The word “biophilia” stems from the Greek for “life” and “love,” suggesting humanity’s innate biological connection with nature. It’s why we find a walk in the woods so soothing and natural light so stimulating. Basically, biophilia is why nature makes us feel better.
Mother Nature’s power to soothe was rediscovered during the pandemic. We craved outdoor spaces for exercise, dining, and chitchat from safe social distances. We fled cities for the countryside, mountains, or beachfronts. This yearning for the great outdoors will last, manifesting over the next decade with increased emphasis on architecture that encompasses both indoor and outdoor spaces – think spas, shopping malls, and office buildings dotted with courtyards, open-air atria, and rooftop gardens.
All of that will mean greater use of biophilic design. The discipline emphasizes natural light, natural materials and patterns evoking nature. It’s also about reflecting nature in color palettes and creating areas of protective refuge. (See more in this brief bible of biophilic design from environmental consultant Terrapin Bright Green.) One keen example from hospitality is Palmaïa – The House of AïA. Located on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the resort is laid out to be one with its surroundings, with its spa treatment rooms and gym, for instance, featuring glass walls with views of the surrounding jungle.
To heighten access to nature, more hotels will likely be driven to add balconies or verandas to guest rooms, or at very least windows that actually open. Public spaces will also go alfresco, as we saw during the pandemic with F&B offered in outdoor spaces to enable social distancing, and spas using rooftops for exercise classes and open-air cabanas for treatments. Both trends will likely continue into the future. More meeting areas will likely be designed for indoor/outdoor flow, with The Gettys Group already envisioning the redesign of boardrooms and event areas with plants enhanced by digital projection to simulate nature in places where outdoor access is limited.
Love of nature was reflected in our travel choices in 2020, which saw a huge rise in demand for camping, glamping and RV rentals. RVshare, a recreational vehicle-sharing marketplace, booked record numbers last year, fueled by the desire of cooped-up pods to get out on the open road. Thanks in part to the RV boom, many camping sites, including several national parks, experienced record numbers. Already trending up, glamping became mainstream, with resorts adding glamping-style units and companies like Collective Retreats and Under Canvas experiencing rapid growth.
Then there is the Scandinavian import Friluftsliv, Norwegian for “free air life.” “It’s really putting nature at the forefront of everything that you’re doing in your life,” said Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy’s trend expert. “In 2020 I think it was the first time a lot of us really gave a sense of more appreciation and connection to the outdoors, and so I think for 2021 that sensibility is going to continue to increase.”
Key quality for businesses in 2020 and 2021? Flexibility – read all about it here.