The Biophilic City Movement

London is undeniably one of the greatest cities of our world, personally I love it! 

I love the architecture, and the vast contrasts, the beautifully crafted parks, and historic buildings. I love how from street to small lane there is always an intriguing space. However, and here is the big ‘but’, it isn’t sustainable.

 In June I will be attending London Climate Action Week to include Biophilic Design in the  global movement towards making out cities greener, more sustainable, and liveable.

Cities with their tall cement and glass structures disrupt the natural ecosystems of the land and therefore are hotter, and consume energy cooling down; they overheat like greenhouses.

When it comes to building in the city, we need to be thinking about building Biophilicly.  Architects are buildings and connecting the outside world and the natural systems around them, to the natural lines, and symmetry of the structure.  As we evolve both as humans and cities, we need to start rejoicing the human nature connection that is key to everyones wellbeing. 

Singapore, Image Credit -  Lily Banse
Singapore, Image Credit -  Lily Banse

Australia is a country that has taken on the biophilic city movement in particular. With their urban areas and cities continuously growing, bringing nature into the city is a key. Part of the movement is to rebuild that connection with nature and human’s. Although, green cities can be viewed as bringing beauty to the city biophilia can make people feel healthier through having daily interaction and connecting with nature around them. Research has shown that crime rates are decreasing in areas that have street trees and properties value within those areas are higher. 

Cairns Botanic Gardens , Queensland, Australia. Designed by Charles Wright Architects (Image Credit)
Cairns Botanic Gardens , Queensland, Australia. Designed by Charles Wright Architects (Image Credit)

You’ll may be surprised to hear that nature can handle managing extreme weather conditions and flooding and can sometimes even be more adaptable than human engineer systems. If we refuse to learn from them, nature will be the teacher. As our world is constantly evolving and we are playing ‘catch-up’ trying to tackle climate change, we are making little changes. This is the perfect opportunity for us to learn about the natural systems around, and the cultures that seem to have grasped supporting diversity, and have succeeded. 

In Australia they have released the ‘greener places’ framework. Which states the benefits of using green infrastructure within architectural design. Incorporating biophilic values in green infrastructure leads too:

  • Reduced flood risk 
  • Improved property values 
  • Increased social interaction 
Green Square, Developed by BHC – Creating Liveable Communities, (Image Credit)
Green Square, Developed by BHC – Creating Liveable Communities, (Image Credit)

Even though we have all of this knowledge about the benefits a greener city can provide, architectural designs are still being built with little nature and there is less consideration being given to the habitats which can help increase the biodiversity around us. We need to start having a regenerative approach to design, where opportunities are created both for nature and people this way forward is the biophilic city movement. 

Cities all over the world could be rewilded and even become habitats to native species within their area, while creating a space that is an attractive community space for people. As cities are becoming denser in population, the benefits of connecting to nature are more important than ever before. Although there is always that question of does nature require lots of space, or, should nature only be found in parks and separated from built spaces. I know that nature should be around us all the time and we should be able to constantly connect with nature and our natural surroundings. 

Conrad Gargett Lyons Architect , Image Credit - lyons architecture. Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital‘ in Australia.
Conrad Gargett Lyons Architect , Image Credit - lyons architecture. Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital‘ in Australia.

Biodiversity can be found everywhere; small urban green spaces can provide essential habitats for the smallest of species. As these small urban green spaces grow we can start bringing them together to create larger urban green spaces. Projects like these are constantly popping up all over the world.

One project that comes to mind is the Highline in New York City which is an excellent example to cities all over the word and shows how a derelict leftover space within a city can be regenerated into to connecting both nature and people.

Rewildingis another way we can create a biophilic city and is all about adding nature everywhere, rather than just being in parks. By us starting to use green infrastructure and nature-based building solutions in buildings and derelict spaces we can bring people and nature together to create a healthy balance.

 
The High Line, New York, Image Credit - (Architectural Digest)
The High Line, New York, Image Credit - (Architectural Digest)

Australia have started implementing these biophilic practices and demonstrating that by adding nature to a space doesn’t just have to be trees. Projects such as Melbourne’s sky farm, Sydney’s Camperdown Commons and Perth City Farm all emulate the opportunity that can be created through growing your own food within the city whilst creating community engagement and socialisation. Melbourne have gone one step further and have a ‘Green Our City’ strategic action plan, that explains how green walls and roofs a key component are in bring nature back into the city.

Melbourne Skyfarm: a public rooftop farm - Image Credit , Melbourne Skyfarm
Melbourne Skyfarm: a public rooftop farm - Image Credit , (Melbourne Skyfarm)
Sydney, Camperdown Commons - Image Credit (Annie McKay)
Sydney, Camperdown Commons - Image Credit (Annie McKay)
Perth City Farm - (Image Credit)
Perth City Farm - (Image Credit)

By incorporating biophilic design into the builds it can provide us with economic benefits such as increased property values, cleaner air and even reduction of pollutants in waterways. In particular that has been demonstrated in in Sydney and Melbourne who are the front runners for exploring how to include nature into builds. For example, they have the successful One Central Park Project which offers bright urban greenery from the ground plane on to its façade. The other project is the Green Spine in Melbourne which integrate nature and becomes a defining feature. 

One Central Park, Designed by architect Jean Nouvel and Botanist Patrick Blanc
One Central Park, Designed by architect Jean Nouvel and Botanist Patrick Blanc
One Central Park, Designed by architect Jean Nouvel and Botanist Patrick Blanc
One Central Park, Designed by architect Jean Nouvel and Botanist Patrick Blanc

The elements are there for creating a biophilic city. All we need now is commitment, priorities acknowledged and government framework in place. We have demonstrated there are some amazing projects that have already taken place and show that creating a green city is possible. Changes need to be made now rather than later. 

Green Spine, Designed by UNStudio
Green Spine, Designed by UNStudio
Green Spine, Designed by UNStudio
Green Spine, Designed by UNStudio

You’ll be surprised to hear that the UN had set targets for biodiversity a decade ago and none of these have been achieved. Therefore, as we enter into the next decade, we need to start taking responsibility for the survival of all species and help support nature to thrive. This can all be achieved through the knowledge of nature and following the biophilic movement to create biophilic cities. 

On May 12th I am hosting a workshop on Biophilic Design, please join me and become part of the well-being movement towards a greener, sustainable, and much healthier world. 

Front cover image Credit - © André J Fanthome