The Evolution of Biophilia

The Ocean Resort Residences at Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach
Architect: Michael Graves, contemporary/modern architecture, opening in late summer, 2016
Green Wall Design: Debbie Kotalic, director of artistic horticultural design for GSky Plant Systems
Developer: Orchestra Hotels + Resorts/Conrad Hotels and Resorts
Interior Design: Interiors by Steven G., Inc.


Based on the concept of there being an “Instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems,” Biophilia has become an important aspect of development initiatives as a means of “bringing the outside in” to encourage wellness for residents and visitors alike.

Debbie Kotalic, director of artistic horticultural design for GSky Plant Systems, is tasked with designing a living green wall at The Ocean Resort Residences at Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach. Planning this biophilic element – a signature feature of the resort’s oceanfront restaurant – is an artistic process for Kotalic, who has designed over 400 such walls in properties around the globe.

“The walls can be curved and linear with different widths and bands of color for a natural look that gives it a nice kind of flow,” she explains, adding that biophilic designs have been shown to decrease stress and enhance real-world environmental conditions. For instance, temperature differences come alongside fully planted outside walls because they are significantly cooler.”

This Ocean Resort Residences, developed by Orchestra Hotels + Resorts, was designed by the celebrated late architect Michael Graves. With waterfront views and a yachting design scheme, the restaurant may feel like the prow of a ship, albeit one with a decidedly tropical sensibility due to the richly planted wall.

Once complete, the restaurant’s vibrant green wall will be a mosaic of color, texture and depth to create a dimensional feel. “We typically use Philodendron cordatum, Neon pothos with bright yellow flowers, White Butterfly Nephthytis, Ficus elastica with dark burgundy leaves, Schefflera ‘Luseane,’ Peperomia caperata ‘Silver Goddess’ and Snow Queen Pothos,” Kotalic notes. “Some of these are in a bonsai form or are dwarf varieties of a larger plant you may see in exterior landscapes of tropical areas like Southern Florida.” Changing the look of the restaurant’s wall will be as simple as replacing a few plants with red or white poinsettias during the holidays or adding small groupings of edible plants to be used in the restaurant’s menu.

Located along one of the finest walkable beaches in South Florida, The Ocean Resort Residences at Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach embodies this destination’s boating culture from its iconic nautical architecture to its yacht-themed interiors. The graceful white structure, visually echoing the contours of a cruise liner, features porthole-style windows and stacked balconies, and well-positioned to receive an abundance of sunlight, 95 percent of the residences enjoy shimmering Atlantic views. The first Conrad resort property in the Americas, this impressive complex slated to open in late summer offers 109 condominiums and 181 condo-hotel units.

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