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.

Digital (Dis)connections – Interactive Installation at the Royal Academy London

Students from the BA (Hons) Spatial design year 2 – Calvin Lok, Chin Chin Lam and Aitor Fernandez Hidalgo – took part in the Digital (Dis)connections event at the Royal Academy on Saturday 24th October. This event linked to the Ai Wei Wei exhibition showing at the RA and ‘inspired by Ai Weiwei’s infamous blog and prolific use of social media, [the Royal Academy hosted] an evening of talks, performances, installations and more that challenge our contemporary use of the internet, and imagines future applications of digital technologies.’ (source: The project was run in collaboration with the Students Union at UAL and the RCA.

From the designers, Calvin, Chin Chin and Aitor:


I(WE) AM(ARE) ANONYMOUS , is an interactive video installation that seeks to reveal the duality and complexity of being anonymous. On one hand, there is a freedom and power that cannot be culled, on the other, credibility and responsibility become trivial. The installation will invite users to create content which will be visually broadcast in the exhibition space while in an anonymous state. The installation comes in two parts, creation and propagation.

The creation component is an “anonymous zone” where users can create content under the guise of anonymity. Within the “anonymous zone”, the participant can see outside, but the onlookers will not be able to know who the participant is. This represents the power of anonymity. In this “anonymous zone”, the user will be filmed, but his face will not be shown. This emphasizes the idea of hiding in plain sight through anonymity and the freedom it affords.

In the propagation component, the scene in which the participants will be filmed is as such; an unknown person walks towards a lone keyboard. Their face concealed by a “mirror mask” as they type some words on the keyboard. Subsequently, the person leaves the booth. This scene will be broadcast on the wall opposite the creation component. The “mirrored mask” would have the images of the onlookers reflected upon it, and represents the idea that an individual becomes the collective and the collective is the individual through anonymity, thus both trivializing and empowering their existence. Additionally, as the content will not be filtered, it will reflect the presence or absence of social responsibility and morality once I(WE) AM(ARE) ANONYMOUS.

Process-wise, the following is a recount of the process we had from start to finish:

We started by establishing an idea based on the exhibition brief. After bouncing it back and forth the three of us, we finally decided on one which we really liked(that one above), and then proceeded to elaborate on it. I came up with the initial idea of representing an anonymous state more tangibly. I wanted it to be extremely digital and software based, and the initial idea I had in mind would have had a very plain outcome, but with more interaction. Aitor felt that it was not visually impressive enough, and proposed that we translated it into a physical space. We came up with many ideas after that, from hanging boxes with screens just big enough for your head to fit in to raised platforms with our body visible, but your face hidden. Chin chin proposed much of the visual outcome and communication which culminated in the space shown on the photographs.

When it came to construction, we worked every Monday and Wednesday, from about 10am-6pm over the whole of October. Despite the 4 month long lead we had before the project, our space was only confirmed a month before, as well as some other details which prevented us from moving forward. But with Aitor’s experience in the 3D workshop, construction moved quickly and the resultant booth was constructed in slightly over 1 week. I then refined the software and made it fit our installation while Chin Chin worked on the visual communication of the booth. The last hurdle we had was storage and transport. As it was a large structure, we had to store it in school and then transport it to the RA. Making the structure flat-packable was a really smart decision on our part as we managed to save quite a fair bit of cash on transport.

Lastly, we had to set up for the actual event at the RA. this was more of a challenge than an actual problem as the RA staff were very helpful. We set up the installation in about 3 hours and then proceeded to test it for another 1 hour. Once we were satisfied with the outcome, we packed up, took a break and waited for the event to start.


The process of making an exhibition

2nd year BA Spatial Design students worked with the 2nd year BA Design Culture Management students to curate, design and build an exhibition showcasing a collection of artefacts from the Cuming Museum. The project was initiated and managed by Dr Nicky Ryan at London College of Communication. The BA Spatial design joined the BA Deign Culture Management in March 2015 although discussions with the Cuming Museum started in January when we wrote a post called After the Fire: Re-imagining the Cuming Museum. The exhibition successfully launched in May 2015 in one of the galleries at LCC and was opened to the public for a week.

Zahra Toolabi, 2nd year student on the BA Spatial Design made a fantastic film that shows the process of making and constructing of the exhibition. The film highlights how well the students worked together as well as the fantastic technical facilities available at LCC. The film shows students working in the 3D workshop, laser cutting area and print studios, and is a great example of how useful these facilities are for spatial design students.

Paris trip winning films


This post links to a previous post about the first year BA (Hons) Spatial Design students(London College of Communication, University of the Arts London) recent study trip to Paris.

Students were asked to make a 3 minutes film of their experience on the trip. We organised a preview evening at LCC a few weeks after the trip and all students, staff and guests were asked to vote for their favourite film. The films were great and people couldn’t decide so we had 2 winning teams.

Team 1 film by Ieva Symkonyte, Kajsa Lilja, Alice Filello, Ella Haavimb, Natalia Ivanova, Natalie Bondavera, Anais Bonnafous, Chin Chin Lam.

Watch team 1 film

Team 2 film by Zahra Khan, Aitor Fernandes, Emra Mercado ad Shanice Puckering.

Watch team 2 film

The film encapsulates all the details of our visits and samples of Parisian life. The team did a great job in editing the photographs and films they brought back with them. Anyone who has made films before will know that even a 3 minutes film is a lot of work. It is a pleasure to watch and brings back great memories from the trip.

Congratulations to Ieva, Kajsa, Alice, Ella, Natalie, Anais, Chin Chin, Aitor, Zahra, Emra and Shanice on winning the competition.

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

Cultures of Resilience Exchange

Last week some of our year 2 students had the chance to exhibit their work as part of the UAL Research event Cultures of Resilience Exchange at Well Gallery.

