Finding a sense of nature in the city

As more people live in cities, maintaining the bond between nature and humans intensifies. Nominate your favourite biophilic space in London for the chance to win an Apple Watch Sport and be included in an upcoming guide

In association with
20 Fenchurch Street Sky Garden designed by Rafael Viñoly
20 Fenchurch Street Sky Garden designed by Rafael Viñoly

According to the UN, over 60% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2030. At Interface, we believe that creating urban environments that protect the health and well-being of their inhabitants is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century.

There’s a growing body of research that demonstrates how biophilic design, or access to natural elements can improve well-being. Our Human Spaces Report: The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, led by organisational psychologist, professor Cary Cooper, for example, shines a light on the positive impact natural elements can have on productivity and creativity in a workplace. And the benefits of biophilic design are not just limited to workplaces, it’s been proven to have a positive impact in other environments such as hospitals and schools.

Biophilia describes our innate attraction to nature and natural processes, and the many benefits that stem from this connection. We believe buildings that are inspired by and create a strong connection to nature are now vital to provide relief from the stresses of urban living.

  • British Museum courtyard designed by Foster + Partners
    British Museum courtyard designed by Foster + Partners
  • Pop-up garden at the Southbank's Queen Elizabeth Hall
    Pop-up garden at the Southbank's Queen Elizabeth Hall

There are a number key principles that form the foundation of biophilic design, including:

Spaces that provide direct contact with nature 

On a basic level, this means incorporating plants and trees. However, it can also include non-visual stimuli that engage the senses, including sounds such as bird song, or smells such as those from a herb garden. A great example of this is the Sealife London Aquarium. Located on the South bank of the river Thames, the aquarium allows visitors to experience the water and animals using a series of glass walkways and windows.

Spaces with enhanced natural light

Natural light in particular has been shown to have a significant positive effect on the well-being of building users. Designed by Foster + Partners, the British Museum’s inner courtyard is the largest covered public square in Europe. The two-acre space is enclosed by a spectacular glass roof which maximises natural light, while creating a calm, inspiring space. 

Spaces with a sense of materiality that connects with nature

This principle is about architecture and design that uses biomimetic forms and natural materials, such as timber and stone, to create visually stimulating and rich environments. Cathedrals, with their soaring arches, repeated patterns and natural stone are a wonderful example of design that mimics nature. The positive effects are accentuated when considering the sense of calm and peace that being inside the building can engender.

Spaces that evoke a psychological human response

When we look at spaces inspired by nature there is a wide spectrum of psychological responses that they can elicit which may be beneficial to our well-being. There are spaces, such as parks, that create a sense of calm or refuge from the urban sprawl. Alternatively, there are spaces that elevate our sense of excitement. For example, at Tower Bridge there is a glass walkway situated 42 metres above the Thames. The glass floor allows visitors to look down on the water, buses and boats crossing beneath, which is exciting, terrifying and intriguing all at once. The unifying thread between all nature-inspired spaces is that they are mentally stimulating and will in some way heighten our senses, offering the potential to improve productivity, creativity and ultimately general well-being.  

While this article has explored a few examples of inspirational biophilic design in the city, we at Interface want to celebrate even more outstanding examples, and we’re asking you to nominate your favourite nature-inspired space in London. It can be indoors or outdoors, public or private, a small corner or a whole building, anywhere helps people restore, recuperate or energise.

A judging panel – including architectural, interior and biophilic design expert Oliver Heath and director of Open City Rory Olcayto – will select a number of spaces to form part of a unique biophilic guide of London, allowing others to discover and experience their own sense of nature in the city.

One lucky nominator will also win an Apple Watch Sport, while 10 others will receive a limited edition Interface laptop bag, made from beautiful carpet material.

Nominate your favourite nature-inspired space here. Deadline for nominations is 31 March 2016.

For more information about Interface visit: www.interfaceflor.co.uk