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The Rise of Biophilic Urbanism

The tremendous spread of urban environments in recent years has resulted in a gap between humans and the natural world.

Our rapidly developing concrete jungles frequently fail to suit our intrinsic connection with nature. However, a wonderful concept known as ‘Biophilic Urbanism’ is taking root in cities throughout the world, providing urban people with a breathe of fresh air.

 

What is Biophilic Urbanism?

Biophilic Urbanism is a design ideology that emphasises the integration of natural elements into the urban fabric. E.O. Wilson, a scientist, invented the term “biophilia” to describe the fundamental human need to connect with nature and other living creatures. Biophilic Urbanism seeks to satisfy this deep-seated human longing for nature by incorporating vegetation, water features, natural materials, and wildlife habitats into urban environments.

 

Biophilic Urbanism

 

Since the 1990s, there has been a rising understanding of the globe as a single, integrated—yet fragile—system, with cities housing the majority of the planet’s population. Demographic projections imply that this tendency is accelerating, with 70% of the world population expected to reside in megacities and densely populated areas by 2050. Biophilic Urbanism is a design ideology that emphasises the integration of natural elements into the urban fabric. E.O. Wilson, a scientist, invented the term “biophilia” to describe the fundamental human need to connect with nature and other living creatures. Biophilic Urbanism seeks to satisfy this deep-seated human longing for nature by incorporating vegetation, water features, natural materials, and wildlife habitats into urban environments.

 

The Growth of Biophilic Urbanism

Over the past few decades, the awareness of the detrimental effects of urbanisation on mental and physical well-being has driven a renewed interest in Biophilic Urbanism. City planners, architects, and policymakers are increasingly embracing this concept as a solution to urban challenges, such as pollution, stress, and social isolation.

One of the primary drivers of Biophilic Urbanism’s growth is the mounting scientific evidence supporting the numerous benefits of green spaces on human health and happiness. Studies have shown that access to nature in cities can reduce stress, improve cognitive function, boost creativity, and enhance overall quality of life. As more research emerges, cities are becoming more motivated to invest in green infrastructure.

 

What are the elements that define Biophilic Urbanism?

Biophilic Urbanism seeks to develop cities that prioritise human well-being, environmental sustainability, and a greater awareness of the natural world in the environment of cities.

Green Spaces: Integrating parks, rooftop gardens, and urban forests into the cityscape allows inhabitants to reconnect with nature. Water features such as fountains, ponds, and streams improve the soothing benefits of nature while also helping to urban cooling.

Sustainable Practises: To reduce the environmental impact of urban development, Biophilic Urbanism promotes eco-friendly and sustainable practises such as rainwater harvesting, green building design, and renewable energy integration. Biodiversity is encouraged by creating habitats for local animals, such as birdhouses and pollinator gardens for insects.

Biophilic Architecture: The use of natural shapes and forms. Buildings that include natural materials such as wood and stone, as well as optimise natural light and ventilation, create a connection with the environment. Biophilic Urbanism incorporates nature-inspired art installations, patterns, and designs within the urban landscape. These elements serve as reminders of the beauty and importance of the natural world.

Agricultural spaces: Encouragement of community gardens and urban farming not only improves access to fresh produce but also increases the bond between people and their food sources.

 

The Advantages of Biophilic Urbanism

Adopting Biophilic Urbanism has numerous benefits for both city dwellers and the environment:

Healthier Living: Exposure to nature has been linked to lower stress levels, better mental health, and increased physical activity, resulting in happier and healthier residents.

Sustainability: Biophilic Urbanism promotes sustainable urban development and reduces the urban heat island effect by incorporating green spaces and promoting eco-friendly practises.

Community Focused: Biophilic design fosters community interaction and a sense of belonging among residents, resulting in stronger social ties.

Economic Benefits: By creating and providing the opportunity of a higher quality of life, people are attracted to invest and live in these areas. As a result Biophilic Urbanism can increase property values and attract businesses.

 

The ‘Garden City’ campaign in Singapore

Cities such as Melbourne, Portland, Oslo and San Francisco are embracing a far-reaching shift in their mental models about the city’s relationship to nature. However, one city in particular has taken measures one step further in tackling issues such as climate change, population  and global competitiveness by implementing biophillic design. Singapore, a dense city-nation of more than five million people, once envisioned itself as a city with gardens but now sees itself as a ‘city within a garden’.

Singapore, home to 5.4 million people, is situated on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula and is approximately 700 square kilometres. The dense city-nation in the 1960s, well before the international focus on the benefits of Biophilic Urbanism began with the ‘Garden City’ campaign. In the 25 years between 1986 and 2010, the city’s population nearly doubled from 2.7 million to over 5 million, while increasing its green cover from 36% to 47%.

Singapore is undoubtedly one of the best examples of a ‘biophilic city’ in the world. Natural components are an intended, mainstream, and integrated components of urban design, and they receive strong support from policies, programmes, and the community.

Biophilic Urbanism - Singapore Airport

Biophilic Urbanism offers numerous benefits both economic and social, that contribute to the long-term prosperity of cities. By prioritising the integration of nature in urban planning and design, cities can enhance their economic resilience, attract investment, and create sustainable environments that benefit both residents and businesses.


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Fewer Harrington & Partners is an Irish Architects Practice with offices in WaterfordDublin and across the world. 

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