Biophilia and can it be faked?
In short, the answer is yes. Biophilic design recognises that we are unconsciously connected to nature and although they don’t beat the real thing, artificial office plants provide the visual stimulation we seek whilst requiring very little maintenance to keep them.
We are significantly affected by the environments in which we live and work. Plants are the second most desirable natural element in the office and re-creating nature indoors can contribute to higher levels of workplace wellbeing leading us to feel less stressed and become more productive. Yet plants contribute to their environment not only by their appearance but also in their practical application.
Case Study: The application of plants
The University of Leeds had a biophilic need; contacted by their design team we worked together to create a solution.
Situated within the Brotherton Library West Building this was a large open space designed to accommodate a high volume of people with a combination of desks and individual pods, frequently divided by large pillars throughout the room.
Due to the number of people that could be in the space at any one time, aesthetics, acoustics and privacy required consideration.
In this particular case real life plants were not possible as this space is located below ‘Special Collections’; a place where delicate, historical artefacts are stored and studied.
“Whilst we endeavoured to source real life plants, the risk of attracting any insects to the space meant that we simply weren’t able to use these. Therefore replica was the only option if we wanted to introduce an element of biophilia to a space that is visually disconnected from the outside world.”
Kyle Minnock (Interior Designer) – Estates, University of Leeds
Replica plants were the perfect solution as they would provide the biophilic design needed to add vibrancy to the room’s interior whilst requiring very little maintenance.
Bespoke trough planters had been designed to match the width and height of the desk ends, here Mother in Law’s Tongue was chosen. Also known as the Snake Plant – or Sansevieria trifacsciata – Mother in Law’s Tongue is characterised by a distinctive variegation in colour and its stiff vertical leaves. Naturally the Sansevieria grows in a dense pattern which is replicated in its artificial form, and this, combined with its vertical figure and contrasting colour, made it the ideal solution for these planters. The Mother in Law’s Tongue provided a compact, colourful screen that created the privacy needed without encroaching into the walkways or over the desk space.
The remaining challenge was to create impact within the space and having reviewed our Looks-Like-Real plant range, Bamboo was chosen for its lush colour, widespread foliage and height. At 2000mm high the Bamboo provided colour contrast when sat against the white pillars that featured throughout the room. Their far-reaching leaves create a wide spread, which not only offers acoustic properties by helping to absorb sound waves, but these plants are striking biophilic design pieces that students can see wherever they are in this large space. Moreover, made with real bamboo canes these plants are one of the most realistic replica plants available!
Photography: Mike Dinsdale – MIDI Photography