In the last ten years, ‘nature’ and biophilic design have received widespread attention in architecture, especially in response to growing environmental challenges. However, open questions and controversies remain regarding conceptualizing and addressing ‘nature’ in practice and research. This study conducts a literature review to discuss biophilic design as a theoretical framework to interpret ‘nature’ in architecture. The following questions are answered: (1) How has the concept of biophilic design emerged, and how can it be defined? (2) In what ways can biophilic design contribute to the goals of sustainable architecture? (3) What are the key design strategies in biophilic design? This review identifies and compares the key frameworks of biophilic design and explains their major elements. We then analyse the benefits (e.g. enhance health, well-being, productivity, biodiversity, and circularity) of biophilic design in achieving sustainability, as framed through the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The results indicate that biophilic design is more complex and richer than the mere application of vegetation in buildings; it broadens the variety through encompassing different types of nature from physical, sensory, metaphorical, morphological, material to spiritual. Moreover, knowledge gaps are identified to motivate future research and critical reflections on biophilic design practices.