A once-obscure design theory may explain our bond with nature.
Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction,” the biologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson wrote. His landmark book, 1986’s “Biophilia,” described its titular concept as the tendency of humans to connect with life, with a biological preference for the designs—from patterns in water and flowers to landscape and animal motifs—inherent in nature. The concept was niche then, but in the past decade, much of the design world has mirrored his perspective.
“To me, being close to nature is the greatest luxury in the world,” explains Jim Olson of Olson Kundig Architects, the firm behind the design of the JW MARRIOTT LOS CABOS BEACH RESORT & SPA. “I see our environment as continuous and connected. Architecture should fit into its context, and buildings should blend into the landscape as though they grew there.” The resort reflects this belief with framed views of the surrounding mountains and ocean and a high-ceilinged entryway designed to function as a portal into the sea. Three infinity pools perform a similar function, Olson says, “effectively bringing the spirit and power of the ocean right to you.”
It certainly sounds wonderful, but why exactly do we seek out—consciously or not—a connection to the environment? In Wilson’s view, humans experience a grounding sensation when surrounded by nature, a feeling Olson is deeply familiar with: “There is nothing quite like the quiet, contemplative atmosphere of a natural setting to help you to relax, renew and recharge.”
From Right: The concept of biophilia explains why the design of hotels in Shenzhen and Vancouver have intuitive appeal.
"We designed the rooms as true retreats by using soft woods as well as metals in natural colors"
The concept finds another expression at the eagerly awaited JW MARRIOTT PARQ VANCOUVER. The standout feature of the property is a 30,000-squarefoot elevated park—an oasis of more than 200 fully mature trees that is a rare natural enclave in the heart of the city. Inside, the calming effects of biophilia are carried through the courtesy of the interior design firm Studio Munge. “We designed the rooms as true retreats by using soft woods as well as metals in natural colors,” says Principal Alessandro Munge. In the luxury suites, huge picture windows frame the nearby North Shore Mountains for an energetic juxtaposition of indoor and outdoor spaces. “And as the seasons change,” Munge adds, “guests will experience something very special at the hotel all year long.”
Bringing the outdoors inside was also the goal of Enchantment, LLC, the developer of the JW MARRIOTT RESIDENCES CLEARWATER BEACH, which will comprise 36 luxury beachfront condominiums above a JW Marriott hotel projected to open on Florida’s Gulf Coast in 2019. Large private balconies, more than 20,000 square feet of covered outdoor space and breathtaking vistas bring the area’s natural splendor thrillingly close.
Of course, taking a cue from nature often entails paying homage to Mother Earth. The JW MARRIOTT SHENZHEN BAO’AN has won accolades for both its natural beauty and eco-friendly elements, with a curved exterior that echoes the sea, lush green walls and manmade lakes. But perhaps its most interesting innovations are hiding in plain sight: energy-efficient LED lights, a CO2 concentration monitor system, LEED construction standards and a low carbon footprint. When beautiful design gives back to the environment, it creates a spirit of connection we can all get behind.
Written by Polly Brewster. READ IN JWM