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Biophilic, planterior design emerge as new trends for millennials

Sep 30, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)


A scene from the 1994 film 'Leon'

The 1994 film “Leon,"  known as “The Professional” in the US, became an iconic film portraying an unlikely friendship between a lonely hitman and a 12-year-old orphaned girl. Another important figure in the film is the green potted plant nurtured by both Leon and Mathilda. Every morning, Leon puts the plant near the window to give it sunlight, delicately wipes down the leaves, and carries it tenderly in one arm.

The sensitive handling of the plant – identified as an Aglaonema – softens the tone of what could have been a bloody noir film by adding a note of sentimentality. Leon’s nurturing of the potted plant illustrates a basic instinct; and all types of research has proven that people are happier when closer to sunlight and trees.

Psychologist Joseph Wilhelm Egger said that light has a direct impact on people’s moods, soothing unsettled emotions and comforting depressed people. This explains why people reserve window seats on flights or compete over window seats in a coffee shop: to be exposed to sunlight and nature.

Millennials' latest craze: gardening

The involuntary isolation and social distancing measures caused by the global coronavirus pandemic has led people to nature. The two noticeable lifestyle trends from 2020 are a resurgence in camping and the emergence of the planterior movement, coined by fusing plant and interior in reference to interior designs centered on plants.

But the trend toward planterior design isn’t entirely owing to the coronavirus. In the past few decades, South Korea has steered towards urbanization while kicking nature to the curb. Korea’s urbanization rate exceeds 80%, much higher than other Asian countries with an average rate of 49.9%. The concrete jungle has left young adults in their 20s and 30s fatigued by city life, leading to an obsession with houseplants.


In recent years, plant-related content has flooded social media platforms such as Instagram. Countless posts with hashtags including #urbanjungle, #planteriors, #monsteramonday appear on social media feeds daily. Some users have even become successful by uploading videos and photos of nurturing plants, gardening tips, and introducing new plants – resulting in a new buzzword: plantfluencers, a label that combines plants and influencers.

Gardening, which had long been seen as a boring hobby and exclusive to the older generation, has become the hippest trend among global millennials across the US, Northern Europe, Russia, South America, and more. Fortunately, the latest plant craze has small local gardens blooming again.

Biophilic design goes global 

The hype over plants extends to space and city designs with international architects raving over biophilic concepts. Biophilic originates from the concept of biophilia, which means to love all forms of life, and was first used by psychologist Erich Fromm in 1964.

Biophilic designs are different from green city or eco-friendly city concepts. While green cities focus on energy efficiency, biophilic design caters to the quality of life within a given space and sustainable well-being.

Singapore, a city slightly larger than Seoul, boasts 48% of public green space. Among global cities, Singapore’s green space ratio is the highest after Norway’s Oslo. The city’s green skyscrapers and constructions built using biophilic design, massive parks, and organically connected nature trails have transformed the entire city into a park. Singapore's goal was not to create a park within a city but to make the city a park. In general, urbanization lowers the green space ratio, but Singapore was able to expand green space alongside an increase in population and urbanization.

The transition into green cities is not a new concept and it has become more and more widespread across the globe. The fifth-largest city in the midwest US, Milwaukee, has declared that it will transform into a green city, and Birmingham in the UK and Portland in the US are taking similar steps.

By Bora Kim

destinybr@hankyung.com

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