Bringing Spaces to Life – Biophilic Spatial Design

Connecting People, Nature and Space


The project ran in conjunction with Green Week and the Wild Renaturing the City symposium at the London College of Communication.

Year 2 BA (Hons) Spatial Design and BA (Hons) Design Management and Cultures students recently completed a project where, working in small groups, they investigated and transformed a site within the City of London, using design schemes based on biophilic principles. Spatial Design students provided the design for the site transformations and Design Management & Cultures students worked on branding and promoting of the site.


The aim of the project was to imagine a better future and demonstrate how biophilic principles can bring spaces to life. To improve health and wellbeing by providing a spatial design solution towards the design of an urban interior that reconnects people with the natural world, and to make this space a destination for the general public.

Film by: Claudia, Rebecca, Ola from BA (Hons) Design Management & Cultures with the participation of Nahla, Coco, Anna, Hannah from BA (Hons) Spatial Design.

Visuals of the projects by spatial design students

Film by: Fareeha, Georgia, Ainofrom BA (Hons) Design Management & Cultures with the participation of Alice, Jason, Zahraa, Nisha from BA (Hons) Spatial Design.

Biophilic design

‘Biophilic design is the deliberate attempt to translate an understanding of the inherent human affinity to affiliate with natural systems and processes – known as biophilia’ (Kellert, 2008: 3). Thus, ‘The idea of biophilic design arises from the increasing recognition that the human mind and body evolved in a sensorially rich world, one that continues to be critical of people’s health, productivity, emotional, intellectual and even spiritual wellbeing’ (Kellert, 2008: vii).

Modern building practices promote a model that is often resource intensive and unsustainable, and where the natural world is either neglected, substantially altered, highly controlled, or eradicated altogether.

The prevailing breach between the modern built environment and the natural world has resulted in ‘environmental degradation, and separation of people from natural systems and processes’ (Kellert, 2008: vii). The body becomes alienated from its natural surroundings, both physically and psychologically, resulting in what Professor David Orr describes as ‘a sense of placelessness’ whereby the lack of understanding in ecological processes results in spaces that ‘resonate with no part of our biology, evolutionary experience, or aesthetic sensibilities’ (Orr, 1999: 213).

Designing for the senses – with the RNIB

Collaborative Project – Designing for the Senses: RNIB (Royal National Institute for Blind People) redesign

Second year students engaged with the RNIB (Royal National Institute for Blind People) to redesign their lobby and waiting area, in order to make it more appealing to the senses, more inclusive for disabled users and more in line with RNIB’s brand communication.

This video is one of the group responses to the brief, documenting their design process.


Collaborative Project – Designing for the Senses: RNIB (Royal National Institute for Blind People) redesign from BA Spatial Design on Vimeo.

Inhabiting the Transition Space

We recently ran a project with the 2nd year BA (Hons) Spatial Design at the London College of Communication (University of the Arts London) where, in collaboration with South West Trains in Wimbledon station, students were asked to re-examine the way people inhabit a transition space.

As part of the project, students were introduced to research methods instigated by the Course leader, Valerie Mace. Valerie developed methods and techniques that facilitate the documentation of atmospheric qualities in spaces, the intangible world of sensory perceptions and subjective experiences. The objective was to enable designers to conduct sensory driven transformation into a wide range of spaces. The original research project was published in a paper called ‘Sensing the Urban Interior’ and presented at the [in]arch conference at Universitas Indonesia in Depok (Jakarta) in 2014.

This project started with a question:
How can we regenerate spaces by manipulating their atmospheric qualities?


The project explored the sensory relationships between the intimate space of the body and the interior of a transition space, the ubiquitous train station. Every morning, Monday to Friday, our cities experience an influx of people commuting towards their center to work and reversing their journey to go back home in the evening. This creates a social phenomenon whereby the experience many people have of the city’s urban interiors is transient. This experience is also impersonal as the design of the spaces that facilitate this daily commute is often constrained to performing specific functions such as moving people from A to B, with limited opportunities for people to interact with their surroundings and even less so with each other. So the train station is an interior commuters experience and inhabit on a daily basis yet very little of the design takes into account the way the space affects people, either psychologically or emotionally. Therefore, the objective of the project was to understand how these environments impact on people’s everyday life by exploring and identifying the processes in which sensory experiences are managed and controlled, in order to develop a human centred phenomenological approach to the design process and in doing so, offer innovative solutions that will alter the way people perceive, experience and inhabit these interiors.

So the project invited students to rethink the relationship between body and space in the context of a transition space, provide sensory driven transformations that alter the atmospheric qualities of the interior in a positive way and create a sense of place, thus making the experience of individual and collective journeys a more enjoyable one.

The brief
We used Wimbledon train station as the project site. Students were divided in small study groups and assigned to a specific schedule of visits agreed by the station management. Upon arrival, students met with staff to be briefed on health and safety requirements. Wimbledon station is a small but essential commuting zone in South-West London, with trains to Clapham Junction, Waterloo and London Bridge. It also offers direct access to the London Underground District Line. The interior of the station is designed for a very specific purpose, that of moving between platforms and entry/exit points, waiting for and boarding trains. The singularity of the interior means that people experience enforced boredom and are made to wait for trains in environmentally uncomfortable conditions. Spaces selected for the project are the main ticket hall and platform 9.


The task was to redesign the space or elements of the space (an intervention) to change and enhance people’s perceptions and experience of the station and of commuting, without obstructing the interior’s primary function and the constrains associated with safety and security within the station’s interior and platforms. For example, staff needs to retain total visibility from one end of the platform to the other and at peak times, the station accommodates a large volume of people moving in different directions. Students also needed to observe South West Trains branding requirements, such as their colour range.

As part of this project students were required to document existing spatial atmospheric conditions within the station in order to establish a set of desired spatial atmospheric conditions that will become the basis for a sensory design intervention. By using the site for primary research, they were able to explore ways to make people feel more positive about their experience and provide opportunities for them to engage with their surroundings. They could, for example, choose to soften the experience through a series of subtle changes, address the issue of waiting and the negative affect of delays, or aim to provide a friendlier environment. Whichever their approach, they needed to keep people moving at all times (no bottlenecks or overcrowding in any single area) and observe safety issues. In other words, this wasn’t a decorating exercise and students needed to provide a solution that considers all aspects of the site.


The project was structured into 4 stages:

Stage 1: Discover – Students were required to use phenomenological led design research methods to reveal existing spatial atmospheric conditions through the documentation of the interior architecture, materials and their relationships, actual and perceived temperature, objects, movement and time, thresholds and transitions, scale and distances in relation to the body, the light and corresponding shadows.

Stage 2: Define – Students were required to map, analyse and visualise existing spatial atmospheric conditions to understand how the design of the space affects people within it. Then they were able to propose a set of desired spatial atmospheric conditions that formed the basis of the development of design solutions.

Stage 3: Develop – Students generated design proposals using their research, analysis and initial design developments. They visualised and communicated their design proposals through drawings, prototypes and storyboards. They were encouraged to develop their own interpretation of what the design intervention could be although they were required to integrate at least one sensory attribute within its design that wasn’t visual. So the design would be something people can sense and experience in more ways than by just looking at it. It could also be in one place or made of a series of related elements across the site. The proposed design needed to alter the way people feel about being in the station and provide opportunities for alternative behavioural and emotional situations.

Stage 4: Deliver – Students were required to fully map, visualise and realise their design proposal for the project. As well as mapping drawings and diagrams depicting the changes in spatial atmospheric conditions, they needed to demonstrate the positive effect of the changes on behaviour and emotions, and evaluate how their design created a sense of place.


At the end of this stage students showcased their work to a review panel while some of the presentations were filmed and included in a short film of the project.

Clerkenwell Design Week

Last week our “Science without Borders” exchange students from Brazil went to explore what was on offer at ‘Clerkenwell Design Week’. As always there were so many design events and happenings, it proved difficult to know where to start….. So we started in the obvious place – registration at the Farmiloes Building. As well as hosting the latest designs from the furniture and lighting industry, the top floor of the building hosted a series of design ‘conversations’ throughout the three days with speakers from across the design industry sharing their thoughts on current spatial design issues.

See below for some our student highlights of the show

“Beaux is a company who has brought us this innovative material. The panels are constructed in modules and almost any kind of shape and colours can be made. It is a simple idea: it’s a type of hay mixed with powdered concrete and water. The proportions of materials is shown in the picture.”


“With very basic and simple materials it’s possible to achieve beautiful and creative patterns. This is not the only innovation, there is also in the fire retardant feature, given by the concrete’s inherent properties, and then main characteristic promoted by the company was the soundproof qualities of the panels”


“The interesting thing about TedWood was their stand. They actually brought their own workstations to the fair. With their tools on hand they gave us the feeling of passion for handmade furniture and how careful they are when making their products. It also gave us a sense of being closer to them, a more intimate feeling, in contrast with some other stands focusing on the luxury sector. Of course, it doesn’t mean they were much cheaper than these. Their products were simple and elegant, mainly with raw materials and this characteristic was well explored with their finishing of the furniture pieces”

Denise Ikuno – Year 2 Spatial Design

Ted Wood's 'workshop'

Ted Wood’s ‘workshop’

“The whole Clerkenwell area was full of design works on the streets and even in the smallest passageways, so on every corner you could discover something unexpected, new and beautiful….”

Camila Rocha Dias Silva – Year 2 Spatial Design

An unexpected find....

An unexpected find….

GX Glass installation by Cousins and Cousins

GX Glass installation on St Johns Square by Cousins and Cousins

Interactive writing walls

A series of drawings on the glass developed throughout the three days

“Lighting the way inside and out” was a great talk. The participants were experts on the subject and at the end gave their tips for places in London to visit with particularly beautiful lighting”

Speakers were Terence Woodgate, Carlotta de Bevilacqua (Artemide) and Keith Bradshaw Principal at Speirs + Major. The discussion focussed on interior, exterior and sculptural lighting, asking how it affects the way we perceive spaces. All speakers highlighted ‘short laser’ as being an exciting new technological development, to follow on from LED

Camila Rocha Dias Silva – Year 2 Spatial Design

Marble light by Terence Woodgate

Solid Carrara marble light by Terence Woodgate  – LED lamps enable a gentle glow

“Prooff are a company focused on workstations for the modern world. They believe that concentration and “isolation” also helps with creativity and efficiency. The workstations are very different from each other and always with a very ergonomic design, thinking deeply about the relationship between the worker’s body and the furniture.

This, for example, is a booth where the user will be standing up in an acoustic “cabin”. In this cabin, he would be able to not be visually and sonorously distracted and can, for example, talk on the phone without distracting his colleagues.”

Denise Ikuno – Year 2 Spatial Design

Proof sound booth

Proof 009 standalone

Branded Spaces workshop

1st year students took part in a workshop that enabled them to study the identity of London’s riverscape and skyline through observational sketches, to capture and document the unique features that determine our sense of place and belonging. The study trip started at embankment where we took a river boat to Greenwich. The first exercise required students to capture the essence of the spaces they passed as the boat was moving. This required focus and a critical approach towards the evaluation of spatial elements. Once in Greenwich, we explored the wonders and complexity of the Cutty Sark and the symbolisms presented to the public. Finally we walked all the way to the Royal Observatory where students were asked to record the splendid view of London as it was revealed to them, while focussing on the perceptual affect of the foreground, middleground and background. The weather was fabulous and it was a thoroughly enjoyable day out!

Click on the link to see a short video of students sketching the riverscape: IMG_4396_web

Sustainability Library and Mobile Unit

A year 1 student project designed, built and realised by students on BA (Hons) Spatial Design London College of Communication University of the Arts London.
Supported by the LCC Staff Development Project Mode Fund

Spatial_Design_Library_Installation_Lewis_Bush (24)

During the academic year 2013-2014 Year 1 BA (Hons) Spatial Design students were  given a live project to promote sustainable design within LCC.
Students designed a mobile unit to house sustainable books which can be taken to  different spaces for special talks, and design the space in which it would be situated in the LCC library. The space needed to have a recognisable identity, which people within LCC  would want to be a part of and that can be recognised both within the library and as part of  the mobile unit; we decided to use a variety of materials and processes to convey this.
Throughout the summer, Joy Williams and Ashleigh Nutton, BA Spatial Design year 1  students, designed and constructed the space using individual features from shortlisted  student projects and then collaborated further to create the space. During the year  2014-2015 the space and the mobile unit will be used for a series of guest expert talks on  sustainability and books organized by Barbara Salvadori. Spatial_Design_Library_Installation_Lewis_Bush (44) Spatial_Design_Library_Installation_Lewis_Bush (5) Spatial_Design_Library_Installation_Lewis_Bush (2)

Donations and materials:
LCC Staff Development Fund Project Mode paid for the materials and labour
Interface: sustainable flooring company donated the tiles featured on the floor and on the unit and shelf.
LMB: clothing recycling company donated the old clothing for the seats.
Gregor Garber, 3D Workshop Technician: donated the wheels for the Mobile unit from an old shopping trolley.
Barbara Salvadori Printmaking Technician: donated the chalk shelf that was previously housed in her office.
Kidbrooke Park Primary School donated a generous amount of used pencils that were cut and reused for the installation.
All wood was reclaimed pallets and reused MDF from the LCC scrap yard.
The paint used is sustainable paint from Ecos Organic paints and little Greene for specific colours. The white is from Community Repaint. composed image

Joy Williams
Ashleigh Nutton

Shortlisted students:
Kamila Rataj
Joy Williams
Sin Chi Cindy Wong
Kirstie Everard
Chiara Ravaioli
Shelly-Anne Newman
Yu Ella Zhao
Anna Koroleva
Ashleigh Nutton

Course Leaders and tutors on the project:
Valerie Mace
Silvia Grimadi

Project idea and development:
Barbara Salvadori (Printmaking Technician)
Silvia Grimaldi
Valerie Mace

Thanks to:
The LCC Library Team
The LCC 3D Workshop Team
The LCC Finance Team
Veronica Kingsley from Interface
Rob Bell
Steffi Nylen

Photography by Lewis Bush

Download the Press Release

Download BA Spatial LCC library sustainability press images 1200px

Read about the Sustainable Library project on inhabitat and Your Personal InteriorDesigner

Experiencing Spaces Lecture Series – October/November 2014

This term’s Spatial and CTS Lecture Series explores the theme Experiencing Spaces, looking at designers and thinkers who address people’s experiences of spaces. These events are organised by the Spatial Communication and Contextual and Theoretical Studies Programme as a platform for key thinkers and practitioners working across boundaries and at the cutting edge of their disciplines to present their work at LCC.

Monday 27 October: Charles Holland, Ordinary Architecture and FAT architecture
4.30 to 6.00 PM Main Lecture Theatre
London College of Communication

Thursday 30 October: Joana Seguro, Artists and Engineers
1.00 to 2.00 PM Podium Lecture Theatre
London College of Communication

Thursday 6 November: Sam Hill, PAN
1.00 to 2.00 PM Podium Lecture Theatre
London College of Communication

Thursday 13 November: Harriet Harris, Oxford Brookes University
1.00 to 2.00 PM Podium Lecture Theatre
London College of Communication

Thursday 20 November: Linda Florence, Designer
1.00 to 2.00 PM Podium Lecture Theatre
London College of Communication

More information on each speaker in the PDF Lecture Series – Experiencing Spaces

Caruso St John for Tate Britain

Originally posted by valerie Mace on her blog Spatial Experiences

Between 2010 and 2013 Tate Britain underwent an extensive refurbishment programme, under the direction of the London-based practice Caruso St John, ‘to improve the architectural quality and coherence of the building1. The work includes the interior remodelling of the original Sidney Smith 1893 Rotunda, where a new staircase provides a striking transition towards the galleries and the lower level. While being explicitly contemporary the staircase also seamlessly integrates with the existing site in a masterpiece of environmental sensibility (the word environmental being used here in reference to the writings of J.J. Gibson and Peter Zumthor).

As Ellis Woodman comments in his article for the Daily Telegraph:

‘faced with the challenge of adding to this kind of rich historic setting most contemporary architects default to one of two responses: either to copy the existing architectural language or to counterpoint it with an intervention of markedly contrasting character. Caruso St John has taken a third path. Masterfully assembled in terrazzo-like concrete and polished stainless steel, their stair is clearly no product of the 1890s but neither is it an exercise in ubiquitous 21st century minimalism.’2

Although I was familiar with the work of Caruso St John, I recently developed a deeper interest in their practice after reading Adam Caruso’s ‘The Feeling of Things’, a series of collected essays written by Adam Caruso and Peter St John published in 2008. I find this book highly inspiring and in some ways also reassuring since Adam Caruso expresses views on contemporary architecture rooted in situations, experiences, influences, emotions and expectations, not the corporate architecture based on cloned business models that is unfortunately overtaking central London, creating social and cultural non-places. In order to further clarify his position, Caruso refers to T.S. Eliot outlook on Modernism and explains that:

