Biophilic Urbanism

Designing Spaces That Nurture a Relationship With Nature

Humans have an innate tendency to interact or be closely associated with nature.  Until recent decades, in order to enjoy nature, you needed to live near it or have the ability to travel to it.  Because of the way cities and their inhabitants were afforded much less access to nature, there was an intrinsic inequity when it came to enjoying the outdoors.  Only the well-off were able to spend time and money to travel outside of the concrete jungle to recharge in nature. 

         That’s changing these days, as biophilic urbanism has permeated urban design, both internally and externally within the architecture and design industry.  In architecture, we see green walls and roofs popping up in cities around the world.  City trails, community gardens, green spaces, and urban rainforests are bringing a larger group of dwellers into the natural world.  Additionally, ideas such as green roofs help improve air quality and food security, especially if gardens are incorporated.  Rainwater that’s leftover from rooftop gardens can be repurposed to feed other garden beds, shrubs, and trees that exist in a biophilic area.  Streets can be reimagined so they allow a safe space for alternative travel, such as by foot or bicycle. 

         With biophilic urbanism, children who reside in cities have the opportunity to grow up in an environment that allows them to be more curious about the nature that surrounds them.  The health and psychological benefits of dwelling in areas that support biophilic urbanism are plentiful.  Studies show that people who live near natural elements are more relaxed, more productive, and overall happier.  Evidence also shows that people are willing to be more generous with neighbors and are more resilient when they live and work in the presence of nature. 

         Do not take this editorial to mean that I think we should do away with large cities and streets.  Public life and industry rely on them, but that’s not to say we cannot aim to integrate biophilia into the design of new cities, as well as the revitalization of existing ones.  By incorporating more biophilic design into a cityscape, architects and designers can help foster and nurture the ample benefits that arise from blending the built world with the natural world.  

Marcus Dodson

editor & publisher

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