9 amazing buildings that use nature-connected design

21 September 2020

Rachael Ridley

Nature-connected or biophilic design has gained in popularity since the turn of the century, with countless impressive examples across the globe. With most people now spending around 90 per cent of their time indoors, this design concept aims to reconnect humans with the natural environment by drawing inspiration from nature and using natural materials such as responsibly sourced wood.

Here’s our round up of some of the world’s most inspiring biophilic buildings and structures.

1. The Spheres, Seattle, USA

Recognising a disconnect from nature in our urban environment, Amazon created this oasis in the heart of Seattle’s city-centre to provide its employees with a calming retreat for reflection, respite and inspiration. The two domes are home to more than 40,000 plants from 30 different countries, as well as gigantic living walls covering 4,000 square feet. The Spheres are open to the public on selected weekends. 

Learn more about The Spheres.

2. University of Melbourne Biosciences Building, Melbourne, Australia

This six-star Green Star building, representing world leadership in environmentally sustainable building practices, features natural materials throughout its interiors including timber-lined walls and a striking curved wooden staircase. Designed by Hassell, the building aligns with one of its core design philosophies to “continuously improve environmental performance and energy efficiencies as well as create healthier work environments.” Research shows the use of biophilic design in offices and schools boosts creativity and improves cognitive performance and productivity. 

Learn more about the Biosciences Building

3. Mirrorcube, Harads, Sweden

This treehouse hotel is perfectly camouflaged in the pine forest, reflecting its surrounding natural environment with top to bottom mirrors covering the entirety of its external surfaces. The interior of the tree-hotel room continues the theme of connection with nature with a living tree at its centre and the use of plywood and birch for its walls and furniture. The Mirrorcube is one of seven tree-hotel rooms, all with their own theme and unique experience. 

Learn more about the Mirrorcube.

4. Pasona Urban Farm, Tokyo, Japan

Pasona Group’s Tokyo headquarters is located in a nine-story building with a rooftop garden, plants covering two of its external walls and, most notably, urban farming facilities integrated into the offices. 43,000 square feet of the building feature 200 species including fruit, vegetables and rice which are harvested and used in the meals at the building’s cafeteria. 

Learn more about Pasona Urban Farm

5. Bunjil Place, Melbourne, Australia

The name and the striking architectural design of this award-winning arts, community and civic facility were inspired by stories of Bunjil from Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples. Bunjil the creator, a wedge-tailed eagle that floated above the earth and brought the world and life into existence, is represented in the iconic wooden structure with the roof characterising the eagle’s wings and the timber grid-shell in the foyer as the legs. The beautiful timber structure reinforces the welcoming nature of the complex.  

Learn more about Bunjil Place.

6. Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Yishun, Singapore

Winner of the Stephen R. Kellert Biophilic Design Award, this hospital promotes healing and wellbeing by interlacing a rainforest-like garden with the built environment. The sky bridges immerse patients and visitors in the garden’s natural sights, sounds and scents and the V-shaped configuration of north-facing blocks provides patients with natural light and breezes. Research shows biophilic design in hospitals can reduce blood pressure and heart rates and even shorten a patient’s length of stay.

Learn more about Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

7. Maggie’s Oldham, Oldham, UK

This is another great example of a hospital using biophilic design to provide a healing environment for its patients. Built in the grounds of a hospital for patients with cancer, this centre was designed with the specific purpose of creating a welcoming, warm and safe environment for patients seeking practical and emotional support. Built on columns, the building floats above a garden and features a ring of large windows that encircle a tree, providing a tranquil atmosphere and a pleasant view for its visitors. Tulipwood cross-laminated timber is used throughout the building to “reverse the norms of hospital architecture, where clinical institutionalised environments can make patients feel dispirited.”  

Learn more about Maggie’s Oldham

8. The Metropol Parasol, Seville, Spain

One of the largest wooden structures in the world, The Metropol Parasol has become a cultural landmark in Seville. It consists of six large mushroom-shaped timber parasols that protect an archaeological site and shade the Plaza de la Encarnación. The micro-laminated timber lattice creates interesting, artistic shadows that move throughout the day and a public balcony offers beautiful, panoramic views of Seville’s old quarter. 

Learn more The Metropol Parasol.

9. Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania, Australia

Designed by award-winning Tasmanian architect Robert Morris Nunn and associates Circa Architecture, this secluded resort was purposely designed to reflect and incorporate the surrounding environment. Drawing inspiration from natural forms such as waves and sand dunes, the curved wooden roof of the main building beautifully frames Tasmania’s Hazards mountain range. Large double-glazed windows and natural materials such as timber and stone are used throughout the resort to blend the indoor and outdoor environments and create a soothing atmosphere for its visitors.

Learn more about Saffire Resort. 

Photo of the author: Rachael Ridley
Rachael Ridley

Rachael joined Planet Ark in early 2019 after eight years working in media and publishing as a producer, editor and writer. Rachael loves using her skills in content creation and communication to instigate positive environmental behaviour change. Outside of work, Rachael enjoys spending time in nature, listening to music and patting dogs.

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