The project, titled Transience and Placemaking in Lewisham, asked the students to propose design interventions that created touch points for interaction between transient and non-transient residents of the London Borough of Lewisham, with the aim of fostering generosity and collaboration. At the beginning of the process the students were led through a series of workshops by design collective Eclective.

The exhibition culminated in a discussion between the students and Professor Ezio Manzini, who initiated the Cultures of Resilience project.

Here are some images of the event:

After the Fire: Re-imagining the Cuming Museum


After the Fire: Re-imagining the Cuming Museum is a live project to be co-designed by LCC and Cuming Museum staff and year 2 students from BA (Hons) Design Cultures and BA (Hons) Spatial Design. The aim is to support our industry partner the Cuming Museum, following a fire which seriously damaged its buildings and resulted in the closure of the museum to the public for the foreseeable future. Reduced government spending, radical regeneration plans and complex local politics have contributed to uncertainty regarding the museum’s prospects, the future of its collections and its role within the local area.


Working together in the creation of a project brief that aims to offer tangible benefits and support to the Cuming Museum, staff and students will design and curate an exhibition and related events in order to stimulate public debate about the future of the institution. By working with a range of museum staff, stakeholders and community groups students will develop useful transferable skills for employment and lifelong learning. The experience of collaboration, knowledge sharing and dissemination will help students to understand the challenges and benefits of real-world socially engaged projects.


Why do we need primary research in spatial design?

Primary research is a process of documenting and understanding spaces, people and situations from their original source and through personal experiences. Unlike secondary research, which uses other people’s research found in books, magazines and websites as supporting evidence, primary research is about being there and experiencing the space and its occupants for yourself. It’s about immersing yourself in its atmosphere, observing how people behave and interact, finding out about how they feel, learning about the complexity and idiosyncrasies of the environment.

Various methods are available. They are carefully selected depending on the focus of the documentation and the purpose of the design. Irrespective of the method however, it is important for the designer to develop the ability ask questions: who? what? when? why? and how? So when conducting primary research, the designer becomes a curious investigator, looking for clues on site, documenting the space, mapping its environment, listening to people, making connections and noticing things that others would overlook.

Sketch by Natalia Ivanova, BA Spatial Design student year 1 

Techniques vary depending on the focus of the investigation. On the BA Spatial Design, students are first introduced to primary research techniques through a series of workshops. One of them encourages students to consider place making and identity through the study of London riverscape and cityscape. In order to do this, we take them on a boat trip, from Embankment to Greenwich, and ask them to identify and capture the uniqueness of the urban landscape and the elements that imbue the cityscape with a distinctive sense of place. The objective is to capture these characteristics through a series of drawings while travelling form East to West and back.

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Sketches by BA Spatial Design students year 1

Another workshop requires students to consider the different types of users in Spitalfield market, record and reflect on people’s movement, levels of interaction within the space. We also take students to the South Bank and ask them to consider the interior of the Royal Festival Hall as a curated spatial environment and, using drawings and mapping techniques, explore and documents this multi-layered and multi-experiential interior and its organisation.

Sketches by BA Spatial Design students year 1

Developing a sound knowledge of a space and its characteristics is important but insufficient on its own because spaces are designed for and used by people. Therefore, students are also introduced to interview and survey techniques as a mean to find useful and relevant information directly from the people who are using the space. Beyond the survey, we also borrow from other disciplines such as service design, a practice that focusses on designing for people and often also with people. So, as part of their primary research, students are introduced to co-design techniques such as storytelling and character profile.

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Sketchbook by Natalia Ivanova, BA Spatial Design student year 1 

Another important aspect of primary research taught on the course are techniques used to document, capture even, the more elusive attributes of space, its atmosphere and our sensory perceptions. Atmosphere is intangible and our perceptions are often subjective yet they are essential components of space. The atmosphere of a space affects the way we feel and consequently, our emotions and sense of belonging. In order to construct atmosphere and manipulate sensory perceptions, it is important to understand them and so, to develop the ability to document them.

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Sketches from various BA Spatial Design students year 1

Students on the BA Spatial Design are taught a rich palette of methods and tools that enable them to fully immerse themselves in the environment they are designing in, understand the context they are working with, connect with the people they are designing for and develop a sustainable and inclusive approach to spatial design. No matter what kind of space they are designing, effective primary research enables spatial designers to create positive and meaningful experiences for people, foster a sense of belonging, human attachment and scenarios that will enable occupants to imbue the space with meaning. The way spaces are designed affect the way we interact, behave, work, play, learn; the way we feel, the way we live and even our health. As Iain Borden, Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, underlined at the 2011 Royal Academy Forum “Spaces of Memory”, “we make space and space makes us” (Bartlett UCL, 2011, 1:15 [Video file]) and so it is essential for students of spatial design to develop into perceptive, mindful and thoughtful designers, and this is why primary research is so important.

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 Primary research intervention by Kajsa Lilja, BA Spatial Design year 1 student

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Primary research intervention by Wenjing Luo, BA Spatial Design year 1 student

Featured Student Blog

Our first year students have been looking at ideas of modernism within their unit Introduction to Study in Higher Education, and were asked to write a series of blog posts as part of the unit.

Daisy-Anne Leslie’s post From The Inside Looking Out: My Experience of Modernist Social Housing explores her experience of moving to London and into a modernist housing estate in East London.

Being an idealistic person in pursuit of comfort, my list of property requirements was inevitably long and potentially unrealistic: large open plan living area, two double bedrooms, secure entry, good transport links, outside space… the list goes on. Upon entering the flat, my preconceptions of the area as grey and inhospitable had immediately vanished: I was shocked at the dynamic of the space.

Read more here: