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.

Fresh Air Square evaluation study

Third year students on the BA (Hons) Spatial Design at the London College of Communication are working with Team London Bridge to carry out an evaluation study of Tooley Street Fresh Air Square.


Bench and spatial design by WMB Studio

Fresh Air Squares is an initiative by Team London Bridge to insert modular micro-parks (parklets) across the London Bridge area to transform 2 car parking spaces into mini green hubs for a period of one week to a year. The objective is to introduce public green spaces into the streetscape, to improve the local environment by making it more place and people focused, and raise awareness of air quality issues.


In April 2015 Team London Bridge launched a competition to design the first parklet, located in Tooley Street. The project is run in partnership with Transport For London, King’s College London, CJS Plants and Vauxhall One. The winning design, by WMB Studio, incorporates a striking bench seating, specialised plants species to mitigate air pollution, sustainable urban drainage and an air quality monitoring station.

The BA (Hons) Spatial Design at the London College of Communication (University of the Arts London) is working in collaboration with team London Bridge to evaluate users’ experience of the Fresh Air Square initiative and how it can inform the provision of future Fresh Air Squares in the area. Students carry out on site primary research to document and evaluate people’s experience of the space. Initial findings show that the design of the parklet is very popular with London Bridge communities.

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.

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

Sustainable library project

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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!

big bamboo in Rome

Today I finally went to see the Big Bamboo installation by Mike and Doug Starn at the MACRO Testaccio museum, in Rome. Incredible use of materials, interesting interaction of the temporary structure with the permanent buildings nearby, impressive views of the Monte dei Cocci (the hill made of broken amphorae) and within what used to be the city’s abbattoir, complete with cast iron runners, mechanisms and hooks. Interesting experience going up with a 5 year old as well. A gallery below:

Silvia Grimaldi