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It’s not a coincidence that we fill our homes with potted plants, blush every time we receive flowers or enjoy strolling through botanical gardens. Edward O Wilson argued that humans evolved alongside the natural world and therefore have an innate affiliation with it [1], this core principle will form the basis for my design thesis. By creating urban spaces with this hypothesis as a core principle, we can not only improve our happiness but most importantly our health. As with all aspects of urban design, biophilia must be instilled at multiple scales, from the building to the city level. 

Fig.1 – Relationship between Architecture, Life and Nature (Almusaed, 2011)

How can we design with nature? 

The new trend of implementing green walls and roofs is an attractive and efficient way of surrounding more people with nature, even when they are stuck in the office everyday. However, is this really biophilic? Beatley argues that to be truly biophilic, we need to place enough emphasis on actually getting people outside and actively involved with nature [2]. Whether that is gardening, hiking or planting – sitting down and looking at a green wall simply isn’t enough.

Fig.2 – Library of Trees, Milan (Author’s Own)

Fig.3 – Biophilic Architecture, Singapore (Author’s Own)

Biophilic Cities 

The Biophilic Cities Network comprises of 20 cities which are recognised as actively improving the connection between its residents and nature [3]. This list includes Wellington, Edmonton, Austin, Singapore and a little closer to home – Birmingham.

Fig.4 – Biophilic Cities (Author’s Own on Outline World Map)

Wellington’s natural beauty, complex ecosystem and  extremely hilly topography, offers incredible opportunity for residents to engage with nature regularly. However, it’s the way in which the city has been designed to encourage interaction with natural landscapes and wildlife, by creating community gardens, free hiking trails, parks, water features and green roofs which makes it biophilic.

Fig.5 – Hiking Mount Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand (Author’s Own)

Although Singapore lacks that rustic charm of New Zealand’s untouched natural beauty, appearing as more of a super-clean, technologically advanced city, the environment is still at the core of Singapore’s ethos. Gardens by the bay is a series of super trees which provide an interactive education on how natural systems work. Each night, the Supertrees are lit up in a spectacular light show for visitors to enjoy. This is just one of the ways in which Singapore injects nature into the urban fabric and encourages its residents to get involved.

Fig.6 – Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (Author’s Own)

Between 1986 and 2007, Singapore increased its green cover by 20% [4] which has been strongly encouraged by programs such as the Sky-Rise Greenery Initiative, subsidising up-to 50% of rooftop and vertical greenery construction costs [5].

Reconnecting with Nature 

Singapore has shown that you shouldn’t have to move to the middle of nowhere to get back in touch with nature. I firmly believe that we can look forward to cities which celebrate natural ecosystems, encourage its residents to engage with wildlife and allow our relationship with nature to strengthen.


References:

[1] Wilson, E. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

[2] Beatley, T. and Newman, P. (2013). Biophilic Cities Are Sustainable, Resilient Cities. Sustainability, 5(8), pp.3328-3345.

[3] Biophilic Cities. (2020). Cities in the Network — Biophilic Cities. [online] Available at: https://www.biophiliccities.org/partner-cities [Accessed 8 Mar. 2020].

[4] Newman, P. (2013). Biophilic urbanism: a case study on Singapore. Australian Planner, [online] 51(1), pp.54-57. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/07293682.2013.790832 [Accessed 6 Mar. 2020].

[5] National Parks Board. (2020). Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme 2.0. [online] Available at: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/skyrisegreenery/incentive-scheme [Accessed 8 Mar. 2020].

[6] National Parks Board. (2020). Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme 2.0. [online] Available at: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/skyrisegreenery/incentive-scheme [Accessed 8 Mar. 2020].

Figure List

Feature Image – Work in Mind (n.d.). Biophilic Architecture. [image] Available at: https://workinmind.org/2018/07/26/biophilic-cities-conference-will-promote-best-practice-in-biophilic-design/ [Accessed 8 Mar. 2020].

Fig.1 – Almusaed, A. (2020). Relationship between Architecture, Life and Nature. [image].

Fig.2 – Landes, N. (2020). Library of Trees. [image].

Fig.3 – Landes, N. (2019). Biophilic Architecture. [image].

Fig.4 – Outline World Map, n.d. World Map. [image] Available at: <http://www.outline-world-map.com/political-white-world-map-b6a> [Accessed 10 March 2020].

Fig.5 – Landes, N. (2019). Hiking Mount Victoria in Wellington. [image].

Fig.6 – Landes, N. (2019). Gardens by the Bay. [image].

 

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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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