‘in his essay ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ Eliot supports the fundamental importance of cultural continuity in the production of new work, and warns that without engaging with the historical breadth of a discipline the artist is destined to make work that is superficial and without significance to the present.’ He continues by adding that ‘the importance of traditions and histories has now been made even more complex in a heterogeneous and multi-cultural world.’3

The new Rotunda staircase clearly illustrates this perspective on architecture. The Rotunda area is situated near the river side entrance of the building, which is accessed from the street via an imposing staircase and classical portico supported by Corinthian columns. Once inside the building, crossing the formal rectangular entrance hall, the elegant curves of the Rotunda’s dome and staircase progressively emerge beyond yet another transition space of deep arches and Ionic columns. The change in the body of architecture from linear to curved is deliberately emphasised by the perceived narrowness of the passage between the entrance hall and the Rotunda. In the same way, this spatial device also serves to enhance the feeling of light and brightness experienced in the Rotunda as one emerges from the relative darkness of the arch.

01Layout-sketch 02Main-entrance

03Entrance-hall 04Rotunda

The main material used for the staircase is a creamy terrazzo like concrete, beautifully polished with soft edges underlined by rhythmic black pattern inserts and complemented by a polished stainless steel handrail with glass side panels. Rather than hiding the joints between materials, they are elegantly integrated into the design, their reflective steel lines contrasting against the smooth polished concrete. I actually felt a hint of Art-Deco may have inspired the composition of forms, patterns and detailing but the materials, which also include transparent acrylic details, are unmistakably contemporary. So this new addition is undoubtedly of its time and yet also timeless, as if it’s always been there, and the exquisite quality of the design and craftsmanship elegantly lend visual and tactile comfort to the interior. Because it fully engages with the historical breadth of the location, it has depth and significance. The new stands out in its own right but in harmony with the historical context.

Despite its predominant presence as a space within the building, the Rotunda is essentially a transition space between the entrance hall and the galleries as well as now, between the ground floor and the lower ground floor. So the staircase naturally follows the curve of the interior creating a holistic horizontal and vertical flow through the space. It is beautifully illuminated by the dome glass ceiling and the contrasting darkness of the lower level is moderated by the soft line of the steps only betrayed by the hardness of the material underfoot. The parapet is thick, suggesting strength, yet its solidity is toned down by a repetition of the floor pattern carved into the polished concrete with transparent acrylic highlights. For those ascending the stairs, the view is layered through the folds of the curves and accentuated by a gradation from dark to light, revealing part of the original building and dome but not all, a pattern of visual layering that unfolds as people move up the stairs.

Visible signs are not required to indicate what is below. The sharp sound of cutlery and smell of freshly cooked food emanating for the cafe speaks for itself. Background sounds in the Rotunda tend to be restrained as dictated by most cultural spaces codes of behaviour but keynote sounds can be fairly loud, as they reverberate against the hard surfaces of the interior, although somehow not as intrusive and echoey as they are in the entrance hall nearby. Perhaps this perceived difference is made possible by the softer aspects of the Rotunda and staircase.

The new staircase has made the lower ground floor much more easily accessible from the main entrance and in doing so provides coherence to the building as a whole. While previously the Museum was experienced as two distinctive parts, it is now connected in a way that enhances the legibility of the navigation. The tapping of footsteps on the stairs also adds a new dimension to the environment and while the elegance and subdued richness of the design fully respects the integrity of the original interior it also provides a timeless atmospheric addition to the Museum.

1. The Millbank Project
Available at <> [Accessed 23rd February 2014]
2. Woodman E (2013). Tate Britain reopening: despite 'invasive surgery', Tate Britain has never looked better Daily Telegraph 18th November 2013
Available at <> [Accessed 23rd February 2014]
3. Caruso A. (2008) The Feeling of Things Ediciones Poligrafa: Barcelona

Sustainable library project

2014-02-10 12.37.27

Our first year students are working on a project to redesign an area of the LCC library and turn it into an area dedicated to sustainability. This area will include a mobile library unit which will be used for talks by experts to display their selected collection of references.

This project will actually happen over the summer, and the selected design(s) will be implemented by September.

As part of the project the students on BA Spatial Design had to go to the library and collect feedback on their initial ideas from the potential users of their designs – other LCC students who use that area of the library. Our testing session was very lively with a lot of interesting conversations,, and some very useful feedback.

Here’s a blog post about this session by one of the students who participated and gave feedback – who happened to be a journalism student.

Two more weeks to finish time!