Biophilic Design

Urban Fungarium
5 min readJan 13, 2021

The importance of human-centered design & why plant wallpaper should be on your shopping list.

A variety of lush green plants covering a floor to celing wall. Infront are some chairs and tables.
Green Wall published in

‘Biophilia’, according to Biologist Edward O. Wilson..

“A love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms”.

What is biophilic design?

According to Oliver Heath a leading architect & biophilic designer, it is a “…human centred approach aimed at improving our connection to nature and natural processes in the buildings that we live and work. This improved connection can benefit our wellbeing by reducing stress and improving recuperation — helping to cut costs and improve outcomes in the built environment.”

Rachel Horton-Kitchlew Fungi photography

Biophilic Design keeps humans at the forefront of design.

Designers have found the importance of including nature and biomimicry in our surroundings.
During this pandemic, the importance of the natural world and its connection to us has become increasingly clear. Yet, generations have grown up in flat, concrete wastelands, surrounded by heavily polluted, toxic, imprisoning roads, with many without their own gardens and while green spaces in cities are stolen by developers.

Both pollution and the lack of greenery in the concrete jungle have been linked to increased mental and physical health problems. In December 2020, air pollution was confirmed as the cause of death of a 9-year-old, Ella Kissi-Debrah, living in Lewisham.

Biophilic design can’t be a trend. It needs to be the fundamental ethos of our surroundings.

Rachel Horton-Kitchlew photography — Tommy & The Tomato plants

Gardening has been prescribed by mental health specialists in the UK, showing the effects of repeated time with nature. Gardening is being implemented as a stress relief for convicts, with many heartwarming tales showing the power of plants.

As humans, we may experience ‘Evolutionary psychology’ or psychological inheritance. Although we no longer need to take cover in urban environments in order to watch out for predators or prey, these safety characteristics still exist within us.

This makes sense as evolutionary, our ancestors felt at ease when surrounded by flora and greenery.

The pandemic has led to many of us picking up gardening forks, sewing, and growing seeds while spending many hours outside. Arguably one of the only good things to come out of such an event.

Photo by Nur Hafissa Azrin on Unsplash

Have you ever unconsciously chosen to sit near a water feature in a park?

We’ve heard a lot from the ‘World Health Organisation’ recently, but they’ve got a lot to say about STRESS.

London Smog

The “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century” by the World Health Organization and is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year.”

In the UK alone, it is said that between 2015–16, 11.7 million working days were lost, just down to stress.

Not only does stress make us unwell, but it also distracts us, stopping us from concentrating and performing at our best. That’s why it’s in everyone’s interests (including employers) to implement biophilic design within the working environment.

Incorporating Biophilic design properties such as mimicking trees and foliage, moss, long grasses, or water features, can calm us down in stressful situations. Studies also show that the time taken to recover from a stressful scenario that’s already happened is shortened by the accessibility of nature.

JOANY, Los Angeles office implementing biophilic Design

Designers have been bringing nature to offices. JOANY, an insurance company in Los Angeles, use plants to create a refuge space within the office.

Projects like this have clear benefit to us all. But, in the wake of Covid, many of us are working from home, and facing a challenge in crafting a DIY office space.

There are many things you can do to bring the calming effects of nature into your surroundings without it costing a bomb. Adding in green to key view points, whether a desk-side pot herb, or sprawling rubber tree in a disused corner, or peace lillies to improve air quality, these can all have positive effects. Even biomimicry in the form of plant wall paper.

Now we can design our indoor spaces with the knowledge of the importance of the natural world while we are working, we now all have to address our natural environment.

How do we protect our outdoor spaces? Tackling the sterile concrete cliffs of urban environments, a metamodernistic approach to implement biophilic design elements into buildings we already have, could make the biggest impact. Green Facades, roof top gardens, bee bus stops, etc all have been tested and trialled and it’s up to us to put pressure on our local authorities to take this forward.

Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

Biophilic designs surrounding those of us in the urban environment, with the positive impacts of our natural surroundings and bond the importance of environmental awareness into our conversations.

Environmental awareness isn’t limited to protecting the rainforest.

We also are on a journey to understanding the health impacts of our own environments. Just as vegan diets are gathering momentum through impact awareness, better, biophilic design is too.

Next time on Urban Fungarium
How to implement Biophilic design in your new Home Office space



Urban Fungarium

Fungal findings from Goldsmith’s graduate designer Rachel Horton-Kitchlew. Get in touch for collaboration here: