Biophilic Design

Curated by Bill Browning

Environmental strategist Bill Browning is a Founding Partner at Terrapin Bright Green, an environmental consultant to developers, government agencies, Fortune 50 companies, design firms, and nonprofit organizations. As an advocate for sustainable design solutions at all levels of business, government, and civil society, Bill is an expert in biophilic design and is a co-author of The Economics of Biophilia, Nature Inside: a Biophilic Design Guide, and other research publications. Biophilia is the inherent human inclination to affiliate with nature, and biophilic design can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and creativity, improve well-being, and expedite healing. The biophilic patterns described in Terrapin Bright Green’s “14 Patterns of Biophilic Design” are supported by a large body of research on the positive effects of nature on people. This and other publications can be downloaded from the Terrapin website. This Collection explores and illustrates several of the 14 biophilic design patterns through exemplary projects in the Landscape Performance Series.

  1. Case Study Brief

    Virtua Voorhees_After

    Virtua Voorhees Hospital

    Voorhees Township, New Jersey

    “Visual connection with nature: This pattern is based on research indicating that views of nature can reduce stress, improve healing rates, support more positive emotional functioning, and improve concentration. The interior spaces of this hospital in the New Jersey Pine Barrens feature many visual connections to surrounding real and designed natural areas.”
  2. Case Study Brief

    High Line

    New York, New York

    “Non-visual connection with nature: Other sensory connections with nature include sounds, smells, and textures reminiscent of being outdoors. Designers all too frequently just focus on visual response and don’t put enough attention to engaging the other senses in their designs. Providing nature sounds and other non-visual connections to nature that can be accessed daily for short segments can support human well-being. This linear park’s plant palette brings the natural aromas, textures, and sounds of swaying vegetation to a highly urbanized and artificial environment. ”
  3. Case Study Brief

    Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, Phase 1

    Houston, Texas

    “Non-rhythmic sensory stimuli: Stochastic, or random, movement of objects in nature and ephemeral sounds can support attention restoration. Designing for this pattern (or lack thereof) means encouraging natural sensory stimuli that unobtrusively attract attention and provide a brief distraction. This arboretum engages visitors’ periphery vision by getting them in close range with unexpected movements and sounds of animals along the boardwalk. ”
  4. Case Study Brief

    Uptown Normal Circle and Streetscape

    Normal, Illinois

    “Presence of water: This pattern is supported by research on visual preference studies and positive emotional responses to places that contain water elements. Water features that are multi-sensory with naturally fluctuating water movement are most supportive of this pattern. This traffic circle incorporates constantly moving water that is also fully accessible to visitors. The sound of moving water is by far the most effective psychoacoustic masking noise, and particularly important in this urban setting. ”
  5. Case Study Brief

    Te Whāriki Subdivision Phases 1 and 2

    Lincoln, New Zealand

    “Connection with natural systems: This pattern’s objective is to heighten awareness of natural properties and ecosystems and, hopefully, environmental stewardship. This subdivision was designed to reveal the movement of stormwater through its swales and wetlands, allowing residents to observe the natural ecological patterns of their region. ”
  6. Case Study Brief


    Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair

    San Antonio, Texas

    “Biomorphic forms and patterns: Designs that utilize this pattern reference contoured, patterned, textured, or numerical arrangements that are found in nature. This park’s mosaic-covered concrete seat walls have a pattern that reflects the Blue Hole, the spring that is the source of the San Antonio River.”
  7. Case Study Brief


    Regenstein Learning Campus at the Chicago Botanic Garden

    Glencoe, Illinois

    “Material connection with nature: This pattern is based on emerging research on physiological responses to natural materials. This botanic garden landscape utilizes minimally processed materials from real nature in play areas. ”
  8. Case Study Brief

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    HTO Park

    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    “Prospect: This pattern recommends providing a place for people to survey and contemplate the surrounding environment based on research showing human preference for views of open spaces. This waterfront park has elevated landforms (the result of capping contaminated soils) that offer varied prospect views of the water, other visitors, and the park’s iconic yellow umbrellas – as well as a sense of safety and control.”
  9. Case Study Brief

    Goods Line_After

    The Goods Line (North)

    Ultimo, New South Wales, Australia

    “Refuge: Refuge spaces feel separate and unique from the surrounding environment and can offer restorative experiences and stress reduction. In their simplest form, refuge spaces provide protection from the back and, if possible, have some canopy overhead. This bustling linear park creates an easily accessible, protective environment in the form of tree-shaded and private “study pods” located off the main pathway. ”
  10. Case Study Brief

    Salesforce Transit Center Park

    San Francisco, California

    “Mystery: This pattern focuses on a sense of anticipation and the human need to understand and explore. This may include obscuring boundaries and creating partially obscured views. This rooftop park utilizes curved paths to slowly reveal different zones and features, provoking curiosity and enticing visitors to see what is around the next bend. ”
  11. Case Study Brief


    Sydney Park Water Re-use Project

    St Peters, New South Wales, Australia

    “Risk/peril: This pattern provides the exhilaration of an implied threat coupled with a reliable safeguard and sense of control. Research shows that risk can result in strong dopamine responses, which support adults in problem solving, motivation, memory and more. This stormwater park offers visitors many chances to take a (safe) risk and get their feet wet with multiple stepping stones at various intervals across moving water. ”
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