Skip to content
Header banner full
Header banner

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.


[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: [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: [Accessed 6 Mar. 2020].

[5] National Parks Board. (2020). Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme 2.0. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Mar. 2020].

[6] National Parks Board. (2020). Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme 2.0. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Mar. 2020].

Figure List

Feature Image – Work in Mind (n.d.). Biophilic Architecture. [image] Available at: [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: <> [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].


3 responses to “Improve your well-being through biophilic design”

  1. Yes, I agree with the author’s opinion, human beings are from nature, our life also need nature at the same time, better environmental design, can alleviate the psychological pressure of people, better able to cure people’s psychological and so on various aspects of the disease, and by increasing for the design of greening, can effectively reduce the cost of treating diseases. And plants are beneficial to increase creativity and efficiency [1]. It is important to point out that nature in the space refers to the use of natural elements like:
    Natural light
    Outside view
    Natural ventilation
    Plants and greenery
    in the design of buildings and interiors [2].
    So after the people of the city or the park’s construction, we should not only “relatives” and “Biophilic” notice to protect biodiversity, continuous development of vertical greening, roof greening, and increase the quality of green space [3]. Such as New York’s central park, greatly improved the city’s green space, increase the land value, as well as people of different age, different classes, different ethnic groups, provides the comfortable activity place, from psychological physiology, has a positive meaning. It has made the city younger and more dynamic, fostered a sense of community and a spirit of mutual assistance and cooperation, and has also played a role in educating and elevating social morality and promoting the process of civilization[4].

    [1]Oliver Heath. 2020. Biophilic Design-Connecting With Nature To Improve Health & Well Being – Oliver Heath. [online] Available at:<> [Accessed 23 May 2020].
    [2]DforDesign. 2020. Biophilic & Sustainable Interior Design Biophilic Design:Nature In The Space. Dfordesign. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 May 2020].
    [3]Terrapin Bright Green. 2020. The Impact And Benefits Of Biophi…In The Workplace- Terrapin Bright Green. [online] Available at:<> [Accessed 23 May 2020].
    [4]UVA Today. 2020. A Walk In The Park: Central Park Becomes A Classroom For 15 UVA Students, onlinel Available at:<> [Accessed 24 May 2020].

  2. Hi Nadine,
    It is so interesting to see how your approach in how to make the urban environment more sustainable with Biophilic design. How we approach Biophilic in the scale of neighborhood or bigger context a city? Not only a single building. Biophilic in a city should bring back all the nature go immerse with the city. The natural ecosystem that happens before the city formed and make them re introduce in the city and make others species can live and not feels distracted.

    Biophilic city have several major qualitative strategies to re-introduced in the city (beatley,2016):
    1. City must abundant with nature and nature experience
    2. City must have multisensory in nature
    3. City that feels outdoors
    4. City that not offensive with natural power and make resilience with natural flows

    Biophilic in the surface must support nature system in the city and in the end can improve mental well-being for the peoples in the city. But in term of making the city into more biophilic the city also need to be built in sustainable materials.
    Some of the latest invention in creating tall building with timber frame in my opinion are great ways to make sustainable building rather than using concrete and steel. With natural renewable material we also not build with destructing another resources. (Green and Tagard,2017)

    In others hand, biophilic design should use passive approach in energy management. In term to artificially mimic nature usually designer using such technology mechanism that consume more energy to run and maintenance the system. We should use the natural flow of hydraulic or clever approach of using vegetation and water (Shannon,2012).


    Beatley.T (2016) ‘Handbook of Biophilic City Planning and Design’ Washington DC: Island Press

    Green.M, Taggard.J (2017)’ Tall Wood Buildings, Design, Construction and Performance’. London: Birkhäuser

    Shannon.K, (2012) ‘Eco-engineering for Water: From Soft to Hard and Back’. In ‘Future city 3. Resilience in Ecology and Urban Design Linking Theory and Practice for Sustainable Cities’, Pickett, S.T.A., Cadenasso, M.L., McGrath. B (ed)., New York: Springer, pp.163-181

  3. Thank you for your thought-provoking blog.

    I agree with your insightful statements on how nature can positively impact upon people’s happiness and health. They concur with the Urban Design Group’s research highlighting how green spaces are associated “with a reduction of depression and stress, and improved social and cognitive functioning” (UDG, 2017, p.26).

    As urban designers, it is not enough to consider how green infrastructure can be incorporated, we must also understand how it effects people’s mental health, so it can be designed in the most effective way. Factors such as “distance from a person’s home to green space” and “quality of environmental infrastructure” are proven to have an effect (Bremer et al., 2017, p.7) (Rose and Thompson, 2012, p.608).

    I feel your point about connecting people to nature could be expanded by research into how green spaces can provide opportunities for physical activity to take place. Green space “promotes exercise” and is proven to have “positive effects on people’s general self-esteem and sense of wellbeing” as well as reducing “symptoms of stress and anxiety” (UD/MH, undated, 1) (Bremer et al., 2017, p.5).

    You recognise that biophilic cities are prime examples of how nature can be incorporated into urban spaces. However, with the issues of urban sprawl and today’s cities already being very compact, it is difficult (or near impossible) to implement this within established cities where health issues are prevalent. So how do we regenerate existing cities, to incorporate more green spaces and improve the health of it’s inhabitants?


    Bremer, I. Endale, T. Jannati, M. McCay, L. and Yi, J. (2017) “Urban Design and Mental Health”, in Mental Health and Illness in the City: 1-24. Available at: Accessed on: 14/04/20.

    Rose, V. and Thompson, L. (2012). “Space, place and people: a community development approach to mental health promotion in a disadvantaged community”. Community Development Journal: 47 (4): 604 – 611. Available at: Accessed on: 04/04/20.

    Urban Design Group [UDG]. (2017). Designing Mental Health into Cities, in Health and Urban Design. 142. Available at: Accessed on: 16/02/20.

    Urban Design Mental Health [UD/MH]. (undated, 1). How urban design can impact mental health. Available at: Accessed on 08/03/20.

Leave a Reply

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

Tel: 0191 208 6509


Hit Counter provided by recruiting services