects of natural environments”. This term was first coined by a psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm – who referred to ‘a psychological affinity for life’ and later it was popularized by entomologist E.O. Wilson, who wrote a book by the same name in 1984. In the book it is defined as “an innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes”. It suggests that from infancy humans are attracted to living things.
Once these ideas were proposed, it sparked the scientific community into researching whether or not there was any scientific credibility behind these assertations. Many studies have looked into what is called the ‘biophilia hypothesis’ and have empirically grounded evidence that suggests we are indeed drawn to natural environments and that they can have beneficial impacts on us. We see faster recovery from surgery and illnesses, exposure to stress, an overall increase in physical and mental health. So, is it possible that an association with natural elements can help us with stressful life affairs or aid in social adjustment? It’s definitely something that is worth considering in your own life and environments.
Being a botanist, I can confirm that plants can transform a space, from a bedroom, living space or an office (I may a little bias there). But scholars have suggested the integration of greenery and natural elements in urban environments can aid in combatting coronary disease, anxiety and depression. Think of the last time you were in a hospital, for the most part its visions of cold rooms and the smell of disinfectants. Now picture a hospital lobby with a huge green living wall, rooms with lush greenery. It could affect the environment and feeling in there.
I implore you to try a little experiment with yourself, introduce some living elements into your life. I suggest starting with plants, even if you protest you have a black thumb and can’t keep anything alive here are some of my basic easy going, do well with neglect choices:
1. Sansevieria superba - Snake Plant. Requires low-light and watering only when the soil feels dry, so every 1-2 weeks. I love these plants for their rigid structure, they are a visual delight and can be bought in already larger sizes for as low as $20 bucks.
2. Philodendron hederaceum – Heart Leaf. Again, requires only low, indirect light. You water when the soil is getting dry, and when watering these guys like a big drink. These plants make a statement, with their large leaves and beautiful vines, so you don’t need a big pot for it to have a big impact.
3. Phalaenopsis Orchid- grocery store orchid. If you haven’t received one of these as a present yet, then they are easily found at any grocery store. The trick with orchids comes down to two things. Good light, by a SW window is best, and how-to water. Many people employ the ice-cube trick (placing two ice-cubes once a week) but, I prefer to take the orchid out of its clay pot, leaving it in its clear pot and just putting it in a bowl or cup filled with water once every two weeks. This allows the orchid to take the water that it needs leaving the drinking of water to the orchid!
And so, immerse yourself in natural life, let it be by your side as it may help you and your environments thrive.