The term biophilia was first used by German psychologist, Erich Fromm in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973). Derived from “bio” (life) and “philia” (friendly feeling toward), he described biophilia as “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive.” This term was reintroduced by American biologist, Edward O. Wilson in Biophilia (1984) as “the innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes.” Several years later, Wilson co-authored The Biophilia Hypothesis (1993) with social ecologist, Stephen Kellert to further define biophilia, our natural connection with nature.1

It was the biophilia hypothesis that led to the emergence of biophilic design. Stephen Kellert defined biophilic design as “the deliberate attempt to translate an understanding of the inherent human affinity to affiliate with natural systems and processes...into the design of the built environment..” Unfortunately this concept is not easily translated into design due to the psychological complexity of biophilia. Therefore it is considered a weak biological inclination that is dependent on the choice of humans to nurture their connection with nature. Although biophilia is difficult to understand and implement, when done so correctly, it promotes human health, wellbeing, and productivity.2

Addressing this issue, this thesis will focus on the promotion of biophilia and biophilic design through the creation of a living laboratory. With this goal in mind, a nature center will be designed to further the understanding of biophilia through observation and research, and application of biophilic design strategies. Located in the heart of a city, where greenery is sparse, this nature center will serve as a biophilic living laboratory for researchers and the surrounding community.

The Flower City Nature Center in Rochester, New York, is a biophilic design solution that integrates architecture with nature. Analysis of biophilic metrics in green building standards and biophilic design features in case studies, produced a holistic set of design goals for this project. These biophilic design goals include: daylighting, natural ventilation, biophilic building design, biophilic site design, green materials, green education, energy conservation, and water conservation. Aligning with sustainable design principles, biophilic design focuses on enhancing, preserving, and restoring the natural environment, while promoting a connection with nature through hands-on learning.

1. Kara Rogers, “Biophilia Hypothesis,” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., June 25, 2019), https://www.britannica.com/science/ biophilia-hypothesis.

2. Stephen R. Kellert, Judith H. Heerwagen, and Martin L. Mador, Biophilic Design: the Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2008) 3-4.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Architecture--Environmental aspects; Organic architecture; Sustainable architecture; Nature--Psychological aspects

Publication Date

Fall 2019

Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Architecture (M.Arch.)

Department, Program, or Center

Architecture (GIS)


Dennis A. Andrejko

Advisor/Committee Member

Enid L. Cardinal

Advisor/Committee Member

Alissa de Wit-Paul


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes