Biophilia Essays: Brigade Gateway
Brigade Gateway Complex
In this integrated lifestyle enclave, one might expect a super-stimulatory artificial environment of advertisements and commercial infrastructure. Instead, the space is centered on water and trees, and it incorporates related imagery throughout. For the façade of the Orion Mall, situated on the site, the client’s initial desire for a “feel of ‘Times Square’” was satisfied without the need for a full-wall back-lit billboard. Opting instead for a custom wall art piece entitled the “Tree of Life” using color-controlled lights and a luminous “moon” element synchronized with the lunar cycle, AWA balanced spectacle with the natural surroundings. Though the moon itself is essentially inorganic, its regular cycle of 29½ days so influences the rhythms of terrestrial life forms and life systems that it becomes an object of biophilia, too. Extending the theme of pseudo-natural light, a reflective golden sun element directly mirrors the moon on the façade, and the entire façade lighting scheme for the project recalls its inspiration: the glow of the setting sun striking the buildings. The shadows created by the five-storey embossing of the tree of life, the wall’s ornamental centerpiece, mimic the filtering of light through foliage.
Indeed the idea of the tree canopy is present elsewhere in the design of the space, as well. One of the key focal points of the outdoor space is the 200 year-old rain tree, seen to best advantage when “moon lit” by powerful lamps on the roof of the World Trade Center, the complex’s tallest building. This powerful yet broadly diffused light imitates the light of the moon, ensures the safety of users of the outdoor space at all times of night, and eliminates the need for “harsh ‘area’ lighting.” The dappling of light through foliage was kept in mind when lighting the extensive tree plantings and pathways surrounding the body of water at the theater’s center.
“Biophilic design” can refer to several trends in modern “green” design, but in most uses it indicates a design principle that goes beyond merely minimizing the impact of the built environment to create actual close contact between users and the “natural” world. By inviting nature into the design, whether through biomimicry, green curtain walls, extensive natural lighting (or simulations thereof), multi-species accessibility, or the like, a design reengages occupants with the environmental elements that may be inherently intertwined with our phylogenetic predispositions.