The BETA Project: Biophilia Enhanced Through Art - CODAworx

The BETA Project: Biophilia Enhanced Through Art

Submitted by Phipps Conservatory

Client: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Location: Pittsburgh, PA, United States

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $116,750

Project Team

Interior Designer

Sonja Bochart

Shepley Bulfinch


Richard V. Piacentini

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Art Consultant

Nicole Capozzi and Joshua Hogan

MoxBox Consulting


The BETA Project (Biophilia Enhanced Through Art) is housed in one of the greenest buildings in the world, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Showcasing more than 20 local, national and international artists working in media ranging from wood and steel to photography and sound art, BETA adds new levels of sensory immersion to the CSL’s focus on restoring bonds between people and the natural world. Biophilic design patterns proven to increase human and ecological well-being were the basis for the project and are an essential component of each piece of artwork.


The multi-award winning Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) is one of the greenest buildings in the world. Located at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA USA, it generates all of its own energy, treats all water captured on-site, and is the first and only building to meet four of the highest green certifications: Living Building Challenge, LEED® Platinum, Four Stars Sustainable SITES™ and WELL Building Platinum. Highlighting the interconnectedness of human and environmental health, the CSL fully integrates its building and landscape, advancing a paradigm in which the two are functionally interdependent.
Shortly after the CSL opened in 2012, Phipps discovered that through the integration of multi-sensory biophilic art, a new dimension could be added to the CSL experience to deepen and amplify its message of healing. The biophilic design patterns expressed in The BETA Project were developed from Stephen R. Kellert’s six biophilic design elements with enhanced patterns developed by Sonja Bochart. Each artwork in the project features at least one of the 10 biophilic design patterns: beauty, cycles and seasons, interactive, intrinsic connection, mindfulness, rethinking possible, scale, sensory rich, subtlety and symbolic geometry. All have a dominant pattern for which they were specifically selected and placed.


In a series of workshops led by biophilic designer Sonja Bochart, a committee was led through mindfulness, play-based and nature-inspired visioning exercises to inform the BETA Project’s unique combination of commissioned works and existing pieces and their placement within this unique building and landscape. Contributors were selected from a range of local, national and international talents – including such renowned artists as Dale Chihuly, Hans Godo Fräbel and Paolo Soleri – with more than half of the roster hailing from the Western Pennsylvania region.
With the assistance of MoxBox art consultancy, additional and original commissions were made particularly site-specific through close collaboration with the artists, using the existing conditions of the CSL atrium, lagoon, landscape and office spaces as a canvas for sculptures, audio, visual art and even furniture that uniquely enhance the spaces they occupy.
The BETA Project is repeatedly evaluated to determine its value to staff and visitors. Findings to date note an increase in occupant perception of beauty, cognizance of senses, and a higher awareness of their connection with and a greater appreciation for nature. These findings join a plethora of research supporting the impact of biophilic design and connection with nature to health and environmental outcomes.

Additional Information

Following are summaries of several works: - “Skywatcher Loom," Jason Boone: Daily, a staff member observes the sky, selects a representative yarn color and weaves it on a reclaimed wooden loom. - “Of Earth and Sun," Abby Aresty: This year-long composition of locally-recorded nature sounds is tied to the building controls and weather station and changes with the seasons, conditions and time of day. - “6/3/3 Rings," Dee Briggs: This suspended steel sculpture creates familiar and foreign patterns by demonstrating chirality. - "Feathered Fellows," Luke Jacomb and Katherine Rutecki. These glass birds were cast using a technique from 3500 BC.