Who Needs Beauty?

There’s a tantalizing mystery in our intuitive response to beauty and the sensual experience and associated pleasure from what we hear, touch, taste, smell or see. Science now tells us that we don’t simply desire this kind of beauty; we need it. In an era when we spend most of our time indoors, it is more important than ever that we fulfill this basic human need to #MakeBeautyHappen in our built environment.

Human intuition, neuroscience and building research are converging to tell us that beautifully designed spaces can bring out the best in people. So how does beauty become a functional design element and not just an aesthetic factor? 

Biophilic design helps us marry beauty to function in our built environments (well-placed windows that not only provide a view to the outside, but also allow in more natural light and lessen energy costs) in the same way that nature uses beauty (vibrantly colored blossoms that attract bees for cross pollination).

Some of our most enduring, beautiful and iconic buildings and spaces, including many Frank Lloyd Wright designs and Grand Central Station, meet the definition of biophilic design. We always knew these designs made us feel good, but now we know why. Research shows that people are more productive, learn better, heal faster, and have lower stress levels in spaces embodying the principles of biophilic design.

Considering the positive, measurable impact of biophilic design on a building’s inhabitants, can a building be “green” without beauty?

We believe the answer is “no.” A high performance, green building should do more than lower environmental impacts. It must also renew and inspire the people who use them.

Beautiful, biophilic design offers a means of reliably producing these benefits, potentially making beauty one of the most important drivers of ROI for a building owner. The increased productivity of building occupants, whose salaries surpass the cost of any building over time, more than justifies making beauty a design priority.

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Companies like Google recognize the benefits of biophilic design on its employees and are implementing these strategies to improve the quality of their work environment.

Can beauty also save the world?

Author Lisa Samuels claims that “Beauty wedges into the artistic space a structure for continuously imagining what we do not know.” In other words, beauty can be a catalyst for creation. We believe that beautiful, biophilic spaces can help bring out the kind of compassionate, creative thinking needed to solve the world’s biggest problems. We call this kind of creativity “beautiful thinking,” and we believe it holds the key to unlocking the next wave of social and environmental innovation. We’ve already seen the results of beautiful thinking in restorative system projects like Waterbank Schools and Net-Works. And we hope these are just the beginning.

 

The latest research and guidance on the methodology of biophilic design are the subject of the new Terrapin Bright Green report The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design.

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