Kengo Kuma’s Alberni Skyscraper: Biophilic Design Benefits and Stunning Examples

What is Biophilic design, and What are the Benefits?

The practice of Biophilic design stems from the philosophy of biophilia. Biophilia is a term first introduced by German social psychologist Eric Fromm in his 1973 book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness and is defined as the passionate love of life and all that is alive.  

To interpret these ideals biophilic design incorporates elements of nature into built environments. According to Stephen R. Kellert and Elizabeth F. Calabrese, the authors of The Practice of Biophilic Design (2015), this can be done through both direct and indirect experiences with nature.  

A direct experience with nature is also known as “nature in space”. It refers to elements of design that include access to natural light, fresh air, water, animals, plants, weather natural landscapes and ecosystems.  

Biophilic Design in Kengo Kuma's Alberni Skyscraper
Elements of Biophilic Design Within the Recent Alberni Skyscraper in Vancouver | Photo Credits Ema Peter

Indirect Experiences are known as “natural analogues” and are design elements that evoke a sense of nature. This can have a broader interpretation and includes using natural materials in buildings, images of nature, natural colours, simulating natural light and air, naturalistic shapes and forms, evoking nature, natural geometries and biomimicry.

Biophilic design can also be achieved through the way we experience space and place; this is also known as the “nature of the space”. Designers accomplish this by creating areas of refuge or mystery, or by utilising organized complexity and transitional spaces.  

Studies have shown that there are significant human health benefits associated with biophilic design including, a more regulated circadian rhythm, faster recovery time from surgery, increased productivity and lower stress. In light of this many modern workplaces and even entire cities have devoted efforts to incorporate biophilic design principles into projects.  

However, any occurrence of nature in the built environment cannot be called biophilic design. If design doesn’t focus on the aspects of the natural world that contribute to human health and productivity in the age-old struggle to be fit and survive, it’s not biophilic. – Stephen R. Kellert . The fundamental goal of biophilic design is to create a good habitat for people as biological organisms inhabiting modern structures, landscapes and communities.  

Biophilic Design in the Kengo Kuma Alberni Skyscraper

The recently completed Alberni Skyscraper in Vancouver, is a stunning 43-story residential building designed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, in collaboration with Westbank development company. The architect is renowned for his ability to merge traditional Japanese design ethos and materials with a contemporary flair, a style that lends itself well to biophilic design. 

The structure of the skyscraper curves away from the street and straightens out near the top, creating two scoops into the building’s facade. The scoop creates deep balconies furnished with wood for the residents that allow air to flow through the building. A design feature that creates both direct and indirect experiences of nature.  

A bamboo forest shields the base of the structure, creating a semi enclosed amphitheatre that hosts a Japanese moss garden as well as a Kuma-designed Fazioli piano, constructed from layered sheets of Hinoki wood (A staple of the projects from KKAA architects and Westbank Developers) . 

Within the structure, there are two sculptures created to resemble kigumi (the Japanese craft of joining wood) that are suspended above the amphitheatre and the pool. The sculptures were initially intended to be wood however due to fire restrictions the sculptures had to be made of aluminium treated to look like wood. Although the effect of biophilic design is maintained, the KKAA partner in charge Balazs Bognar said that the studio originally wanted to use wood and that the “heartache of giving up this material aspect was a challenge”. 

How you can Incorporate Biophilic Design Through Firstplanit.

At Firstplanit we have evaluated thousands of sustainable materials and products to make sustainable decisions transparent and effortless. Our database includes a wide range of products from natural mineral-based paints, to innovative biomaterials and green walls. By including green walls in your project on Firstplanit you can view impact reports to measure the effect of these systems on the carbon, circularity, health and more of your project.  

ANS Living Wall evaluated on Firstplanit
Tree Box Easiwall evaluated on Firstplanit

Learn More on Firstplanit

Click here to read about the award-winning retrofit project site verrier by SO-IL and Freaks Architecture. 

Share this Article