Dec 28, 2020

Biophilic Design Creates Better Environments in Residential Buildings

Nature-Inspired Rooms Promise Healthier, Calmer Living

A multistory greenhouse at Bower offers residents a quiet, contemplative space to relax and immerse themselves in a more natural environment. Photo by Ed Wonsek / Courtesy

Creating more holistic environments for people living in cities, particularly in the era of COVID, has caused real estate developers, architects and designers to look at building design with a fresh lens to determine what are the essential criteria for a more hospitable environment.

In a sense, this newfound focus isn’t so new when set against a backdrop of 200,000 years of humans adaptation on Earth. Over that time, 99 percent of our species’ development took place under conditions dominated by natural forces, unlike our modern urban environments.

Spaces designed to provide sanctuary through natural cues is a priority for Gerding Edlen, whose vision has sought to create innovative and holistic environments that emphasize health and wellness through smart technology and creative design. Planeta Design Group, working in concert with Gerding Edlen, developed innovative and modern interior spaces for Bower, the newest residential project in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.

The Bower design and development teams followed a mantra of “biophilia.” This design approach, informed by evolutionary psychology, offers clues to understanding automatic responses triggered by our modern, man-made surroundings. Today’s built environments present new challenges for the human species to navigate, fatiguing our brains with stress-inducing sights and sounds. This makes biophilic design more than an aesthetic choice: It connects people to nature and is a gateway to rejuvenating our health and well-being.

The team looked to several tenet of biophilic design to achieve a strong connection to nature at Bower:

Daylight and Views: We made sure that there were plentiful amounts of daylight and views, allowing ample natural changing light and weather patterns that contribute to mental alertness. New window technology, called “View Smart Glass,” reduces glare but automatically adjusts to changing outside light conditions without the need for obstructive window coverings.

Space and Color: Large, light-filled indoor spaces provide relief during short winter days and inclement weather, not to mention the ability to comply with social distancing mandates. Additionally, our choice of colors helps promote a sense of well-being and comfort. Bower’s first building is filled with deep forest tones and warm wood hues and textures that evoke nature, balanced by curvilinear furniture and concrete columns wrapped in tree trunk-like porcelain tiles. In the lobby of Bower’s second building, wallpaper covered with colorful interpretations of flowers and plants, and an egg-shaped reception desk that floats in the space, fills the space with a sense of discovery.

Living Plants: The presence of life within spaces, such as healthy living plants, reminds our primordial brain that we are in a welcoming and safe environment. At Bower, more so than most buildings, a variety of greenery is abundant throughout the public spaces.

Immersive Nature Experience: At Bower, skylights, art installations, and unique architectural features offer opportunities for residents to experience a sense of wonder, curiosity and appreciation for their surroundings. An indoor greenhouse extends two stories up to a skylight that bridges the gap between the building and the sky. The Planeta team was inspired by an impluvium – the central courtyard of an ancient Roman house – to create an intimate space filled with greenery, light and a sculptural water element where residents can relax and read. Just outside the greenhouse, the ceiling is covered with polished stainless-steel paneling that reflects natural light and creates a rippling effect reminiscent of flowing water, while reflecting and amplifying the hues from the greenhouse and view outside. Surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, the space offers 270-degreeviews of downtown Boston, the Charles River, Brookline and beyond.

As 2020 comes to a close and we look toward a new year, our work as developers, architects and designers is clear. Building a better environment starts with people and we all benefit from a greener, healthier and natural experience in our homes that makes us more productive and happier.

Jennie Kalberer is the Director of Design and Brand at investment firm Gerding Edlen. Patrick Planeta is founder and principal of Boston-based architecture firm Planeta Design Group.

Article posted on Banker & Tradesman (subscription required)

Read the full article