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May 29
Biophilic Design: A Natural Collision of Form & Function

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Dandelion, a pattern within the Altered Form Collection from Milliken, explores a dandelion in a micro point of view. From a blossoming flower evoling into a seed pod transported by the wind, the design reveals nature's simpletest but most powerful transformation of raw energy - self-renewal. (Seen left in Hydro, right in Terra) 

There is far more to biophilic design than a straightforward desire to see something natural in our surroundings. That is why, when it comes to using the principles and imagery of nature in the built environment, we are able to call on deep-seeded, primal associations to help us feel happier, more relaxed, energized and engaged at work. 

Nature also helps us to create and use interior products in interesting and functional ways. It was the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright who once said: “harmony between human habitation and the natural world through design approaches so sympathetic and well integrated with its site that buildings, furnishings and surroundings become part of a unified, interrelated composition.”

Indeed, nature has been an eternal adherent to the idea that form should follow function. Everything in the natural world looks the way it does almost solely on the basis of what it is for and has evolved to fill perfectly whatever niche in the world it was meant to fill. Organic forms and patterns right down to the cellular level exist to order this world. Even trees are formed from the self-replicating patterns that we understand through the theory of fractals.

It is through such theories that we are able to replicate the forms and textures of the natural world and so apply them to great effect in the things we design and produce. This is particularly important in terms of biophilic design because not only are we able to mimic the imagery and feel of nature; we are also able to use the way that it orders itself to share some of its adherence to evolved functionality. 

Carpet is just one element that can take advantage of this perfect collision of form and function. The way nature orders textures and patterns, creating order from chaos, helps us to replicate its approach to challenge the assumption that using a single color or simply patterned carpet tiles is the best way to get the best fit and allow easy replacement and cleaning. While this is a perfectly fine solution – indeed the best in many circumstances – it might preclude the use of texture and biomi​micry to create something fresh and unique.

Modern design principles, materials and manufacturing technology allow us to use texture in carpet that apply nature’s principles of pattern and modularity to not only evoke natural imagery but also adopt its ability to order itself seamlessly. Just as individual leaves form a pattern on the forest floor even though they fall at random, so too can intelligently designed textured, patterned carpet tiles such as [product] be used to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The lack of a repeating pattern can become the product’s great strength as it means they do not have to be ordered or installed in a particular way. This is particularly relevant in buildings that are not perfect boxes full of right angles (which is a great deal). For the same reason, the replacement of individual carpet tiles can take place flawlessly.

This approach proves that not only is nature beautiful and has a visceral effect on us as creatures of nature, but it also presents us with the ideas for a perfectly functional solution to our own artificial challenges.