McCluskey Studio shows why flora and fauna are not a necessity inside Collingwood Medical, where still-biophilic interiors create a calming space and a visual connection to the outdoors.

Key features

The studio has opted for a material-focused design atypical of most biophilic interiors—inside this doctor’s office there exists only one potted plant. Instead, the studio actually takes cues from the surrounding industrial area with positive effect. A palette of plaster and stainless steel, which draw from the building’s exterior, contrast against marble and terrazzo, which create an earthy warmth and a sense of calm. This natural analogue is only accentuated by the abundance of sunlight. The project presents a series of minimal interventions, which speak to the designers’ intention of letting the space breathe and still retaining some of its harsher industrial features. Meanwhile, organic contours in the form of curved walls lead patients to treatment rooms while drawing their eye out and across the skyline. 

Frame’s take

When we asked a panel of experts during Dutch Design Week 2020 about the positive impacts of biophilic design, the power of plants was of course highlighted, but cofounder of Cutwork Antonin Yuji Maeno explained that it’s not just about ‘putting greens on our buildings’. As of late, the term ‘biophilic design’ has emerged to mostly mean plant-filled interiors, which is misleading given the myriad ways that designers can bring us closer to nature without depending on greenery (although McCluskey Studio does that well here too). 

Mimicking natural materials, textures and patterns, capitalizing on natural light, and even incorporating shapes that resist straight lines, as if found in nature, can enhance our ability to experience space and connect with others in it. Moving away from anything too clinical, McCluskey Studio delivers on all of the above and demonstrates the importance of good design in the health sector, which is unfortunately often overlooked.