THE new sunday express MAGAZINE Voices Anand Neelakantan Ravi Shankar Sumeet Bhasin Neha Sinha Anuja Chandramouli Mata Amritanandamayi Buffet People Wellness Books Food Art & Culture Entertainment march 19 2023 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Nature Worship Biophilia, a concept that denotes the innate instinct of humans to connect with nature and other living beings, is readily being incorporated in all aspects of life By noor anand chawla T ravel professional Geeta Bhatnagar grew up in the bustling town of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, yet throughout her life, she felt a strong connection with nature. In particular, she felt drawn to the bounty of Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. As her children studied at a boarding school in Nainital, she had plenty of opportunities to visit the area repeatedly For the first 15 years or so, her visits were ostensibly to search for . the big cats known to roam the area, but after a while, the beauty of the land became the real attraction. What began as a holiday spot became a spiritual home, eventually prompting Bhatnagar to buy land in the area. Over a period of seven years and through the pandemic, she designed and built her home ‘Ishvan’ in village Hansrampur near the national park, using natural materials like mud and wood. It was a labour of love and took longer than she imagined. Now as she lives and works in her abode, having shunned her fast-paced city life, she is happier than ever before. “It’s amazing that while cooking in my kitchen, I see elephants and sometimes even leopards walking by At night, . I love gazing at the stars. I started construction before the pandemic and lived in a small room with a mud coating for about three years to test if I could live amid nature,” she says. During this time, Bhatnagar learnt the lay of the land and practical things like which direction the wind blows, and was able to change her building plans accordingly “The Bible says, . ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.’ This is true in the case of Ishvan. I started with little money but with a lot of faith. , God is the cornerstone of this house,” she says with pride. Her god may well be equated with nature, just as she is a faithful ‘biophilic’— a term used for humans who are consciously making an effort to connect with nature in a meaningful way ‘Bi. ophilia’ has been a recognised term for decades, yet in a post-pandemic world, it has taken on a more significant meaning, touching on different aspects of life, from adopting eco-conscious habits such as exercising outdoors to indulging in shinrinyoku or Japanese ‘forest baths’ and becoming plant parents. The popularity of biophilia as a concept, however, is most evident in the increasing number of homes and buildings being built around elements of nature. There are numerous benefits to this practice. A study by the global flooring company Interface Inc., in 2018, called ‘The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace’ showed that workers in offices with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight are 6 percent more productive, report a 15 percent higher level of well-being and are 15 percent more creative. Similarly a , study by the UK-based design firm Oliver Heath in 2018 concluded that biophilic homes are more calming and restorative, along with reporting significantly lower crime rates (reduced by 7-8 percent) and higher property prices (up by 4-5 percent). What is Biophilia? The term biophilia was first coined as a scientific hypothesis by German-born American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in his work The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973). He concluded that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Later, American biologist Edward O Wilson expanded the scope of the term in his book Biophilia (1984) by proposing that humans were genetically predisposed to do so. Hence, when the first humans moved into caves and over centuries to modern homes, they ruptured this connection. Meena Murthy Kakkar, design head and partner at Gurugram-based design firm Envisage, credited with creating biophilic buildings like the Mann School Delhi, says, “I believe a love for everything that is naturally indoors is the underlying principle of biophilic design. Elements like air, light, water and greenery can uplift a room’s quality and atmosphere. Biophilia creates a bridge between nature and interiors by employing a human-centric approach to design.” On a similar vein, Sarita Handa, founder of the eponymous design label, refers to biophilia as a holistic approach that can positively impact everyday life. She highlights that global health emergencies like Covid-19 reinforced the need for access to nature and open spaces in cities to alleviate social, physical and mental health. In the context of lived spaces, she adds that biophilic design is not limited to adding a fern or a blossom to the interiors; it is a subject that has been proven to elevate mood and act as Rahul Kadri, partner, Turn to page 2 IMK Architects “The indirect experience of the natural world through features that evoke nature is not a trend but a philosophy, and is here to stay.” Sarita Handa, founder, design label Sarita Handa Bring the Outdoors in Lived Space Office ● Include nature in the form of plants, water, ● Bring natural light through breeze, scents, light, shadows ● Use natural materials, objects, colours and shapes, as facade ornamentation, décor pieces and furniture ● Incorporate spatial elements such as expansive views, places of sensory refuge like dark, quiet rooms which simulate caves, and those that induce a mild sense of risk, as with stepping stones over a shallow pond Benefits of Biophilic skylights or windows ● Use plants and water “The building is designed around three principles: minimal impact on the site, workspaces overlooking the green, and courtyards embracing the existing tree cover within the site.” Sanjay Nayak, director, Edifice Consultants, on Amara Raja office in Tirupati features, but don’t go overboard as the space may look cluttered ● Avoid synthetic materials like plastics; opt for wood or stone instead Challenges Design Positive impact on mental health “In high-rises, large windows and balconies can bring in light and ventilation. Landscaped terraces and rooftop gardens can also help connect with nature.” Natural materials are expensive and harder to source Nature inspires creativity Higher levels of productivity Better air quality Reduced noise levels through use of elements like water It requires rigorous research and some trial and error Can take longer to complete Needs a higher degree of maintenance
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