When was the last time you felt a deep connection to a natural landscape?
The simple view of a river makes Keane feel “complete” in the song Somewhere Only We Know. This phenomenon everyone has experienced is getting better understood by both private companies and public administrations, which start seeing the value of bringing nature back into the city. That’s why they’re adding green living things in public spaces and to urban infrastructures. Why not live in a lush atmosphere if we can? If plants are a great addition to the home and to the office, so they are to stores and streets. So, I cannot be happier because my favourite things in the world (i.e. plants) are becoming a go-to solution against dry and dull urban environments.
Discover the benefits of adding plants in urban areas and why living walls are growing everywhere.
THE BENEFITS OF PLANTS IN URBAN SPACES
So, why am I seeing living walls blossom in cities around the world? The answer is written in our innate connection to nature as human beings, which has been passed from generation to generation over the centuries. Recent studies, referred to by Florence Williams in The Nature Fix (1), have shown that regular contact with natural landscape has benefits on our state of mind, making us more relaxed, more focused, more present. To prove this, just completely ban any access to nature to somebody and after a few weeks, you will see the negative effects on mood and overall performance. Unfortunately, some cities or neighbourhoods have been designed without nature in mind, which, I believe, can be harmful in the long term. City planners, home and retail designers, architects, the entire community involved in places we live in and work at are now having nature in mind. Get ready!
BENEFITS FOR PEOPLE
Plants bring a sense of calm, they are aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Plants add a lively presence to any room. There is an emotional bond with plants. People give them a name, care for them and watch them grow as members of the family. Reason #1 why people have plants is for the joy to watch them grow! By the cycles of the seasons and leaves dropping, plants unconsciously remind me of the cycles of life: birth, growth, maturity, death and young growth again.
The benefits of being in connection to nature are referred to as the "biophilic" effect. "Biophilia" is the innate human attraction to nature.
Among these benefits, studies showed that people working in direct contact with natural elements (or mimicking natural elements) are more productive and have a better mood than those who are exposed to dry artificial elements.
Improved air quality: on top of that, plants are known to detoxify the air from harmful pollutants and reduce carbon dioxide levels, which results in cleaner air.
BENEFITS FOR COMPANIES & RETAIL STORES
In a study entitled The Economics of Biophilia, the environmental consultancy Terrapin Bright Green reveals the financial aspect of biophilic design. With the rise of online purchasing, bricks and mortar retail spaces have understood that it’s all about the customer experience. If biophilic design can attract more customers, make them feel relaxed during their shopping and even make them stay a tiny bit longer, retailers should think that it’s worth investing in a green wall, shouldn’t they?
There are hundreds of examples of retail spaces having made a transformation in this direction. An H&M store in London biggest shopping mall, Westfield, has been recently redesigned to incorporate both live and faux plants in store, resulting in a jungle-like atmosphere. Quite a unique choice for a popular fashion store!
I bet that you will keep seeing more and more interior living walls, bespoke planting stations, and urban kitchen gardens blossom everywhere around you, from your tube station to your shopping mall. Why? Since 68% of the world population is going to live in cities by 2050 according to the UN, incorporating natural elements indoors is becoming a priority for new developments and refurbishments. Historically, cities took nature away from us and people are asking nature back.
Interesting fact: plant walls act as thermal insulation, making the building less energy consuming.
BENEFITS FOR PUBLIC SPACES & INSTITUTIONS
Streets, schools, hospitals, public buildings all have something in common: they have not been designed with nature in mind. In an other article, I’m going to focus on the potential public spaces offer for living walls and planting stations.