Designing for Our Love of Nature

Biophilia. There’s your answer. A method of design in which the connection between humans and the environment is embraced and enhanced, rather than fought against.

I was six years old, so you’ll have to forgive the fact that I can’t name them all off the top of my head. But I’ve definitely heard of them. That isn’t remarkable though, given that (1) I’m a big basketball fan and (2) EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN HAS HEARD OF THESE PEOPLE. Sorry, that was the six-year-old in me typing.

Hang on, let me grab the rolodex (which was definitely still in use back in 1992). Yep, here we go. The roster included Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, and Christian Laettner. Fair? Not quite. Aptly named the Dream Team? Most definitely.

That accumulation of talent went on to win the Gold Medal in the Barcelona Olympic Games of 1992, surprising exactly zero people. The closest test was in the Gold Medal match against Croatia, when the Dream Team won by 32 points. Their AVERAGE (sorry, six-year-old me again) margin of victory was 44 points. Dreamy.

Yes, I know I left you wondering last week what we can do to feel more a part of nature rather than apart from nature (wordplay is fun). I’m getting there. First though, I have to explain what Janine Benyus, Bob Fox and Bill Browning have in common.

They, along with Paul Hawken, John Picard, Amory Lovins and other environmental heavyweights, comprised the Eco Dream Team, assembled by my grandfather to consult with Interface in making the company more sustainable. Ask anyone who sat in on an Eco Dream Team meeting and you’ll hear just how brilliant these people are.

So back to Bill and Bob (alliteration is also fun). In 2006, they co-founded Terrapin Bright Green along with Bob’s business partner, Rick Cook. Terrapin is a green building, real estate and design consultancy that has distinguished itself with thought leadership in a unique field, namely “biophilia.”

Folks, there’s your answer to the lingering question. Biophilia. Literally, “love of nature.” Practically, a method of design in which the connection between humans and the environment is embraced and enhanced, rather than fought against. For any aspiring architects and designers out there, or just any curious people, take a look here, here and here for more.

In short, biophilic design calls for techniques like allowing for views of nature, creating non-rhythmic sensory stimuli and placing people in the presence of water. There is a wealth of scientific data suggesting health and productivity benefits that come along with biophilic design. Increasingly, the economic benefits are becoming apparent too. Terrapin will tell you that productivity costs exceed energy costs in the workplace by a factor of 112 and that office costs can be reduced by over $2000 per employee by integrating views of nature. It really is so right and so smart. Pretty dreamy too, if you ask me.