Interior design students work with a global design expert


The University of Northumbria’s final year interior design students worked on a live briefing with global biophilic design expert Oliver Heath.

Oliver, who advocates for the inclusion of nature and natural processes when designing the spaces where we all live, work and learn, recently visited the University to host a workshop within the School of Design alongside Becky. Gordon, who is the regional sustainability manager for Interface, a leading international brand specializing in sustainable flooring products.

Oliver has built a holistic design practice by teaching and researching ways to make living spaces support everyday life, without using the planet’s resources. With a strong emphasis on nature, well-being and community in the workplace, students were challenged to design a hybrid space for co-work, using the footprint of the site occupied by the workspace and contract furniture specialists, Workpattern, in Gateshead.

Dr Julie Trueman, senior lecturer in interior design at Northumbria, said the short deadline set for students was not just research-driven, with invaluable input from Paul Glaister and Hannah Naylor-Skeats of Workpattern , who have years of experience in providing evidence-based offices. solutions for the workplace, but also meets the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of health and well-being, decent work for all, and responsible production and consumption.

Understanding the requirements of a ‘third space’ work destination to meet the future needs of the nomadic worker is crucial in terms of practical needs, but in addition, it requires that a sense of community can be established through principles of solid design, ”she added.

“This has of course been made worse by the pandemic which has led to isolation and significant mental health impacts for many. We were extremely fortunate that Oliver Heath and Becky Gordon worked with our group of years on campus to add a higher level of practical and research experience.

Biophilia is a concept that proposes that human beings share an innate attraction to nature and natural processes, benefiting from its restorative presence. However, as more and more of the world’s population congregate in built-up urban environments, our opportunities to interact with nature are rapidly diminishing. Biophilic design seeks to strengthen our connection to the natural world in the many spaces in which we live and work, in three key ways:

  • direct forms of nature via visual and non-visual means – gentle natural movement, access to natural light, seasons and air movement.
  • indirect representations of nature, such as natural colors, patterns, textures, materials and structures.
  • our emotional response to spaces, helping us to use them more effectively and in the way intended.

Oliver, said there was a growing body of research on how the use of biophilic design can help create more restorative, restorative and energizing environments in many types of buildings, such as schools, hospitals, homes and offices.

“It was a pleasure to discuss the rapidly evolving field of ‘Health and Wellness in the Built Environment’ with interior design students at Northumbria University – particularly focusing on how which we can enhance the human connection with nature in these spaces that are so important in our lives – otherwise known as biophilic design, ”he added.

“In an age where we have become so aware of the human impact on the wider natural environment, the desirability of studying nature-based solutions is a critical topic. The live design briefing and surveys like this are an important part of preparing students for the real world where businesses and organizations increasingly want to create spaces that benefit the triple bottom line of people, productivity. and the planet.

Students are now in the final stages of the dossier, having produced complete concept drawings down to the detailed construction level, with a strong emphasis on the responsible specification of sustainable materials. They each made a short video to showcase their work, emphasizing the research that guided their design process. A shortlist will be sent to Oliver, Becky and the Workpattern team and their comments are welcome.

Becky Gordon, Regional Sustainability Manager for Interface, said: “It was fantastic to participate in the workshop with the students from Northumbria. I hope the session reinforced the proven benefits of biophilic and sustainable design on productivity and creativity.

“Taking a sustainable approach to a project underpins everything Interface does and I know students will now consider the positive impact that design choices can have on the carbon footprint of their final project.

Northumbria’s interior design program focuses on designing innovative interiors within new architecture and through the adaptive reuse of existing buildings and their exterior presence. Strong collaborative relationships with national and international brands also allowed students to work on real project files with companies such as retail design firm Dalziel + Pow, an international architecture, design firm. and planning, Gensler and local businesses such as Bernard Interiors. Learn more here about study options at the University of Northumbria.