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What is biophilic design - a conversation with Veronika Blitek

11 of July '22

In post-industrial society, human contact with nature has become limited. Increasingly, we see the need for a closer relationship with nature or its substitutes. Interior designer Veronika Blitek talks about what biophilic design is, what is most important when arranging with natural motifs and what greenwashing is here.

Wiktor Bochenek: Let's start with the basics. What is biophilic design?

Weronika Blitek: Biophilic design is a concept in design where we design in harmony with nature. The word biophilia, from which the name comes, means: "love of nature." Thus, the main goal of biophilic design is to bring nature into our lives, but not for the sake of the form itself, but primarily for the positive effects it brings with it. Studies have proven that we need nature in our daily lives to reduce stress levels and positively affect our overall well-being. It also improves our productivity and ability to think creatively, which is why it is especially welcome in office spaces.

: What determines the biophilic nature of design?

Veronica: Several factors determine the biophilic nature of design, but mainly it is the impact that the designed object or space has on the well-being of the viewer, resulting from the transfer of the postulates of biophilic design into the language of design.

Despite the fact that biophilic design has been talked about recently, it was present in our lives before it became a "trend." Danes have a hygge, especially important to them is the presence of fire in the interior, whether in the form of a burning candle or a traditional fireplace. Fire creates a cozy atmosphere, resulting in a sense of well-being. In architecture, Japanese architects who specialize in using natural materials, such as wood and stone, as the primary building material prevail. But you don't have to go that far, just think back to our grandmothers' or mothers' apartments filled with plants, with flowers standing on a table lined with a plant-themed tablecloth. This is all biophilic design.

Theindustrial revolution and the rapid development of technology have caused us to live contrary to our nature. We are slowly going back to our roots, starting to pay attention to our surroundings, to the compositions of products, using natural cosmetics, moving away from artificiality, plastic and concrete. Each of us knows someone who has escaped from the big city to the countryside or the mountains. This is not a random act, people are subconsciously drawn to nature, to peace and quiet, clean air. There is no great secret behind it, we simply feel better surrounded by nature.

przykład wykorzystania roślin w biurze

example of using plants in the office

© Pinterest

: What is the most important thing in a biophilic design project?

Weronika: In my opinion, the most important thing is that the facility has a health-promoting function. That it should have a positive impact on both physical and mental health, especially important now. According to a study conducted by Roger Ulrich, the presence of nature in a hospital setting has a positive effect on the recovery time of patients after surgery. Patients who had a window view of a green landscape took fewer painkillers than patients without one.

Howis biophilic design used in architecture and interior design, and how is it used in design?

Veronica: Nature can be introduced into a design in two ways - an indirect way, such as using wallpaper with a leafy pattern or using an earthy color palette, or a direct way, by introducing plants and water into the interior. In industrial design, this is most often the creation of biomorphic forms that refer to nature and the use of natural materials such as wood, stone, wool, or linen.

The simplest and cheapest solution in interiors - especially when we do not have plans for a general overhaul - is to green them, to introduce potted plants into the interiors. They can be placed on the floor, on a bookcase, or even suspended from the ceiling. Equally important is adequate lighting of the space, both natural and artificial, which affects the functioning of our circadian system and enhances visual comfort. An interesting solution is to use a lighting system that will mimic the diurnal cycle.

In the case of architecture, it is possible to work on a larger scale, to use various design treatments that will significantly affect how the space interacts with people. In the case of living spaces, this will be the use of large windows, which will bring in more daylight, but also open up the interior to naturally occurring greenery, if we are the lucky owners of a garden or have a beautiful view of a park. The introduction of high ceilings, often found in townhouses, opens up the space. In high-ceilinged office or service/retail spaces, green walls or bodies of water can be installed to have a stimulating and calming effect on the viewer.

przykład wykorzystania roślin w biurze

example of using plants in an office

© Pinterest

It is also worth mentioning outdoor spaces such as balconies or terraces, which were especially appreciated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were confined to four walls. A sizable number of us no longer returned to our offices, choosing to work remotely. Often passing various estates, I wonder why so few people choose to arrange these extremely valuable spaces. If the reason is a lack of inspiration, I refer you to see photos of Parisian rooftop gardens.

: How
didyouuse biophilic design solutions in your work "Biophilic Stress Reducer"?

Veronika: The main inspiration for the conversion of the old mill in Mydlniki into the "Biophilic Stress Reducer" was the vines overgrowing the facade of the building, thanks to which I decided to bring nature into the interior directly, creating a hothouse in the green zone and a "waterfall" along with a water reservoir in the blue zone.

Biofiliczny Reduktor Stresu

Biophilic Stress Reducer

© Weronika Blitek

In contrast to the "waterfall" inspired by the architecture of the Z58 building by world-renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, I designed a wooden library 10 meters high, which warms up the interior.

Mebel April

April furniture by Nikari

© Nikari

In addition, I also decided to introduce complementary elements that would complete the spaces: the biophilic Flower pouffe designed by architectural firm SANAA, the April coffee tables by Nikari, the green Alcove furniture designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra, and earth-toned carpets.

As for the architecture of the building, the stone and brick walls of the building were left in their raw state. I replaced the demolished roof over the extension with a glass roof, through which one can see the vegetation surrounding the facility.

Biofiliczny Reduktor Stresu

Biophilic Stress Reducer

© Weronika Blitek

Victor: I won't ask if, but when is biophilic design greenwashing? Howdo youavoid "painting the grass green"?

Veronika: I think we encounter greenwashing most often when we buy a product promoted as organic, but coming from non-organic production, often containing toxins in the composition. Now "eco" is in vogue, manufacturers often use this slogan to increase sales, while in reality it has nothing to do with ecology. Also a big problem are products, furniture, home furnishings with a short lifespan, and difficult to dispose of. A similar situation is with electric cars, which are theoretically greener, but the problem of disposing of the used batteries present in them has not yet been fully solved.

Artificial greenery often used for green walls can also be pulled up under greenwashing. The fact is that natural greenery is more demanding, but introducing even more plastic into interiors misses the point. In the case of textiles, we can most often encounter the hypocrisy of composition, when a polyester fabric, pillow, blanket or sweater, is sold as wool, because wool is present in the composition in a small amount. I pay special attention to how the product is packaged, always choosing manufacturers that use eco-friendly packaging methods that do not require the use of plastic.

I also recommend supporting local producers, designers and artisans, so we reduce our carbon footprint. Of course, beforehand, we have to make sure that the production actually takes place in Poland, not things made in China with a "Made in Poland" label sewn on.

Wiktor: Thank you for the interview.

interviewed by Wiktor Bochenek

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