It's a Jungle in There

Three award-winning interiors bring the outside in.

02/01/2016 By Louisa Fitzgerald

As the way we live, work, and play becomes engrossed by technology, connecting with nature is more crucial. Designing commercial interiors with nature in mind benefits the environment and employee wellness and performance.

According to The Economics of Biophilia, a 2012 report from environmental consulting firm Terrapin Bright Green, biophilic design (design inspired by the innate human attraction to nature) is no longer a luxury, but “a sound economic investment.” This may come as a surprise.

“As designers, we have always known that the whole environment of the space makes a huge difference to people,” said Pam Light, senior vice president at HOK in Los Angeles. “What’s changed is that we’re actually now able to track it. With design, we’re seeing quantifiable results, and those can be shared with clients.”

Those results translate into tangible gains in employee productivity, patient outcomes, talent acquisition, and retention rates.

“Biophilia is one piece of focused effort to put health and wellness front and center in how we design a building,” added Zorana Bosnic, vice president and sustainable design director at HOK in San Francisco. “There is a unique and different workforce now where health and wellness are very important. Clients and owners, as well as developers, are recognizing that there is a battle for talent, and this is an important element.”

There are three pillars of biophilic design: sharing occupancy with nature in the space, using organic materials and artwork that evoke nature, and providing nature-saturated views and expansive spaces. Leading design firms are integrating them now more than ever. In 2015, design projects incorporating these elements were represented throughout IIDA competitions. Here are three firms that illustrate this shift and offer a breath of fresh air, literally.

the university of queensland oral health centre
By Cox Rayner Architects and Hames Sharley
2015 Global Excellence Awards, Education Category Winner

As both an educational institution and the largest “public dentist” in the southern hemisphere, the University of Queensland Oral Health Centre had two goals: to have the highest attrition rate of all schools in the university and attract both technically oriented and creative students, and to offer an enhanced patient experience.

“They wanted going to the dentist to be as trepidation-free as possible,” said Michael Rayner, director of Cox Rayner Architects. “We discussed creating an ‘organic’ envelope around the laboratory and clinics as a way of humanizing the experience.”

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