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The Human Need for Nature, Biophilia, and Design

Summary of Featured Presentation,

Fashion Institute of Technology, March 27, 2012


Stephen R. Kellert

Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology

Senior Research Scholar

Yale University

School of Forestry and Environmental Studies


Board Director

Bio-Logical Capital

Denver, CO

The Human Need for Nature, Biophilia, and Design

The notion of biophilia posits an inherent human inclination to affiliate with nature essential to people’s physical and mental health, productivity and wellbeing.  The evolutionary logic of this theory will be explained, as well as limited evidence to support it.  The inborn need to affiliate with nature is highly influenced by learning, culture, and experience. Unfortunately, modern society is increasingly separated from beneficial contact with nature that has compromised people’s health, development, and design in an increasingly urban and created world.  The “natural habitat” of people today has become, in many ways, the urban indoor built environment where we spend on average 90% of our time. Healthy and beneficial contact with nature will, therefore, require a new design and aesthetic paradigm referred to as biophilic design aimed at fostering positive connections between people and nature in the human built and created environment.  We will consider what is specifically meant by biophilic design, its major elements and attributes, and how it can be achieved.  The trailer of a new video, “Biophilic Design: the Architecture of Life,” will conclude the presentation.

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