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Embracing Nature in Architecture: Top Nine Buildings Exemplifying Biophilic Design
By: Shehnaz Nilamdeen, Assoc. AIA, LFA
In a world where urban landscapes often overshadow natural elements, biophilic design emerges as a vital bridge reconnecting us with the natural environment. This architectural approach transcends mere aesthetics, addressing essential questions such as "How does biophilic design help the environment?" and "Can architecture affect your health?" In this exploration, we delve into ten exemplary buildings that seamlessly weave nature into their fabric, demonstrating the transformative power of biophilic design.
1. Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Singapore
Singapore's Khoo Teck Puat Hospital transcends traditional healthcare design, embracing nature in every aspect. With healing gardens and natural ventilation, it creates a therapeutic environment, positively impacting patient recovery and staff well-being. This hospital illustrates how biophilic design goes beyond aesthetics; it's about creating spaces that heal.
2. Meredith Connel, Outside In
Meredith Connell's (MC) new office in Auckland's MC Centre redefines the traditional law firm environment. Occupying the top two floors, this 5,500sqm space, designed by Outside In, merges contemporary Aotearoa style with nature. The office features biophilic elements like a living terrarium that mimics a rainforest, creating a serene and health-focused workspace for its 230 staff. The design integrates unconventional layouts, vibrant colors, and natural greenery, fostering a unique and nurturing work environment.
In its pursuit of employee wellness and ecological sustainability, MC’s office has become the first law firm in the Asia-Pacific to receive WELL pre-certification from the International WELL Building Institute. This accolade emphasizes their commitment to a healthy workplace. The MC Centre has achieved a six Green Star rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council, affirming its sustainable design. This groundbreaking office not only transforms the concept of a legal workspace but also exemplifies the integration of environmental consciousness into corporate design. Soltech was proud to be a part of this award winning project.
3. Te Kura Whare, Tūhoe, Tāneatua, New Zealand
Te Kura Whare, strategically situated at the entrance of Tāneatua, serves as a multifunctional community hub for the Ngāi Tūhoe, embodying their deep connection with their ancestral land, Te Urewera. This architectural masterpiece, more than just a building, represents Tūhoe culture, history, and their bond with nature. It houses various spaces including a café, library, and a Tribal Chamber for community events. The use of natural materials like wood and clay, sourced and shaped by the Tūhoe, reinforces their ties to the land. The building, designed to meet the rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge®, reflects the tribe's commitment to ecological harmony and cultural rejuvenation.
Biophilic design principles are evident throughout Te Kura Whare. Natural logs form structural elements, mirroring the forest and symbolizing the Tūhoe’s connection to trees. Artistic motifs and the strategic use of light create a dynamic environment that changes with the sun’s path, fostering a sense of comfort and warmth. The Tribal Chamber opens to an outdoor amphitheater, seamlessly blending indoor and outdoor spaces. This building, constructed from materials intrinsic to Tūhoe land, serves as a physical and spiritual testament to the tribe's enduring relationship with their environment, embodying their journey from past hardships to a hopeful future.
4. Welcome Milano by Kengo Kuma Group
Nestled in Milan's Rizzoli area, the Welcome Project by Kengo Kuma & Associates is a testament to modern biophilic architecture. Integrating timber with concrete and steel, the structure rises gracefully, marrying urban robustness with natural aesthetics. It's more than a building; it's an urban green haven, adorned with rooftop solar panels for sustainable energy and surrounded by flourishing greenery. The design's ingenious use of natural light, combined with its stair-like descent, invites visitors into a space that feels both expansive and intimately connected to nature.
This project, envisioned as spread-out fingers soaking in sunlight, embodies a fusion of community, creativity, and sustainability. The timber-clad exteriors and garden-like settings are not just visually appealing but also emotionally resonant, welcoming visitors into a space that encourages interaction and innovation. Architect Kengo Kuma's vision brings to life a community-centric space, where open areas from the ground up facilitate a sense of belonging and connection, truly redefining Milan’s approach to future constructions with a profound emphasis on biophilic design.
5. CapitaSpring by BIG Architects, Singapore
CapitaSpring, a 280-meter-high oasis in Singapore’s financial district, reshapes urban landscapes with its dynamic blend of greenery and modern architecture. This mixed-use skyscraper, designed by BIG and Carlo Ratti Associati, stands on a former car park and hawker center, offering a diversified neighborhood of restaurants, office spaces, and a Citadines serviced residence, seamlessly integrating nature from the ground level up to its 51st-floor sky garden. The building's Green Mark Platinum & Universal Design GoldPLUS certifications are a testament to its commitment to sustainability.
The tower’s design creates a lush vertical ecosystem, featuring green oases at various levels and housing over 80,000 plants, achieving a remarkable Green Plot Ratio of more than 1:1.4. The first eight floors cater to a serviced residence, while the top floors provide panoramic office spaces. At its heart, CapitaSpring offers the “Green Oasis,” a 35-meter high open-air garden that blends workspaces with relaxation areas. This innovative design not only addresses spatial limitations but also brings the essence of tropical nature into the urban fabric. The building's rooftop garden, 1-Arden Food Forest, cultivates a diverse array of plant species, further contributing to the building's ethos of sustainability and urban greenery.
6. Google Renovation, NYC
Google's Chicago office renovation reflects a commitment to creating workspaces that prioritize employee well-being and environmental responsibility. Incorporating natural elements, sustainable materials, and a focus on natural light, this space demonstrates how biophilic design can be effectively implemented in a corporate setting.
7. CookFox Architects Studio, New York
In the heart of Midtown Manhattan, COOKFOX Architects' new studio on the 17th floor of the historic Fisk Building epitomizes their vision of integrating nature with the urban workspace. The studio features three lush terraces, blending indoor comfort with outdoor vitality. These terraces, known as the Sunrise and Sunset Terraces, are designed for social interaction and immersion in nature. The studio's design prioritizes environmental sustainability and employee well-being, evident in its LEED Platinum and WELL Gold certifications.Special attention is given to lighting, with systems that prioritize natural daylight and support healthy circadian rhythms, while practical amenities like commuter showers and a secondary kitchen emphasize wellness and environmental responsibility. The studio reflects COOKFOX's commitment to creating spaces that are both environmentally responsible and conducive to health and creativity.
8. The Spheres, Amazon Headquarters, Seattle
Amazon's new headquarters in downtown Seattle marks a significant urban engagement, featuring a standout trio of glass spheres that encapsulate a botanical garden with 40,000 plants from global cloud forests. These spheres, occupying just two percent of the project area, serve as a vibrant communal space for employees, integrating nature into the urban landscape. The interior maintains a climate ideal for both plant life and human comfort, with day and night cycles adjusted for temperature and humidity, creating an immersive, jungle-like environment.
The lighting within the Spheres is meticulously engineered to cater to both the plants and people. Using adjustable, full-spectrum LED lights typically found in sports arenas, the horticultural team balanced the light spectrum to support plant growth while ensuring a natural, sunlit appearance for human comfort. This innovative lighting system not only nurtures the rare plant species within but also artistically highlights the Spheres, casting a green glow that makes them a luminous focal point in the city. This integration of botanical and architectural elements positions the Spheres as a unique intersection of Amazon's technological prowess and a commitment to an eco-friendly, creative workspace.
9.The Edge, Amsterdam
Nestled in the heart of Amsterdam, The Edge stands as a paragon of biophilic design. Its use of natural lighting, indoor greenery, and energy-efficient systems exemplifies the question, "Why is biophilic design important?" Not only does it boast a BREEAM rating of Outstanding, but it also features a stunning atrium filled with plants, nurtured under Soltech’s museum-grade lighting. This integration of flora within the workplace positively impacts employee well-being, echoing our findings discussed in "The Science Behind Biophilic Design: Connecting Nature to Architecture."
These ten architectural masterpieces not only showcase the beauty and functionality of biophilic design but also highlight its significance in today's urban landscapes. From enhancing mental well-being to promoting environmental sustainability, biophilic architecture stands at the forefront of a healthier, greener future. For those interested in further exploring how architecture impacts health and the environment, delve into our insightful article, "Can Architecture Affect Your Health? Biophilic Design Offers Insight."
Biophilic design is not just about integrating plants into buildings; it’s a philosophy that redefines our relationship with nature in the spaces we inhabit. As we continue to advocate for the inclusion of biophilic elements in architectural design, companies like Soltech lead the way with their state-of-the-art plant lighting, illuminating our path towards a more harmonious, nature-infused future.
Remember, whether you're an architect, designer, or simply a nature enthusiast, the embrace of biophilic design in our urban environments is a step towards a healthier, more sustainable world. Let's continue to push the boundaries of design and foster spaces that not only look good but also do good for our planet and its inhabitants.
Discover practical applications of biophilic design in our article "How to Host a Biophilic Charrette," offering insights into incorporating these elements in various projects.