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Re-leaf-ing stress with biophilic design

By Caitlynn Sue Feb. 14, 2024

Lyn Kang Art

The gentle lull of waves lapping against a sandy shoreline. The sweet twittering of birds echoing through a lush green forest. When thinking of relaxation, the first things that come to mind are often images affiliated with nature. The desire to bring the tranquility of nature indoors into everyday life is the main goal of biophilic art and design. 

The word “biophilia” means the love of living things. It was popularized by Harvard biologist and entomologist E. O. Wilson in his 1984 book, “Biophilia,” which conceptualizes biophilia as “the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms.” Biophilic design is incorporated into buildings through natural patterns, green spaces, natural lighting and the use of natural materials. 

“I have succulents in my bedroom. Every time I get distracted, I look at my succulents and their beautiful simplicity helps me refocus. I also like seeing the growth of my succulents, as they remind me of how much time has passed. I reflect on how much I have changed, what I need to work on and what my strengths are,” Senior Kimberly Horng said. 

Some architects have taken biophilia to the next level. “Gardens by the Bay” in Singapore showcases the beauty of nature through towering “Supertrees”—giant structures covered with waterfalls, exotic ferns and vines—as well as housing vast indoor gardens. Each year, the gardens receive millions of visitors from around the world. In the U.S., Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater” is another example of biophilic design. Fallingwater is a house built over a waterfall in Pennsylvania, its stone terraces blending harmoniously with the surrounding forest environment. Designed in 1935, the house has garnered high praise and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. 

Aside from its beauty, biophilic design has been shown to have many psychological benefits. A 2014 study by the University of Exeter showed that people who moved from an urban area to a green area experienced improvements in their mental health. Exposure to nature helps lower blood pressure which correlates to reduced stress. In addition, working in biophilic environments can boost productivity and creativity. Research by Dr. Craig Knight found that the addition of house plants into work environments enhanced the performance and memory retention of employees, increasing their productivity by 15%. 

“My brain feels more relaxed when there are elements of nature in my surroundings since I typically associate nature with balance, tranquility and focus. Because of this, I find myself gravitating towards decorations and areas that feature a lot of plant life so I can relax,” Sophomore Vivian Lai said. 

Due to the benefits of biophilic design on mental well-being and efforts to incorporate sustainability into architecture, planners and public officials have been showing increased interest in creating biophilic cities. Singapore, Portland, San Francisco and Milwaukee have made moves to integrate urban nature into their environments, including installing green walls and rooftops, creating public gardens and restoring urban waterways. Advocates of biophilic design hope that more people will begin to ​​recognize the value of nature and make it an essential part of cities.  

In a world where it is easy to get caught up in the fast pace of modern schedules, nature offers a haven to take a step back from daily stresses. Through the incorporation of biophilic art and design, the beauty of nature can provide both physical and mental serenity.


About the Contributors

Caitlynn Sue


Caitlynn Sue is a sophmore at Leland High school and an artist for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys drawing, playing violin, and dancing.

Lyn Kang


Lyn Kang is a junior at Leland High School and an artist for the Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys watching movies, sleeping, and listening to pop music.

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