Susan Booher

MFA Candidate, Department of Design
The Ohio State University


For more than a decade I practiced commercial interior design and developed an interest in biophilic design to balance the presence of technology in the working space. Biophilic design is the application of elements of nature into a built environment. It was with joy that I worked with clients to provide the most optimal environments for their occupants, especially those that spent an extended length of time in these spaces.

Over the course of many years, I found myself desiring or needing to spend more time in nature. It began with tent camping; then, it evolved to backpacking. My stress would reduce during the first few hours of the nature immersions and would last for several days after returning to the regular responsibilities and stress. I became more interested in understanding what this need is and why more people are headed to the woods, so I began to learn about biophilic design.

I earned my BS in Interior Design from the Ohio State University and studied abroad at Hochoshule Für Technik in Stuttgart, Germany on The Baden-Württemberg-Stipendium award. During this time, I won The First Place Award for Design Student Chair, in the International Project Week Design Competition (seating). I am currently an MFA candidate studying Design Research and Development. My thesis is implementing multi-sensory behavior therapy for environments of dementia patients through the application of biophilic design to promote engagement and completion of everyday tasks (bathing, dressing, and eating). My poster (Applying Biophilic Design to Eliminate Nature Deficit in the Aging and Urban Communities) and literature review paper (Making Our Future Communities Green) was accepted to present at the 50th Environmental Design Research Association Conference (Brooklyn, NY) in May 2019. My proposal to record nature in 360º format for older adults was accepted to participate and present in the Digital Naturalism Conference 2019 (Gamboa, Panama).

Q & A

What makes more livable futures for you?  

Make greenspace and improved spaces attainable for everyone. For health, several studies have shown reductions of stress and improved attention with the presence of nature (green space and wildlife); therefore, improving cognitive health for all ages. Positive moods and behaviors could be achieved and maintained with access to greenspace. Studies have shown high levels of stress for lower social economic status, which typically occurs in urban communities. Accessible greenspaces should help manage stress and reduce some physical ailments while promoting activity.

What are you reading, viewing, listening to right now?    

Florence Williams books provided insight to many of my own questions about nature. Many of my own feelings I experienced in nature were explained in the Nature Fix and 3-Day Effect. She

pointed out in a recent presentation that the biggest migration is occurring right now. It is the “migration indoors.” Many children (and adults) are spending more time indoors. Children are not experiencing free play outdoors but are limited to scheduled play with sports. Williams suggests more free play for children to develop more social and problem-solving skills. We have many opportunities to present nature to young and mature individuals that need a nature-immersion to improve their physical and emotional health.

“Our Better Nature” episode was recorded for Hidden Brain (NPR) podcast with Shankar Vedantam. The podcast guest, Ming Kuo of University of Illinois, touts the “need of nature to be the best we can be”. She states that we can physically and psychologically breakdown without nature and we may even be improved with it. Kuo referenced a study that showed a decrease in gun violence in urban community when the abandoned city lots were cleaned, and greenery added to them. She also claimed mood altering medications are more prevalently prescribed to individuals living in non-green areas.

What practices are sustaining you?  

Partaking in backpacking and camping trips to Ohio state and US National parks helps me maintain a connection to nature. It is a wonderful experience to hear calls of nocturnal wildlife (e.g., coyotes and whip-poor-wills) while sleeping in a tent or sitting around a campfire. When I hike in Columbus’s local parks, I like to observe and record in a notebook the different wildlife (and plants) I see and hear. I reference books and websites to identify animals and plants I may not have known during my nature immersions; therefore, continuing to learn about wildlife and nature.