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Q&A: The importance of green spaces x Oliver Heath

28 March 2019

What is Biophilic design and why should we be incorporating it into our interiors? We caught up with Oliver Heath to learn more...
oliver heath

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Oliver Heath Design, global experts in Biophilic interiors, to find out more about their love of nature and why we should be embracing this growing design trend.

TR: Why is it important to surround yourself with nature and plants? 

OH: Humans have lived for hundreds of thousands of years as part of the natural landscape. Since the Industrial Revolution, however, we have moved away from rural dwellings and into dense urban city locations, surrounding ourselves with harsh geometric shapes and forms that expel the natural world. Add to this a rise in our use of technology, and the fact that we now spend 90% of our lives indoors exacerbating our disconnection from nature, it’s hardly surprising that we now find ourselves with ever rising levels of stress, depression and anxiety.

"Biophilic design is an evolutionary design ethos that seeks to reconnect us with the natural world".

- Oliver Heath, Designer.

The benefits of surrounding ourselves with nature are numerous; aiding relaxation, decreasing stress and even recuperating our physical and mental ability. Delivering spaces that keep this connection to nature in mind, means people work better, live better and feel better.

kitchen shelving
An array of trailing succulents and air purifying plants in a kitchen setting designed by the Oliver Heath practice.
Oliver heath office
The Oliver Heath Office, based in Brighton, is filled with a multitude of lush green foliage.

TR: What are your top tips for selecting and placing plants?

OH: The first thing I would suggest is diversity. Introducing a variety of different plants gives a visual resilience to a space – immediately suggesting to the viewer that if a plant can survive here, humans can too. I would also recommend displaying different sized plants at different heights - this gives a greater sense of lushness and richness.

I particularly love our trailing plants in the Oliver Heath Design Office (see above), hung from our high ceiling beams in hanging planters (with macramé made by our very own researcher, Eden!). It’s also important to pick plants that suit the available lighting levels in your space. Some plants like direct sun, some partial shade and some thrive in lower lighting conditions.

OH greenery
Natural, organic materials and living walls collide in this Oliver Heath Design project to create a calm, ambient setting.

TR: There's a preconceived conception that Biophilic Design is all about plants. What if you don't have a space that can support plant life?

 OH: So many spaces that we find ourselves in don’t have a direct connection to nature; be that good natural light, views out onto trees or plants, fresh air or views onto water. Thankfully there is plenty of evidence to suggest that artificial elements representing, or mimicking nature can be hugely beneficial in reducing stress. Think natural shapes (known as biomorphic forms) that remind us of nature such as flowers, or trees. Or the use of natural materials, textures and colours can help create more natural feeling spaces.

Oliver heath designed yoga space
The 'Mind Studio' in London focuses on healthy lifestyles and aims to give Londoners a place to feel relaxed and calm. 

TR: What successes are you most proud of from 2018 and what are the OH team looking forward to for 2019?

OH: At the Oliver Heath Design practice we're proud to be continually inspiring and encouraging architects and designers around the world to start thinking about Biophilic Design through our consultancy, seminars, projects and shared research throughout the year. In fact if you’d like to find out a little bit more about Biophilic design you can download one of our reports here.

Physical and psychological health were at the forefront of our latest retail project, Mind Studio in London. The studio, incorporating a yoga/meditation studio, retail space and tea tasting area, was designed to give stressed out Londoners a moment to breathe.

What we’re most looking forward to for the year ahead is our work with the Building Research Establishment (BRE) -  an exciting 3 year design project that will be a world first! Together with BRE, we’ll be investigating and demonstrating the amazing benefits of Biophilic Design in the workplace.

Imagery credits: (first image) Hilary's Blinds, (rest) Oliver Heath Design Studio.

Posted: 28.03.19
Updated: 15.04.21

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