10 examples of biophilic architecture and design

Posted on: 30 August, 2023

Biophilia is changing the way architects approach sustainable design. Here are 10 famous and innovative examples from around the world.

Have you ever stepped into a room full of plants and immediately felt energetic and refreshed?

According to a study in 2019 performed by Aarhus University, Denmark, children that are exposed to more nature have 55% fewer mental health problems later in life than those who aren’t. Furthermore, in an office context, incorporating nature can improve well-being by 13% and productivity 8%.

This phenomenon, known as biophilia or biophilic design, has picked up popularity as of late, with increased awareness of mental health issues and more businesses looking to improve the well-being of their employees.

Learn more: What is biophilia (and what does it mean for the built environment)?

However, biophilic design is more than just keeping house plants in your office. Today, architects have incorporated biophilic principles into sustainable construction projects, and are making nature a part of new buildings, complexes, and homes from inception.

Here are 10 famous and ground-breaking examples of biophilic architecture from around the world.

1. Barbican Centre – London, UK

The Barbican Centre is one of the earliest and most famous examples of biophilic architecture. Opened in the 1980s as an estate in London, it’s renowned for its striking, brutalist design.

The bleak style of the Barbican is juxtaposed with the use of natural and artificial lakes and extensive wildlife. It even has its own conservatory, housing over 1,500 species of plants and trees.

Source: Unsplash

2. Atri – Lake Vänern, Sweden

The Atri is a sustainable greenhouse villa in Sweden built by Naturvillan – a company that specialises in self-sustaining houses built from ecological materials.

What makes the Atri biophilic is its incorporation of nature, through the use of natural materials and its reliance on natural lighting.

3. Apple Park, California, USA

One of the most widely recognised examples of biophilic architecture, tech giant Apple’s headquarters in California has been praised for its design and incorporation of nature.

Apple Park embraces the shape of the land – it’s surrounded by a forest of around 9,000 trees and, with a hollowed-out centre full of wildlife, provides employees with a space for well-being and a connection with nature.

Source: Unsplash

4. Bosco Verticale – Milan, Italy

Another famous landmark of both biophilia and sustainability, the Bosco Verticale was designed to combat urban sprawl and reduce expansion.

Covered by 20,000 plants (which all help to convert carbon, absorb CO2 and dust, and improve air quality), it’s one of the most recognisable and widely-cited images of sustainable construction.

Source: Unsplash

5. The Jewel – Singapore, Singapore

The first of two entries from Singapore, The Jewel is an entertainment and retail complex that forms part of Singapore Changi airport. It’s home to the world’s largest indoor waterfall (the 40-metre tall Rain Vortex) and 100,000 plants, and is part of Singapore’s goal to become ‘a city in a garden’ and a model of biodiversity.

Source: Unsplash

6. The Vibes Office – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

As with Apple Park, the Vibes Office is an attempt to bring the benefits biophilic design into the work environment. Opened in 2021, this building is a multi-zonal construction based around several gardens, and incorporates biophilic features such as green walls and water features.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Vibe Office is the use of bamboo sunshade skin, which reduces thermal radiation and consequently minimises energy consumption.

7. Ruins Studio – Dumfries, Scotland

In Scotland, the Ruins Studio is an attempt to incorporate modern biophilic design into existing architecture. As the name suggests, this award-winning home is built from the ruins of an 18th century farmhouse.

The original stone from its foundation was kept intact and provided the exterior shell for a building now entirely powered by solar panels.

8. Khoo Teck Puat Hospital – Yishun, Singapore

Returning to Singapore, the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (or KTPH) shows how the popularity of biophilic architecture has expanded beyond offices, ecological homes and grand complexes.

Conceived as a ‘healing environment’, the KTPH project was inspired by biophilia’s links to environmental psychology and research into the benefits of incorporating nature on health and well-being. Among its many biophilic features are its walls, which are designed to channel winds and enhance the airflow of the building by 20-30%.

9. Karolinska Institutet Gym – Stockholm, Sweden

In 2018, gym design firm BioFit completed a fit out of the gym at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. As with the KTPH, the Karolinska gym has a focus on the health benefits of biophilia and incorporates sustainable materials, air-purifying plants and circadian lighting, and proves that not all biophilic projects and designs have to be large buildings, offices and structures.

10. Second Home Lisboa – Lisboa, Portugal

Second Home are a workspace provider that produce architectural designs that foster creativity and well-being around the world. Their fourth project, Second Home Lisboa, houses over 1,000 plants and trees that reduce CO2 levels and increase humidity, improving the air quality of its 250 occupants.

Sustainability isn’t a passing trend – it’s here to stay and is constantly evolving. If you want to inspire and action change in your career, UCEM’s MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments will give you the skills you need, both now and in the future.

Find out more: MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments – University College of Estate Management