Charlotte Winship on how to incorporate the trend for biophilia into hospitality and events.
Biophilia is a term used to describe our instinctive human attraction to the living world. The term was first used by Erich Fromm in the 1960s to describe “a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.”
Since the industrial revolution and mass migration to urban centres, our connection with nature has gradually diminished. This man-made existence fights against our biophilic tendencies rooted in human biology and could explain why so many seek to escape their urban lives for the sanctuary of the countryside or coast.
Our need to embrace nature and the associated benefits have been discussed widely. In 2021, a report by the Mental Health Foundation surmised that: “Our relationship with nature – how much we notice, think about and appreciate our natural surroundings – is a critical factor in supporting good mental health and preventing distress.”
Throughout human history we have had a predisposition to nature, bringing plants into our homes, displaying landscape paintings and drawings of the natural world and coveting ownership of green spaces. Artists and designers have drawn on nature for inspiration for many thousands of years and there have been widespread campaigns since the nineteenth century for the need for green spaces in urban landscapes for health reasons.
As the biophilic design movement has gathered momentum architects around the world have developed structures and interiors incorporating natural elements that bring their inhabitants closer to nature in their life and work. Natural lighting and ventilation, living walls, roof gardens and organic materials often feature in modern architectural design. The simple inclusion of a garden and windows in a design scheme can enable inhabitants to access daylight, helping our circadian rhythms to function. Consideration of airflow and temperature and incorporating water and plant life into interior design can all positively influence feelings of comfort and relaxation whilst reducing stress and fatigue, promoting healing and encouraging focus, creativity and concentration.
Biophilic weddings and events
For many couples an outdoor wedding is their dream. A warm summer’s day within a verdant garden surrounded by fragrant flowers, a woodland setting immersed in bird song and tree creatures, or on a beach with sand between your toes listening to the waves lapping the shore. A multi-sensory experience of natural views, scents, textures and sounds.
Venues that can offer a direct connection to nature are in high demand. Draw attention to your garden or woodland ceremony spaces, natural vistas, proximity to water and any nearby wildlife.
Indoor or more urban venues can also create a connection with nature using the natural textures of stone and wood in their interior design and furnishings combined with plenty of natural light, good air flow and thermal balance. Wildflowers, foliage, potted trees, rustic furniture, reclaimed wood, natural fabrics, fire and candlelight all add to indoor biophilic ambience.
Wellbeing events are also becoming more popular than ever. Organisers will be looking for venues that ideally offer the benefits of outdoor spaces and connection with nature. Outdoor yoga workshops, mindfulness retreats and wellness festivals will actively incorporate aspects of biophilia to their programmes.
Opportunities for venues exist with companies wanting to unite their workforce again after lockdown and homeworking. Bookers are looking for inspiring spaces and activities that will rejuvenate their team and outdoor pursuits that offer them the opportunity to bond in nature are highly coveted.
Temporary canvas structures such as marquees, tipis and yurts all offer a biophilic advantage. A portable venue that can be erected in any outdoor space offers direct contact with nature and the opportunity and freedom to create a totally immersive natural experience.
Tipi Spaces.hires ivory-white tipis and tents for weddings and events in the West Country. Director, Shane Martin, says: “The idea for creating outdoor wedding venues was born out of our own love for outdoor adventures, gatherings and celebrations. We have lots of happy memories of spending time with family and friends outdoors, playing music, telling stories and sharing a meal around a fire and beneath a starlit sky. Uniting all these experiences has been the element of a space in nature and freedom beyond the confines of the indoors.”
Permanent venues can also offer a deep connection with nature. The Gillyflower at Elmore Court is a “future-rustic” dinner and dancing venue that has been designed with biophilic principles at its heart. Features include walls made from rammed earth, timber sustainably sourced directly from their own woodlands, floor to ceiling windows that frame the countryside views and a meadow roof that blends the building with the surrounding nature.
In-Spira, a timber building manufacturer in East Sussex, uses biophilic and organic principles in the design of its structures. Its original design is based on Fibonacci’s sequence which is used to describe certain shapes in nature such as shells, sunflowers and galaxies. Chief designer, Brian Martin, says: “We have created curved walls that wrap around to create a cocoon and provide a feeling of security. The timber interior and exterior blend into the natural environment providing a visual, tactile and olfactory connection with nature. The room captures natural light from the roof-light above and the windows framing the views outside. Biophilic design allows us to create spaces that take cues from nature, natural forms and environments and instil these qualities in the room itself. This promotes wellbeing on a number of metrics leading to better focus and creativity.”
Camping and glamping accommodation offers guests the opportunity to connect with nature and detach from the artificial world. There have been some extraordinary and inspired biophilic design developments in the past few years from hanging tree pods to floating cabins and earth burrows.
Secret Water at Hippersons Boatyard.in Suffolk offers the first luxury floating glamping pods in the UK for a unique biophilic experience. They provide direct access to the Southern Broads for you to immerse yourself in river life.
The Glamping Burrows at The Quiet Site in the Lake District are large underground living spaces with views over the Ullswater Valley. Energy efficient, secure and virtually invisible, they offer true sustainable accommodation for the most discerning eco-hobbits.
The Tree Tent at Pennard Hill Farm in Somerset is a suspended spherical structure strung between two trees overlooking the Mendip Hills, enabling you to truly get amongst the birds in this beautiful woodland setting.
Biophilia and sustainability
The best thing about the biophilia trend is that it goes hand-in-hand with sustainability. By adding more nature to our lives, we reduce our reliance on our man-made lifestyle. By embracing the natural world and enabling more human connection with nature we are creating opportunities for people to be inspired to help preserve the natural world whilst supporting their own wellbeing. As E.O Wilson proclaimed, “Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.”
Tips for venues
• Create and draw attention to garden or woodland ceremony spaces, natural vistas, proximity to water and any near-by wildlife
• Inside, provide plenty of natural light, good air flow and thermal balance
• Show a connection to nature by adding stone and wood to your interior design material palette
• Rustic furniture, reclaimed wood and natural fabrics give authenticity to a biophilic design
• Use botanical prints for wallpapers and soft furnishings, and colour schemes that echo the natural world
• Add real nature with wildflowers, foliage and potted trees
• Fire and candlelight add to indoor biophilic ambience
• Incorporate natural scents and soundscapes for a multi-sensory experience
• Promote your local produce and sing about your sustainability
• Think about offering outdoor yoga, mindfulness retreats and encourage wellness festivals to use your spaces
• If you offer accommodation, think about adding some ‘back-to-nature’ structures
• To attract corporate bookings from companies wanting to reconnect and rejuvenate their teams after the pandemic think about how to provide opportunities for people to bond in nature.