Lily Jencks is a landscape architect and Biofit's designer who has created many of the curative gardens at the Maggies Care Homes across the UK and Asia as well as collaborating with the likes of star architects Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhaas along the way. We asked for her views on the importance of natural design in 21st century business environments.
Q: How do you see corporates adapting biophilic or nature-inspired design?
A: Corporate environments must now be a full manifestation of brand identity. Our society needs to address issues of sustainability and calibrate our relationship with the natural world which is leading to a surge in biophilic, nature-inspired design.
Q: Why is that especially relevant for the world of business in your view?
A: A connection to nature, a green view of a constantly growing, evolving garden, or simply being able to take a short walk through a natural environment has been shown to positively reduce stress, while engaging in active play or exercise increases our long term health. Biophilic design details like the use of plants in interior spaces can improve air quality and bring a freshness to an environment usually lacking in icons from the natural world. We can do so much better than the ubiquitous desk-bound potted-plant!
Q: What can the corporate world learn from Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon’s adoption of biophilic workplace designs for their new Californian campuses?
A: Recent corporate campuses in California are an interesting new type of human-centric live-work space, which successfully wager that a healthy, joyful, and green-centric working environment improves performance and employee satisfaction, fostering an active, innovative spirit. These are new hybrid constructions that blend landscape and building, interior and exterior, human work environment and animal habitat biome (Google boasts of Owl habitat boxes).
The new campuses include juice bars for a health-kick break, and ad-hoc gym spaces, where workers can physically indulge their competitive spirit, while increasing their heart rate, both factors in de-stressing in the short-term and employee health in the longer term.
Q: What do you think such companies are trying to communicate to the outside world with their new headquarters?
A: In the end these new campuses reveal a lifestyle choice, not only for the people who inhabit them, but also as a manifestation of the entire corporate brand, one which cultivates the environment (rather than merely exploits it for profit), cares about its workers, and is focused on rich experiences and interfaces, rather than only physical product.