The architects at the Madrid-based firm Selgascano are well acquainted with the power of plants. At the 2012 Venice Biennale, they orchestrated an artful pavilion of hydroponically grown greenery. Their own office is sunken into the forest floor, which naturally insulates the structure and can help fuel creativity by communing with nature. So it comes as no surprise that the architects chose to collaborate with Mother Nature on the new Lisbon, Portugal, outpost of Second Home, a coworking space for creative companies.
The office goes all-in on biophilic design, which encourages a connection between people and nature. Brimming with more than 2,000 individual plants and trees from 100 different species–such as tillandsias, philodendrons, and monsteras–the collection is watered and manicured by a team of local gardeners.
There’s a good reason for the extensive greenery. It offers acoustic insulation and visual privacy–two major problems in open offices–and it’s pretty damn gorgeous, too. Studies have shown that vegetation helps us recharge our brains, boosts cognition, and improves productivity. As Co.Design contributor Eric Jaffe explained in a previous story, plants have the power to give our brains little breaks during intense tasks:
The gist of “attention restoration theory” is that our brains expend a lot of energy on tasks that require direct attention. This mental fatigue can only be restored when we give our direct attention a break. Sleep can do the job, but when we’re awake, we can also refresh direct attention by shifting our minds to an indirect, or effortless, form of engagement. Nature offers just this type of absorbing, restorative distraction.
The focus on organic elements extends beyond Second Home Lisbon’s houseplants to its architecture. Selgascano, which also designed the company’s Spitalfields location in London, based the structure on a traditional Portuguese greenhouse, which promotes natural ventilation and eliminates the need for an air-conditioning system. Additionally, there are wellness programs, such as yoga and Pilates, and the space serves natural foods.
“Everything we do at Second Home is inspired by nature and biophiia,” Rohan Silva, one of Second Home’s cofounders, says. “There are no straight lines in the designs because there are no straight lines in nature. It’s also why every chair and desk lamp is different–this reflects the fractal complexity you find in nature, where every leaf and snowflake is shaped differently. “
Second Home believes this approach will ultimately make the people who work in its spaces happier and more creative, in addition to reinforcing the company’s mission.
“The Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson was the first person ever to speak at Second Home in London, the day after we opened in November 2014,” Silva says. “As he said that day, humans are a biological species that co-evolved in a biological world, which is why it’s good for our health and well-being to be in environments that resemble the ones we evolved in. And of course, if you’re healthy and happy, you’re more likely to be creative and productive, which is what Second Home is all about.”
See the office in the slide show above.