News feature

biophilic gym

The designer of Maggie’s Centres ‘healing gardens’ creates nature-inspired gym to evaluate the impact of working out in a biophilic environment

Landscape architect Lily Jencks has designed “the world’s first biophilic gym,” for fitness concept Biofit.

Described as “an organic gym concept for big city life,” the pop-up health club is running in west London until February 2017.

With a brief to “bring the outside world indoors,” Jencks has created an environment where gym-goers can work out amid natural vegetation, colours, materials, shapes, smells and sounds.

Biofit – founded by health and fitness entrepreneur Matt Morley in 2015 – has been inspired by tech companies such as Apple and Google, which are bringing air-purifying plants and natural landscaping into their offices to reduce employee stress and improve productivity levels.

“Our society needs to calibrate our relationship with the natural world, which is leading to a surge in this kind of biophilic, nature-inspired design,” said Jencks. “This gym project is about living more intimately with the green world.”

The architect – who has previously created ‘healing gardens’ for Maggie’s Centres across the UK, and who has collaborated with the likes of Rem Koolhaas and Frank Gehry – uses sustainably focused, reclaimed and recycled materials in her work.

The idea is that the use of natural materials and plants will leave clients physically and mentally fitter.

In addition to its biophilic interiors, Biofit has also developed its own range of nature-focused exercise equipment, using timber, cotton and rope. Each piece is non-prescriptive, facilitating a multitude of movements.

Describing Biofit’s philosophy, Morley said: “Human evolutionary history shows we’ve been lifting, carrying, jumping, striking and crawling for millions of years, working at varying speeds and intensities according to circumstance; so we start there.

“To counteract the effects of a sedentary, 21st century lifestyle, Biofit then integrates mobility work into every session to restore range of motion and protect the joints from injury.

“We also use play to practice new movement skills and stimulate neurological pathways in a fun, interactive way.”

Morley argued the biophilic gym concept can benefit the hospitality, wellness, residential real estate and corporate office sectors, as it encompasses facility design, equipment sourcing and supply, as well as ongoing training and support for coaching staff.

“We’re looking to partner with like-minded businesses around the world to deliver the Biofit experience, adapting the concept to the local context,“ he said.

While the London pop up is in operation – in Notting Hill – Biofit has commissioned research from the not-for-profit fitness organisation ukactive, which will evaluate the impact of exercise in a biophilic indoor environment on mood, anxiety levels, attention span and mental performance.

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company profile
Company profile: Robert D. Henry Architects + Interiors
Robert D Henry Architects (RDH-Architects) was founded in 1990 in New York City by Bob Henry, known as the “sensuous architect of serenity.”
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