Barry Wark 

Biophilic Aesthetic and the Indirect Experience of Nature

‘Biophilia’ is a term coined by Edward O. Wilson in his 1984 book of the same title where he states that humans have an intrinsic affiliation with the natural world and that our survival on this planet is reliant on it . We are physiologically, neurologically and psychologically nourished by the natural world as these are the environments humans evolved in over many millennia ( Kellert 2005; Salingaros and Masden 2008; Ulrich 2000). It can generally be said that our contemporary built environment has suffered greatly in this regard from the modernist and minimalist movements, to the construction of our cities moving from individuals to for-profit corporations. The result is sensory deprived architecture and spaces that lack the visual complexity of the natural world.

In the seminal book ‘Biophilic Architecture’ by Kellert , the author makes the first attempt to define the elements and attributes that constitute biophilic architecture ( Kellert 2008). This extensive list is then condensed in a future paper to three main categories: Direct Experience of Nature, the integration of the living natural world ; Indirect experience of Nature, experiencing nature through ornament, patterns and form for example ; and The Experience of Space and Place which embodies spatial organisation, way fining, atmospherics and embedding of the architecture into it’s natural context ( Kellert & Calabrese 2015).

Most of contemporary research and practice into biophilia focuses on only the direct experience of nature. This is problematic as the same spaces with potted vegetation or a singular green wall do not deliver the visual complexity of the natural world and thus deliver underwhelming neurological nourishment ( Salingaros, Masden 2008). The research therefore looks to investigate and establish the indirect experience of nature in our buildings so that we may connect with them in the same way we do our natural world.