rosewood sao paulo le jardin exterior

Trend Focus: Biophilic Hotel and Resort Design

Biophilia comes from the human desire to connect with the natural world around us. The term originates from a combination of the ancient Greek words ‘bio’ (life), and ‘philia’ (love), making its literal definition ‘love for life’. The term biophilia was popularised by Edward Wilson in 1984 who defined it as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” As such, biophilic interior designs foster a connection to the living world by incorporating natural elements such as wooden materials and furnishings, living walls, plants, natural lighting, and indoor water bodies. Biophilic designs are a more sustainable interior design style thanks to their use of natural and recycled elements.

In more recent years, accelerated by the pandemic and lockdowns, biophilic designs have been steadily increasing as the number of travellers seeking to connect with the natural world rises. According to the World Bank, 4.4 billion people (approximately 56% of the world population) now reside in cities. This number is only set to rise as an estimated 7 in 10 people will live in cities by 2050. Studies have shown that due to the disconnection from natural surroundings replaced by artificial environments, city dwellers have an increased desire to reconnect with nature. This can be fulfilled through travel.

Being among nature provides a variety of health benefits including stress reduction and higher attention spans. This can be replicated in hotels and resorts through biophilic design. Some of its benefits include improved air quality, increased wellbeing, and longer dwell times in lobbies (by up to 36%!). Biophilic hotel design also fosters more unique and memorable guest experiences.

How is biophilic design emerging in hotel and resort interior designs?

As biophilic design begins to feature more prominently in hotel and resort interiors, there are a variety of essential elements designers are choosing to incorporate into these spaces. Read on to learn how hotels and resorts are implementing biophilic design.

Lighting

A key element of biophilic design is prioritising natural lighting over artificial lighting. Hotels and resorts are incorporating floor-to-ceiling windows and open-plan designs that invite light in, allowing guests to enjoy outside views. In addition to connecting guests to the outdoor environment, natural lighting mimics our circadian rhythm. This helps guests keep on track with their natural 24-hour cycle, promoting a healthy sleep cycle. It is also a more sustainable option, as these spaces will require less electricity for artificial lighting. Another benefit of larger windows includes allowing the architecture to withdraw itself and leave the stage to the views, immersing guests in their surroundings.

Hotel Terrestre in Mexico boasts an innovative design that blends seamlessly with the surrounding Oaxacan coast. This sun-filled sanctuary welcomes natural lighting by incorporating slotted wooden doors and windows replacing glass and many expansive outdoor spaces. Guests can enjoy a breath of fresh air while dining al fresco at the venue’s open-air restaurant or unwinding in the outdoor wellness area. This boasts a circular communal pool, a long pool nestled among the desert plants, a hammam, and a star gazing deck.

Its 14 villas provide guests a connection to their surroundings using natural materials including earth, wood, brick, concrete, clay, and sand. Their slotted wooden doors and windows eradicate the need for glass and bring guests closer to nature. The villas each offer a ground-floor garden, an outdoor bathroom, and an upstairs terrace with a private pool and lounge area.

Materials

Another prominent feature of biophilic design is the increased use of natural, organic materials. Often these are locally sourced and may be recycled, making them more sustainable. This overall reduces the environmental impact of a hotel’s interior design. Organic materials featured in biophilic designs include reinforced wood, wool, cotton, ceramics, clay, and mycelium, a novel material produced from mushrooms.

Playa Viva is a fully sustainable Mexican resort relying on its own resources, from using solar power to being entirely built using renewable materials harvested on-site. These include clay, bamboo, and palm fronds. These methods are all in line with the resort’s permaculture ethos.

Playa Viva’s six bamboo treehouses boast a nature-inspired design with exteriors shaped like the flattened, prismatic bodies of the Mobula Rays that migrate past the property’s shore. The treehouses were mostly built using local bamboo, one of the fastest-growing renewable and versatile building materials in the world. Strong Guadua bamboo poles were used for the main structure and roof structure, section strips were used in the façade louvers, and flattened bamboo panels form the ceiling. Phyllostachys Aurea bamboo poles and dowels were used for the wall and façade panels in the annex building. Flooring is made of sustainably grown local Cumaru timber. This resourceful design ensures full immersion for guests in their surroundings as well as minimal disturbance to the local ecosystem.

Biomorphic elements

The term biomorphic is derived from the Greek words bioic (life, living) and morfí (form). It refers to the design of shapes and forms that are inspired by nature. This can refer to patterns, shapes or textures that bear resemblance to and are inspired by those found in nature. Spaces that use biomorphic elements are more visually captivating, provide comfort, reduce stress levels, and spark inspiration through intrigue. Biomorphic patterns can be introduced in the form of rugs, wallpaper, fabrics, and more.

