Biophilic Design: natural architecture

{Façade Design: the faces of the urban city}

The façade is the aspect of a building that both looks at, and is seen from the streets. Every day when I’m walking from one place to another I just look at the many faces that are built in the city. Some are old and wrinkly, and others stand tall and proud. The façade both reveals and conceals the depth of the building, but have you also noticed that it could make you feel a certain way?

Brutalism, Photo by Andy Spain (via ArchDaily)

{Evolution of building}

Humans have evolved in the larger context of the natural environment, and our brains have developed in such a way that it responds to our surroundings. When our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, they created dwellings that were perfectly integrated into their natural surroundings. But, once the Industrial Revolution arrived in all its mining glory, a transformative shift towards urbanisation, fabrication, and isolation derailed us from the natural world.

Now, there has been a growing trend in the modernisation of our cities: buildings that “feel” futuristic, and have minimalistic elements. These buildings are designed as mechanisms isolated from the world, and advertised as elegant machines. One prime example is the proposed design for the main venue for the 2020 Olympic & Paralympic games in Tokyo.

2020 Olympic stadium in Tokyo, Photo by ZHA (via ArchDaily)

Many architects have accused the stadium of being “too big and too artificial” for the surrounding context. But is this just a subjective opinion? Or is this how the building is actually making us feel?

{Architectural Theory}

Architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros is trying to deconstruct and reformulate architecture as an essential component of natural ecosystems. Since the earth’s ecosystems contain, and are contained by components that are not “alive”– meaning that it neither metabolises, nor replicates – then it must be possible to give inanimate objects properties of life.

This perception of something being “alive” is due to a strong connection with our mind and body, and at the same time that same object, place, or configuration would make us feel more alive. This perceived living quality comes from specific geometrical configuration commonly appeared in the natural world; this is also known as fractals.

{Neuroscience}
Salingaros refers to recent findings in neuroscience, which indeed confirm that fractal patterns found in nature can positively affect human neural activity and parasympathetic system mechanisms. This is the part of our body’s autonomic nervous system that serves to relax our body, while the sympathetic system stimulates it.

During the research images were shown to people of fractal patterns found in nature or of townscapes of the built environment. The results showed that subjects were more relaxed when exposed to natural landscapes. The study concluded that in environments with many stimuli and patterns, the pattern that are most likely to hold our attention and make us feel more relaxed are fractal patterns commonly found in nature.

{Biophilic Design}

With these novel discoveries architectural design is slowly recognising the benefits of introducing natural elements on human health. One of these new design strategies is biophilic design. Biophilia means ‘love of life or the living world’.  Simple elements such as introducing natural daylight in the building or use of geometrical patterns in the design are some principle elements used in biophilic buildings.

 

So, yes, buildings make us react in a certain way. And, once architects stop ignoring their own bodily signals and stop creating these abstract objects, we will have a city that makes us feel alive.
I would absolutely love to hear what you think of buildings in general. What makes you stop and gasp, or want to take a photo of a building?

 

 

 

For more information:

1. Neuroscience, The Natural Environment, and Building Design:

http://www.math.utsa.edu/~yxk833/Neuroscience.pdf

2. The Economics of Biophilia:

http://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/downloads/The%20Economics%20of%20Biophilia_Terrapin%20Bright%20Green%202012e.pdf