Primer

Biophilic Design: Indulging Our Love of Life

New biophilia metrics pin down what it means to engage the love of nature through design.

Staring into a fireplace or watching waves crash against the shore can provide some of life’s most deeply comforting moments, but it is hard to explain exactly why. The theory of biophilia, popularized by the scientist E.O. Wilson, attempts to explain these experiences by contending that humans have an innate desire—even an evolutionary need—to connect with nature. We’re hardwired to seek out the natural resources that sustain life, the theory goes, so interaction with these elements triggers feelings of well-being.

When the built environment isolates us from these connections, we are more stressed and less productive, and we even take longer to heal from injuries (see “Biophilia in Practice: Buildings That Connect People with Nature”). On the other hand, certain spatial and design strategies can provide restorative benefits by bringing nature back in or by triggering the same physiological responses by simulating nature’s features.

Published March 3, 2014