Wrap-up of Biophilic Design – February at Food in the City

In our monthly ‘Food in the city’ meetups, we learned about sustainable concepts through real-life projects and the tangible work of our speakers & participants. This month was Biophilic design in focus. We are glad to host fellow Biophilic design enthusiasts from a variety of backgrounds. Their projects covered arts, architecture, engineering, and entertainment and media industry! This blog post wraps up all contributions with links to related content.

What is Biophilic Design?

Naho Iguchi, an artist and Chief Community Catalyst at NION, kicked off the session by briefly giving a concept overview on biophilic design. Biophilia is the innate desire to experience the connection to nature or natural/biological elements. This philosophy is used as a basis in the design practice called Biophilic design which has three core components:

  1. direct connection to nature (direct use of natural elements like plants, water etc.),
  2. indirect connection to nature (indirect natural elements like natural materials, natural colors etc.) and,
  3. space & culture (how we connect to people. With reference to direct, indirect natural elements. Like cultural/ ecological backdrop attached to the place, transitional spaces with eco themes.

The use of hydroponics can fuel a direct benefit from natural elements even inside cities and urban spaces – all in a way that supports a regenerative design. Green roofs, green walls and facades, and indoor farming are a few examples of it.

Such designs can be fit to the scale of choice. Naho also elaborated on Kellert’s six Biophilic design elements & attributes.

How to incorporate Biophilic design in your sustainable building projects?

Our next speaker, Asha Singhal – Executive Design Lead at Biomimicry Frontiers, shared more on how to implement biophilic design in practice. She presented examples of corresponding projects and explained how her work focuses on creating regenerative solutions inspired by nature.

One remarkable project of high end biomimetic house design in India combines biophilic design with on-site food production. All elements of the proposed design build on regenerative resources from the surrounding environment. Natural color, light and water are all equally important. ‘It is not just about having plants around us. All the natural elements need to play together,“ Asha explained. As an outcome, this project design produces more energy and food than it consumes, as well as treats all the waste on-site.

The next project she shared was Canada’s first Circular Food Economy with the city of Guleph. It aims to create ‘the food community of the future’. Along with multiple benefits of it, she shared how it is a great benefit for the health and well-being of its inhabitants.

In the discussion with the participants, she gave examples of how the current urban challenges can be solved with the help of biophilic design – e.g. stormwater management (water sensitive design), heat island effects (use natural materials for roads, buildings i.e. biophilic streets) etc. When asked about the incorporation of hydroponics as an element of biophilic design, she said that “Technology and nature can come together and increase the efficiency of the design”.

What about integrating the native/indigenous culture into Biophilic design?

Asha further highlighted that ‘To be truly global, we need to be hyperlocal’ – so local vegetation and design practices are important to understand. If you consider the original wisdom of place, ecological & socio-cultural elements of indigenous knowledge, the project can be seen in a very local context. She gave an example of Riverine Eco-Resort, in Hainan (China) to explain this. To live in harmony with nature, this project emphasizes learning from indigenous wisdom of the Mao and Li people. This way it honors the native culture and leaves a regenerative footprint. Feel free to find Asha’s entire presentation about Biophilic building projects on this link.


While talking about indigenous wisdom, we came across the topic of preserving the indigenous medicinal plants and herbs with the help of biophilic design. If you would like to know more about plants to use in your local eco-design, you may refer to databases like Natural Capital, a permaculture database, or USDA’s  Natural Resource Conservation Service for the US and its territories.

How much biophilic is the Berlin movie scene? Projects at a studio site.

Tim Lüschen from Berliner Union Film Ateliers(BUFA) talked about the biophilic potential of BUFA – a historic film studio in Berlin – as a space for working and learning inside the city. Tim supports the work of developing this studio site into a space for the “Celebration of soil, soul, society”. BUFA’s future vision aims at transforming this site into a hub for regenerative practices in Berlin.

This way, the natural elements and the film or media experience can take place in harmony with each other. E.g. Event Space in BUFA is an outdoor event space which lets the people be among natural elements where they are shown movies, documentaries about Biophilia. This is a good way of combining film & media to entertain and enlighten the public about sustainability and environment.

How can we give more SPACE to other inhabitants in our cities – physically, mentally and spiritually?

We then came back to Naho Iguchi, who shared with us the neighborhood design project and methodology called GIVE SPACE which she is implementing with NION in Neukölln, Berlin. With GIVE SPACE, Naho aims at enhancing the connection between city life & nature.

Interaction of participants in „break out rooms“

In breakout rooms, we discussed how to answer the question of connecting humans & nature, physically, mentally and spiritually. Some of the interesting answers shared were as follows:

  • For providing the mental and spiritual space, the addition of more plants inside our built environments helps to build more genuine care for these non-human beings
  • To support the physical space of plants, use of HMI (Human-Machine Interaction) dashboards to interact with urban/vertical farming elements so that people can easily understand how to take care of plants
  • To support the fish in their physical space – instead of money, people can give fish food as a tip in the restaurants/hotels
  • Giving physical space to birds – providing small nest spaces in the gardens, building fountains and leaving food for birds outdoor around these particular spots

Overall, technology seems to be a strong support in creating more Biophilic spaces or utilise the existing spaces better.

Where to find the details of our next meetup?

Learn, connect and exchange ideas around sustainability on the last Wednesday of every month in ‘Food In The City’. Head to our ‘Events’ page to find more about what we are planning for the month of March.

Date & time: 31st March @ 19:00 – 20:30 CEST

See you there! 🙂

Food in the City: How to Design Biophilic?(Opens in a new browser tab)

A Beginner’s Guide to Biophilic Design(Opens in a new browser tab)

Food in the City – urban design and architecture(Opens in a new browser tab)

This post is also available in: English (Englisch)

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