An ode to Brazil

Biophilic designs are taking root in Rosewood São Paulo. Here, the hotel’s various interior spaces incorporate biomorphic patterns to evoke the senses and foster a connection to nature. Each space is an ode to the city’s rich past, present, and future. Floral and leaf patterns are abundant throughout the lobby, elevators, and guest suites to promote a sense of calm and peace. This, paired with wood patterned wall and floor coverings in guest rooms, creates a sense of being among the treetops, transporting guests to Brazil’s lush rainforests.

The hotel’s dining venues continue to use biomorphic patterns that create a sense of relaxation. The hotel’s brasserie, Blaise, is decorated to resemble a log cabin in the Brazilian countryside, using animal print cushions that evoke a cosy feel for ultimate relaxation. After a long day, guests can unwind under the night sky in the Rabo di Galo jazz club. Here, local artist Rodrigo de Azevedo Saad spent over 68 hours hand-drawing constellation-like patterns on the ceiling.

Outside, the Emerald Garden Pool & Bar is inspired by the natural beauty of the crystal-clear pools in Brazil’s Bonito region. The pool is adorned by small pieces of tile in 40 different shades of green and blue. This creates a unique gradient effect inspired by the colours of the rivers found in this tropical region.

Plants and vegetation

Biophilic design is all about bringing the outside in. One way in which designers can achieve this is by incorporating plants and vegetation into hotel interiors. Plants often feature heavily in biophilic designs and can become a central piece within a space as a living wall. Living walls boast a variety of benefits including encouraged biodiversity and improved air quality thanks to air-purifying plants. Some hotels are also growing produce on site for use in food preparation. This provides fresher ingredients while reducing environmental impacts associated with food transportation.

Taking inspiration from the lush rainforests of Brazil, Rosewood São Paulo’s vertical garden tower, constructed entirely of Brazilian wood (approximately 250 trees!), brings a touch of nature to the city. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winner Jean Nouvel, the Mata Atlantica Tower is a standout feature of Rosewood São Paulo. It will be a while before the trees and plants are fully grown, but it already feels like an architectural marvel mixing modern and biophilic design. The hotel’s interior design heavily features plants and vegetation throughout. Additionally, the hotel runs a rainforest biodiversity program that repopulates the indigenous flora and fauna from the Mata Atlantica rainforest.

Colour palettes

A key interior design element, colour palettes can invoke a sense of connectivity to nature. They can also be a subtle way of reflecting the destination’s personality. Shades of blue and grey make nods to the sky. Warm and welcoming earthy tones include terracotta, tan, and taupe. Shades of green, sage and brown are deeply connected to plants and will pair well with indoor foliage. Contrasting these is lavender, a cheerful colour that brightens designs and evokes positive emotions from guests. Nature-inspired colour palettes tend to be more neutral in tone, and, while connecting guests to the living world and drawing inspiration from the outdoors, play a large part in establishing a guest’s emotional connection with a space, creating a sense of peace and calm.

When creating colour palettes for a space, designers must also consider the function of the interior and the tone they are seeking to set. In his article ‘Designing with Colour in Hospitality’, Oliver Heath lists the many natural tones and hues designers could take inspiration from in creating bespoke palettes for different spaces within a hotel. For example, Heath suggests that designers could establish a welcoming lobby using yellow and white sunshine colours that emanate warmth. For areas guests retreat to for decompression and unwinding such as a bar or lounge, he suggests establishing a more soothing and sophisticated atmosphere using deeper, richer shades such as purples and blues. Drawing memories of summer dusk and warm evenings, these colours create a relaxing mood for guests.

Nature-inspired swatches

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort brings the outside in using creative colour schemes throughout its interior designs. Guest suite interiors have been designed to blend seamlessly with the coastal views using a beachy blue turquoise and sand palette.

Throughout the resort interiors continue to make use of nature-inspired colour palettes that complement their exteriors. The resort’s spa has a lush green colour palette that matches the bamboo plants surrounding it while creating a zen atmosphere for guests to relax in. The ballroom boasts a sunny yellow colour palette that emanates warmth and joy, serving as an ideal venue for celebrations. In contrast, the resort’s restaurant design makes use of a deep navy colour palette and lighting symbolizing the stars. These relaxing and soothing evening hues offer the perfect environment for guests to enjoy their dinner ‘beneath the night sky’.

This article was originally published by Sustainable Design Summit.

Want more of this?

Check out the Hotel & Resort Design South blog for more design insights and the latest industry updates. Hotel and Resort Design South is a hotel product-sourcing and networking platform for those involved in the design of hotels and resorts in the South and LATAM regions. The next event will be taking place on 3 – 4 June 2025 alongside Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Americas at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

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