Biophilia Essays: Tote

Biophilia Essays: Tote

Biophilia means “love of living things” and is a term coined by German psychologist Erich Fromm in his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973). It was subsequently made popular in Edward O. Wilson’s Biophilia (1984), in which Wilson proposed that humans’ fixation with living systems has its basis in biology, as well as in later literature. Of course, neither Fromm nor Wilson was the first to suggest such an affinity or even that it was an essential part of human nature; however, under the name of “biophilia” the idea would go on to spark a series of cultural movements, from conservation efforts to stylistic philosophies of architecture and design.

Biophilic Design

“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, according to Wilson, are inherently intertwined with our genetic predispositions.

Featured Project: Tote

In seeking a germ of inspiration that could guide a coherent lighting solution, through numerous design discussions, AWA and the project architects arrived at the image of “day light filtering through dense foliage.” This seed was nurtured systematically: from special rasterizations of photographs of tree canopies, the designers were able to extract a simple pattern of light and branches to implement in the physical space of the building. White metal columns mimic trees branching into the ceiling of the banqueting and indoor restaurant spaces.Tote_1

More than mere sculptural additions, these column elements are lit by “pockets of light” that, through organic placement and recessing of the fixtures, recall sunlight filtering in dappled patterns through foliage.Tote_3

Even in the secluded, dimly lit bar, directional light on the faceted, double-height wooden wall panels suggests shafts of daylight.