The Hidden Benefits of Biophilia

Writer Jessica Baxter | July 9, 2019

As cities around the world fill with skyscrapers and high rises—not to mention an increase in pollution––it’s no surprise that people and businesses are turning towards biophilic design as an escape from the chaos of modern life.

Described as the practice of incorporating nature and natural elements into the built environment, biophilia has become a buzzword in the design world and thanks to its stress-reducing benefits. Spas around the globe have adopted the trend too. “Biophilic design is of great importance in our design,” says Anna Bjurstam, wellness pioneer at Six Senses Spas and Wellness, and Andrew Best, vice president of architecture planning and technical services at Six Senses in an interview with interiors + sources. “Biophilic design is organised in three categories, including nature in the space, nature analogues and nature of the space. We work with them strategically in all design as research has proven biophilic design to reduce stress, enhance cognitive performance and enhance mood and positive emotions.”

As the experts note, biophilic design is far more than just a few pot plants dotted around room — it is a design science that showcases the best of outdoor living, indoors, with water features, understated wood finishes and plenty of greenery. As people seek respite from their busy lives and urban environments in spas, this aesthetic lends itself to creating quite the oasis.

ESPA at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore is one such spa. With a rock sauna room that looks out onto uninterrupted views of the pool and surrounding forest, bamboo ceilings and open-air treatment rooms with ceiling-to-floor glass doors inviting in natural light, you’re able to immerse yourself in nature and its recharging benefits. A lesson in biophilic design, the attention to detail, not only in treatments, but also its design,  is what makes this world-class spa a destination for city dwellers looking to escape.

“The spa journey is carved out by focusing on ‘bringing the outdoors in’ through landscaped outdoor journeys and views of lush tropical forestry, combined with beautifully designed private and social spaces inside the spa,” says a RWS spokesperson. “From their first steps through the door, guests are immersed in a tranquil environment that extends their spa experience beyond just treatments, allowing them the perfect oasis to escape from the city or take time out.”

Another spa taking its cue from nature is Six Senses in Douro Valley, Portugal. Renowned for its wellness treatments, the spa is inspired by its natural surrounds and biophilic design is at the heart of its aesthetic. Nestled in Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this spa was built with nature and sustainability in mind, from interior design right down to the unique Alchemy bar, which allows guests to create their own products using natural ingredients. “Six Senses spa is a confluence of Portuguese tradition, space, stone, wood and water, inviting guests to unwind and revive without pretence,” says spa director Javier Suarez.

With all 10 treatment rooms looking out over secret gardens and water features, and offering breathtaking views of the valley, Six Senses spa promises guests, as its name suggests, a sensory experience from the moment they set foot inside.

The design was spearheaded by the famed Irish-American interior designer Clodagh, who is renowned for her use of feng shui and biophilic principles. “The green wall is the first thing our clients see when entering the spa. This sets the scene for what to expect as they enter a relaxation and wellness space,” says Suarez. And with the pace of modern life yet to slow down anytime soon, relaxing spaces that offer a departure from the chaos of everyday life sounds like what the world needs more of.

Biophilic design is far more than just a few pot plants dotted around room