Spa & wellness

“We tend to use real, natural elements like plants because we want our projects to get a strong biophilic response and to have a positive, lasting impact on human beings” he says. “Besides nature, we’re really interested in things that incorporate natural patterns, production or materials.”

Green revolution

WOHA has a number of biophilic projects to its credit. Perhaps the most notable is the Parkroyal Collection Pickering, which features 15,000m2


greenery (more than double its land area) in the form of verdant balconies and terraces. “The lush, tropical terraces have become a landmark of the district,” says Hassell. “Every room in the hotel has a view of the greenery, and guests can enjoy that feeling of being on a tropical island despite the inner-city location of the hotel. The terraces also serve to shade the building from the sun and help to reduce the energy consumption of the hotel to cool the interior spaces.” Similarly, the Oasia Hotel Downtown – a high-rise in the middle of Singapore’s business district – is wrapped in what Hassell calls a ‘green envelope’, which couples its aesthetic appeal with ecosystem services like filtering the air and attracting biodiversity. Meanwhile, WOHA’s most recent public housing project, Kampung Admiralty, includes a rooftop park and even an urban farm. “This is not a hospitality project, but the strategies that we were able to implement here and the lessons we have learned are being used in new projects, which include hotels and resorts,” says Hassell. “Our projects are built prototypes of how we incorporate nature and design ecosystems where nature is not just presented for human benefit, but as a living and growing system that improves the world outside too.” That said, biophilic design doesn’t necessarily entail turning the space into a tropical resort. You can start small and put a ‘green wall’ in the lobby. You can ensure there are views out to nature. You can incorporate ‘representational experiences’ of nature through the use of materials like wood and stone, or through playing around with lighting design. You could also include some biomorphic forms. As neuroscientists have found, natural patterns are easier for the brain to process. “There’s a type of patterning called fractals, which are mathematical patterns that repeat at scale,” says Browning. “Think of flames dancing in a fireplace, or waves on a beach – two things that we’ll stare at for hours – or the dappled light under trees. When we have human design objects that replicate those sorts of patterns, there’s a noted drop in our stress levels. Designers are looking more and more at how they

Hotel Management International /

can design fabrics and carpet patterns that benefit from what we’ve learned.”

Another category of experiences, discussed in

Terrapin’s report ‘14 patterns of biophilic design’, relate to the spatial conditions of the building. “The first of those is a pattern called ‘prospect’, which is an unimpeded view through space – this is good for wayfinding and perceptions of safety,” says Browning. “There’s also a pattern called ‘refuge’, in which my back is protected and I may have some form of canopy overhead.” To give a common example, a well-protected booth in a restaurant, which is raised up on a plinth, would give you ‘prospect’ and ‘refuge’ together. Factor in a soaring atrium (an example of what Browning calls ‘risk/peril’) and some partially obscured views (‘mystery’), and you have a good example of the ways an interior space can emulate the natural world. To this extent, some biophilic features are almost biophilia by stealth – guests will notice that they’re feeling relaxed without necessarily knowing why. A science and an art in equal measure, biophilic design will be a crucial component of hotels’ wellness strategies over the years to come. “There are many benefits, but to us the most important one is the human reaction to nature and how it supports well-being emotionally and physically. We see biophilia as a value in design, and look for ways to creatively find opportunities to create biophilic environments,” says Hassell. Put another way, as the impetus slowly begins to shift from battling a deadly pandemic to negating a looming climate crisis – and making buildings healthier and more efficient places to live – biophilia takes a concept partly powered by eco-grief and seeks to convert it into eco-energy. ●

WOHA co-founder Richard Hassell believes that fresh air and green space is integral to well- being, something that the Parkroyal provides in abundance.



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