Bringing Spaces to Life – Biophilic Spatial Design

Connecting People, Nature and Space

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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.

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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).

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.

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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.

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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.