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Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life 2011

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Produced by Stephen R. Kellert and Bill Finnegan
Directed by Directed by Bill Finnegan
DVD, color, 88 min.

Jr. High - General Adult
Japan, Popular Culture, Music Trade, Singers

Date Entered: 09/04/2012

ALA Notable:
Reviewed by: Reviewed by Tom Ipri, Drexel University

Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life is a solid entry in the somewhat saturated field of environmental documentaries; however, unlike many environmental documentaries, this film does not dwell on much discussed problems but discusses concrete solutions.

Biophilic Design stresses the importance of having contact with nature and analyzes the benefits that designing buildings and urban environments which bring in natural elements. The film, narrated in part by Stephen Kellert, author and Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology and Senior Research Scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, opens the film with the premise that people have a biological need to be in contact with nature and describes several quantifiable benefits, such as enhanced learning and less absenteeism in schools, faster recovery from illnesses, improved work performance and morale, more livable and satisfying neighborhoods, and a higher quality of life.

The film plainly states that bad design is part of the cause of environmental degradation and that good design is part of the solution. It criticizes the green building movement for focusing on conservation and not on bringing life and nature into buildings and points out that green buildings can reduce negative environmental impacts by such things as reducing energy and water usage but that the resulting buildings can still be sterile and detrimental to human well being. Biophilic design, on the other hand, focuses not only on the impact we have on nature but also on the impact nature has on us.

Biophilic Design clearly describes the elements of this kind of design and systematically explains these elements with both historical and current examples. It then follows up with examples of the positive impact of these designs. The film provides interviews with such luminaries in the field, such as Edward O. Wilson, Judith Heerwagen from the Office of High Performance Buildings, architect and architectural historian Grant Hildebrand, and Howard Frumkin from the National Center for Environmental Health, as well as archival audio of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life is a professionally produced documentary and a clear argument for the benefits of design the brings people in closer contact with nature. It packs a lot of excellent examples and expert testimony in its hour long running time.