Category Archives: Biophilic Design

TransferWise Transforms Office Design

Interface

Welcome to the era of a new “Googlefied” office. Tech start-ups have challenged conceptions of the modern working environment since companies such as Google and Facebook created their sought after workspaces, akin to playgrounds, for the professional generation Y. Now, scientific studies, including our Human Spaces report, have proven that worker’s concentration and productivity levels markedly improve when provided with variation and stimulation within the working environment.

Transferwise office

The three coordinating styles of Touch and Tones carpet tile offer a choice of pile height to make a space surprising.

Long gone are stale cubicle rows, dull carpets and strip lighting. In their place? Bright colors and artwork to inspire creativity. Break-out areas and the tools in which to “play,” interact and exchange ideas with colleagues. Quiet spaces with carefully refined acoustics in which to concentrate, escape and reflect for clarity of thought. These workplaces attract and retain the most talented of employees – and smart companies know that this is key in creating and maintaining a strong workforce in a competitive market.

Transferwise office

TransferWise harnessed this thinking for their recent office renovation in Estonia. As a fast-growing financial technology company (co-founded by an ex-Skype employee and backed by innovators such as Sir Richard Branson and PayPal founder, Peter Thiel) they are disrupting the world of currency exchange and flipping a gazillion dollar industry on its head.

Transferwise office

Interface is represented in Estonia by the agency Tekero, who has a great knowledge of design and understanding of the market. Tekero worked with interior design architects  Krista Thomson and Kärt Loopalu from bureau Superellips in designing the project. Young, creative and energetic, the TransferWise team boasts 30 plus nationalities within its staff. Krista and Kärt sought to reflect this in their playful and animated design, creating distinctive meeting rooms that pay respect to the interior styles of the team’s diverse cultures.

Transferwise office

Spanish warm yellows, a nod to Japan with calming white and red tones and a sumptuous Russian-themed room, amongst others, all invoke a relaxed and unique feel. The pièce de résistance? The iconic Unicorn Room. Guaranteed to start conversations and inspire a sense of fun.

Transferwise office

Designers Krista and Kärt sought to create workspaces that discouraged endless hours behind a computer at a fixed desk. Open, well-lit areas incorporating elements of biophilic design with green plants and huge windows create space and a sense of harmony. They provided an alternative solution to the modern grind and set the scene for employees to move around and really shake things up – sitting, lounging, meeting and even napping within a single space. It’s a non-traditional office environment that encourages a more social and collaborative dynamic – and it’s the future.

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Milan Design Week: Inspiration and Trends

Kari Pei

Milan Design Week 2016. A feast for the designer’s eye and a great time to soak up all sorts of inspiration and new design trends.

This year at Salone Mobile, I saw a playful, ‘70s’ influence throughout furniture and accessories, but modernized and spiced up with new twist on scale, shine and texture. A combination of metallic and matte surfaces, rounded corners and sleek Ming style influences dominated the show. Woven looks showed up frequently in seats, backs, canopies and bags, in everything from wide bands to thin strips of twine.

Milan Design Week

Furniture and accessories with a playful ’70’s influence, modernized and spiced up with a new twist.

Privacy cocooning was also prevalent through an abundance of canopy/winged chairs for one or more. Combined with oversized objects; including lamps and planters, the whimsy was underscored. Drawing even more emphasis on the adolescent themes were the many objects from a ‘70’s childhood made adult by gold plating.

Milan Design Week

Privacy cocooning combined with oversized objects add to the whimsical theme.

Giant plants and an abundance of foliage dominated the scene, lending support to the benefits of biophilic design. These indoor plants were often paired with furniture normally designed for the outdoors, like a picnic table lowered and made into an office coffee table, an interesting way to cultivate more of the “I’m really outside” mentality.

Milan Design Week

Giant plants and an abundance of foliage lend support to the benefits of biophilic design.

And the colors? I’d narrow them down to three distinct themes: the Dutch Masters, Giorgio Morandi and super brights with muted neutrals.

Milan Design Week

A variety of colors from super brights to muted neutrals.

Of course I snapped thousands of photos to capture all of the inspiring design during Milan Design Week, but my favorites are up on our Pinterest board. Take a peek below.

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Welcoming Biophilia in Hospitality

Interface

Ever since E.O. Wilson introduced the notion of biophilia in his 1984 book of the same name, there has been mounting evidence that humans are innately drawn to the natural world. It has been proven that views of nature enhance healing and that natural light promotes better learning.

Clearly, our connection with nature has a pervasive influence. And, design can be used to very effectively bridge the gap between the natural world and even the most urban environments. This phenomenon has been explored and documented in the workplace, in classrooms and in health facilities, where it shows a direct relationship to increased productivity, creativity and wellbeing. This has sparked great interest in how biophilic design might enhance the guest experience in hospitality.

hotel lobby

Design can be used to bridge the gap between the natural world and even the most urban environments. (Product: Human Nature Collection)

Biophilia in hospitality

When asked about what impact the global trend towards biophilia is having on the hospitality industry, Lorraine Francis, director of hospitality interiors for Gensler, takes a long pause. “I feel passionate about that and I have an idea about the design science of things, but I think it’s been hard to articulate within the hospitality market.” She cites studies that have been done for the healthcare sector that examine how certain healing and wellness initiatives make financial sense by resulting in less PTO, for example.

But when it comes to hospitality, there is currently very little quantified evidence to support biophilia. Which is why Francis is embarking on a research project in collaboration with several industry peers to come up with the metrics to make that possible.

The goal of this project boils down to figuring out how to measure comfort, which translates into longer stays and increases repeat business. “You know when you walk into a space and you feel good, and when you walk into a space and you feel like it’s too tall or too wide or there’s some mechanical thing overhead that makes you feel creepy,” she explains. “It’s really hard to express that feeling, but that’s exactly what we need to interpret for the hospitality industry, because this kind of very fundamental reaction is what affects loyalty and, ultimately, dollars.”

Applying biophilic design to hospitality spaces

This means examining every part of the guest room experience, from the bed to the pillows to the alarm clock, and understanding how the neurological system is affected by a direct connection to nature, whether through a window view or a carpet design. Studies exist that look at the number of steps taken to complete certain tasks; track where people gravitate to in a room; and determine where they sleep better.

 

hospitality guest room

Measuring the comfort of a space means examining every part of the guest room experience and understanding how the neurological system is affected by a direct connection to nature, whether through a window view or a carpet design. (Product: Springtime in Paris)

But Francis also sees the need to understand how this plays out in lobbies and indoor/outdoor public spaces. “How do you get around those long corridors? How do you let light in?” The answers to these questions are sure to illuminate a new, nature-inspired path in hospitality design—one that leads to a more efficient, more sustainable and much more comfortable world.

One key touchpoint for Francis is Bill Browning’s 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, published in 2014 by Terrapin Bright Green, which thoughtfully expounds upon “the relationships between nature, human biology and the design of the built environment.” To facilitate the transition from research to application, it posits a system of patterns that encourages the widespread design implementation of biophilia. “The way that Bill looked at biophilic design for office spaces is a model for our approach to hospitality,” says Francis, “and we need to make biophilia a bigger part of the conversation in this industry.”

 

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Connection to Nature – An Interview with Sir Cary Cooper

Interface

As some of the world’s most forward-thinking designs seek to integrate the efficient ingenuity of some of Nature’s rarer creations, the case for incorporating the most basic of natural elements – sunlight and green plants – has reemerged with renewed vigor.

Equal Measure

Workplaces that incorporate natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, can increase productivity levels.

The findings of a survey of 7,600 workers in 16 countries led by Sir Cary Cooper, Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University and co-founder of Robertson-Cooper, make the unambiguous case for biophilia in the workplace. According to the survey, workplaces that incorporate natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, report productivity levels 6 percent higher than those without these elements.

The productivity boost adds up to compelling numbers. According to one example in Cooper’s report, while it can cost about $1,000 to shift the position of a workstation in one office so that an employee’s peripheral vision can take in the window view, the resulting 6 percent increase in the employee’s call processing capacity equaled about a $3,000 return.

Human Spaces Report

Source: Human Spaces Report

Still, only 42 percent of the employees surveyed report having live plants in their offices and 47 percent report having no natural light. “Working in an office is not where we come from,” said Cooper. “Offices are intrinsically antithetical to our nature.” It’s not surprising that the advantages of biophilia in the workplace don’t equate exclusively to the hard measure of productivity gains. Employees in the Robertson-Cooper survey reported a 15 percent increase in creativity, along with a 15 percent higher level of well-being when working in spaces with natural elements—two measures typically associated with job satisfaction and engagement. Perhaps most remarkable about the survey results was their consistency, said Cooper. The countries included in the survey are at varying stages of urbanization, and though some preferred greenery and others water ponds or sunlight, the longing to bring the outside inside and the corresponding boons to productivity, creativity and well-being were universal.

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Biomimicry & The Biomimetic Office Building

Interface

An Interview with Michael Pawlyn, Architect & Author

In The Biomimetic Office Building, lighting takes its inspiration from the translucent four-eyed spookfish and a spindly-legged cousin of the starfish, the brittle star, both deep ocean dwellers. The building’s glazed glass exterior nods to a mollusk’s iridescent shell, while our own double duty spinal column is echoed in support columns that also encase the building’s energy systems.

To Biomimetic Office Building designer, architect Michael Pawlyn, the natural world teems with models of brilliant design efficiency. Pawlyn’s book, Biomimicry in Architecture, inspired and challenged architects, urban designers and product designers to look to Nature for beautiful models of resource efficiency.

It also called for them to move beyond sustainability, which Pawlyn characterized as “minimizing the negatives,” primarily of resource and energy consumption, versus the regenerative model that is biomimicry. The Biomimetic Office Building is the latest project undertaken by Pawlyn and his Exploration Architecture team. The design, which uses biomimicry to rethink the workplace into a self-heated, self-cooled, self-ventilated, day-lit structure that is also a net producer of energy, will strengthen the case for biomimicry by drawing a brighter line between restorative, responsible design and cost savings. In addition to biomimicry, the project incorporates the principles of psychologist, Craig Knight, such as plants in the workplace, to address employee well-being, job satisfaction and productivity.

Biomimetic Office Building

The Biomimetic Office Building uses biomimicry to rethink the workplace.

“The design debate has shifted over the last 10 to 15 years from resource and energy saving to improved productivity,” said Pawlyn. While upon completion the Biomimetic Office Building promises to be one of the world’s lowest energy office buildings, energy costs are tiny compared to employee costs, such as salaries. And according to Pawlyn, design of The Biomimetic Office will maximize substantial human resource investments through gains in productivity of as much as 25 percent.

This grounded, practical cost-benefit equation, however, belies the project’s ingeniously fantastic soul. The building infrastructure, for example, is modeled on the bone structure of birds and cuttlefish. Everything about a bird must be light, strong and efficient to enable flight. While delicate, bird bones are actually far from fragile. In particular, their skulls are made from multiple layers of very thin bone. The layers lend strength without the added weight that could impede flight. Similarly, the layers that comprise cuttlefish bones vary to add reinforcement only where the animal needs it for movement, support or protection.

In bird skulls and cuttlefish bones, Pawlyn found that “complex forms that use minimal materials in exactly the right place,” is often the operating principle in Nature, and their ingenuity was incorporated into key structural components of the Biomimetic Office Building, the floor slabs and columns. Sections of the floor that will be “working hard” by taking on more of the stress of the structure and weight will need denser concentrations of concrete. Columns and floor slabs earmarked for lighter duty can be hollow, their voids used for secondary purposes, such as, housing wiring or temperature control components.

skull & shell

The building infrastructure is modeled on the bone structure of birds and cuttlefish. The glazed glass exterior nods to a mollusk’s iridescent shell.

For further temperature control, the building design calls for intricate, identical shades, able to respond automatically and, if necessary, separately to changes in light the way plants such as the mimosa pudica, or sensitive plant, and Venus flytrap move in response to touch or other external stimulation. Another tropical plant variety, the epiphytic anthurium, which grows on other plants close to the rain forest floor and efficiently captures and makes use of scarce sunlight, is providing food for thought for a subsequent phase of the Biometric Office Building design.

In consultation with work space designers and psychologists, biologists and even primatologists, Pawlyn and Exploration Architecture continue to seek innovative design solutions that draw upon the billions of years of wisdom found in Nature, challenging not just our thinking about the final product or outcome, but the very process by which we arrive there.

“Don’t start with reality, start by identifying the ideal and then compromise as little as necessary to meet constraints of budget and buildability,” says Pawlyn. “If you don’t start by identifying the ideal then you’re very unlikely to find breakthrough ideas.”

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