Remembering Stephen Kellert

Known by many as the “Godfather of Biophilia”, Dr Stephen Kellert’s extensive works on implementing nature in design have had a profound influence on the way we create spaces.

In a previous article, Dr Kellert discussed the possibility of using biophilic design as a framework for the built environment, recognising that buildings can advance the health, fitness and wellbeing of those who use them.

Dr Kellert was an inspiration to many design professionals including David Gerson, Vice President of Marketing, Interface Americas, interior and architectural designer Oliver Heath, David Oakey, exclusive product designer for Interface and Bill Browning, founding partner of Terrapin Bright Green, who share their memories and thoughts below.

David Gerson, Former Vice President of Marketing – Interface Americas

Steve was at the forefront of the biophilic design movement. His textbook Biophilic Design and the subsequent documentary Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life was not only a major influence on me personally, it also widely popularised the concepts that have now been adapted by organisations around the world. It really was a turning point that took the study of biophilic design out of academia and into the mainstream of commercial building design and development.

For us at Interface, Steve’s influence made us think beyond our impact on our environment to the ways in which our built environment has an impact on us. Steve’s work partly inspired our lead product designer, David Oakey, to develop products like the modern classic Urban Retreat and led to a long line of biophilic-inspired products that have had an impact on customers around the world.

Steve was a great man who worked tirelessly to spread the word on biophilic design so that we humans could all make the most of its benefits. In the year leading up to his death, he was working on a manuscript entitled Nature by Design: the Art and Practice of Biophilic Design which will be published by Yale University in early 2018, and will undoubtedly be a testament to his legacy.

I personally know that I am better for knowing him and learning the lessons he taught, as is Interface. He will be sincerely missed by the entire green building industry, and specifically me.

Oliver Heath, interior and architectural designer

To my mind Stephen was both a pioneer and visionary figure – bringing biophilic design to the attention of the architectural and design community and the wider public alike. His books give clarification and insight; bridging varying disciplines of research and built environment case studies in an accessible and engaging way. They have been a true inspiration to me and many others.

I was lucky enough to meet and have dinner with Stephen last year during a research trip to Europe for his latest book, and was struck by his energy and enthusiasm for human-centred design. His passion for the subject and modest approach meant that we were able to share ideas and thoughts on the subject – both of us writing notes furiously for future use.

Stephen will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on in numerous ways, be it in his books, writings and films. But perhaps more than anything, his legacy will live on in those he has influenced within the design community, and in the benefits we experience in happier, healthier buildings for years to come.

David Oakey, product designer

Stephen Kellert was a pioneer of biophilic design – his books inspired us to change the way we design products for interior spaces around the world.

Today more than ever, we need Steve’s vision on why humans should be connected to nature.

Bill Browning, founding partner, Terrapin Bright Green

Stephen was a long-time collaborator, friend and source of inspiration. His insightful work on the role and perception of nature in the lives of inner city children really drove home the value of connecting people with nature. The translation of research on the impact of biophilia and connecting it to the built environment would not have happened without him. He was a clear and persistent voice that green building must do more than just lower environmental damage. As he would say: “biophilic design is about bringing buildings to life.”

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