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Biophilic vs. Biomorphic Design

Nature has always been a big influence on humans. There are countless examples in history of nature being involved in design in people’s homes and spaces. Ancient Greek temples, the Egyptian Sphinx, and the Rococo designs found in the Salon de Monsieur le Prince are all proof of the fact that nature has always been a part of human spatial design. This indicates that implementing nature in a built environment is not a new trend. Over time, these ideas have evolved into the modern notions of biophilic and biomorphic design. It is easy to mix up these terms as they sound similar and are both related to nature, however, there are key differences that make them each uniquely useful to the modern commercial space. 

Biophilic Design

Biophilia is defined as the inherent human inclination to affiliate with nature. The idea of biophilia originates in the understanding that humans have biologically developed over time in response to natural forces or living systems. The human body, mind, and senses have developed in a bio-centric world, and therefore, our species’ inherent inclination is to respond to natural forces. 

Biophilic designs aim to create a good habitat for people in the modern built environment and are known to reduce stress, improve cognitive function and creativity, and advance people’s health, fitness, and well-being. The biophilic interior design framework consists of three kinds of experiences of nature including the direct experience of nature, the indirect experience of nature, and the experience of space and place.

Direct experience of nature refers to actual contact of nature in the built environment which can be introduced in the form of natural light, air, plants, water features, landscapes, and more. Indirect experience of nature refers to contact with the image of nature, living systems, and natural processes. Experience of space and place refers to elements such as prospect and refuge, mystery, risk, peril, etc. This pattern is more related to the spatial features, characteristics of nature, and natural processes.

Biomorphic Design

Biomorphic is derived from Greek words Bioic (life, living) and μορφή (form). Biomorphism refers to designing shapes and forms that are inspired by nature. Biomorphic forms and patterns are one of the components of biophilic design. They refer to the indirect experience of nature in the form of contours, patterns, textures, or numerical arrangements that occur in the natural world. 

Implementing biomorphic design in built environments can be done by integrating elements or representations of nature in décor as a cosmetic to the function of the space. Built environments with biomorphic forms and patterns feel interesting and comfortable and are known to create a more visually captivating environment that enhances cognitive performance and reduces stress. 

Biomorphic patterns can be introduced in the form of rugs, wallpaper, fabrics, and more. Free-standing sculptures, woodwork, masonry, and wall decals are other types of designs that fall under the Biomorphic category as well. 

A biophilic interior design may incorporate biomorphism but not all biomorphic designs are necessarily biophilic. Both phenomena are rooted in the common philosophy – we belong with nature.