Catching flights, negotiating terms, striving for the A: we spend our lives rushing and stressing over a million details every day. Today’s “get it done” lifestyle and continuous exposure to technology impacts how we live, work and interact, and poses many challenges on physical and psychological levels. 

“Health and wellbeing and biophilic design are major tasks in interior design and product designers,” said Martin Lesjak, CEO and creative director, 13&9, an Austrian design firm. “We see the responsibility of architects and designers to find answers to balance this rapid development. This is what we call human-centered design.”

To this end, Mohawk Group, together with 13&9 and University of Oregon physics professor Richard Taylor, set out to create a floor that would answer a basic human need: calming us down. Relaxing Floors, Mohawk Group’s newest modular flooring system, translates stress-reducing fractal patterns into calming visuals for the built environment. The team collaborated to revolutionize flooring intended for workplaces, hotels and schools and other venues where many people feel anxious, such as airports and hospitals.

“Understanding the science behind that biophilic design is part of our commitment to diving deeper into understanding how to create environments for decompressing and getting away from that overload of technology that we live with every day,” said Jackie Dettmar, vice president of commercial product development and design, Mohawk Group. 

Based on their transdisciplinary approach to design, Martin and Anastasija Lesjak of 13&9 worked closely with Taylor, founder of Fractals Research, to create the next generation of flooring solutions with Mohawk Group. 

“Martin and I started to research to find something in nature that is not only copied and implemented in a space, like imagery, but is there a pattern that our brain processes and feels calm?” said Anastasija Lesjak, CEO and creative director, 13&9. 

Fractals are the building block of many of nature’s patterns and have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and so provide benefits to physical health. Relaxing Floors is the culmination of art, science and human-centered design based on fractal patterns which scientific research shows have stress-reductive qualities. 

“I’ve been studying patterns in nature for about 35 years,” Taylor said. “I’ve been really interested their visual properties and how humans respond to them. I was fascinated by some early research that when patients recover from surgery, they recover far more quickly if they are given a window looking out. When you look at nature’s fractal patterns, your body relaxes by 60 percent, which is a massive amount for a nonpharmaceutical approach to relaxation.”

Relaxing Floors utilizes fractals to give eyes a break from the digital world and deliver the essence of nature to the contract built environment. Two styles within the 12” x 36” carpet plank collection emulate the eye movements that take place as we view natural scenery. These movements are much like the flight paths of foraging birds.

Software was developed for the team’s design process to create or “grow” a fractal pattern similar to that of a flying bird releasing seeds that will themselves grow into trees and plants. 

“The fractal branching of the eye’s neurons was the starting point for this design,” Taylor said. “We transformed these neuron formations into outline patterns using our research on stress-reductive fractals.”

Using specific scientific parameters, the team grew mid-complexity fractals that correlate with stress reduction. Fractals with mid- range complexity, as measured on a parameter scale labeled D, are the most common in natural scenery. 

Style mellowD utilizes a line-shaped seed which repeats at different magnifications, while chillD employs a triangular segment-shaped seed. The restD plank style builds on the University of Oregon’s studies of fractal-based electronics. These electronics have the capability to connect to the eye’s neurons with the potential to revolutionize the medical world. Under a microscope, these neurons look like miniature trees with fractal branches and glow red due to a fluorescent dye. This fractal form is the starting point of the design. The neuron formations are then transformed into outline patterns using the research on stress-reductive fractals to provide a literal translation. Completing the Relaxing Floors collection is Fractal Ground, which offers a coordinating organic groundcover visual in a 12” x 36” plank format. 

The team had to adapt their designs to fit parameters for manufacturing, and Taylor confirmed that the stress-reducing aspect of the designs would remain constant no matter how randomly carpet was laid out when installed in large venues.

Relaxing Floors is manufactured using Mohawk Group’s Duracolor Tricor solution-dyed nylon fiber and EcoFlex NXT tile backing. Duracolor Tricor utilizes a modified triangular-shaped core to deliver unsurpassed stain resistance, colorfastness, durability, color clarity and enhanced soil performance. The collection’s carpet plank styles are manufactured to achieve stringent Living Product Challenge Petal Certification and have a net positive impact for people and the environment through innovations in materials, manufacturing and community involvement initiatives. 

“At Mohawk Group, we are very passionate about sustainability and how we make our products and what we are delivering to the marketplace,” Dettmar said. “We are pushing the limit to creating sustainable products that give back to the world rather than taking from the world.”