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Biophilia and the Visual Connection

Urban spaces are increasingly becoming dense built environments with little space for nature. The missing factor to creating a healthy environment in these urban spaces is biophilia. Regular exposure to nature has many advantages that are stripped away in the modern built environment. Biophilic design respects mind-body systems as indicators of health and well-being. Visual connection with nature is one of the most important elements of biophilic design and can enhance the experience of commercial space by reducing stress, improving cognitive performance, and positively impacting attitude and overall happiness. 

Visual connection with nature is defined as having visual access to natural elements, natural processes, or living systems. The strategy to introduce visual connection in built environments consists of improving views, bringing in plants and trees, installing green walls, and strategic placement of desks to maximize outdoor views. Each of these interventions will depend on the given space and location. Built environments that help connect humans with nature are extremely beneficial for those within the space as it brings a calming presence to the area.

The objective of visual connection with nature is to create an environment that helps people shift their focus to natural elements and experience peace. For instance, a view of nature through a glass window will provide an employee a much-needed break from their computer screen that improves concentration, recovery rates, and reduces attentional fatigue in the process. Views of nature have been shown to aid in stress recovery, and lowered blood pressure and heart rate. It can also reduce sadness, anger, aggression, and improve alertness and happiness. 

Some naturally occurring examples that connect humans with nature are shade trees, plants, flowering plants, animals or insects, water, soil, earth, green walls, ponds, and landscapes. Visual connection can also be established through simulated ways like depicting natural scenes over a digital screen or through artwork. The priority should always be in this order: nature, simulated nature, and no nature. 

Biophilic designs with visual connection to nature should be created in a way that allows its users to experience the environment for at least 5-20 minutes per day. ‘What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis’ by Barton & Pretty in 2010 has shown a positive impact on mood and self-esteem occurring significantly in the first five minutes of experiencing nature. The study confirmed that the environment provides an important health service. 

Within a built environment, it is very important to find ways to implement a connection between humans and nature. Humans need to interact with nature throughout their day to help enhance productivity and happiness in their everyday life.