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Biophilic Design and Urbanism

Biophilic Cities connecting the City with Nature to Improve Urban Health and Achieve Sustainable Development Goals


Barbican Beech Gardens, London-United Kingdom


As urbanization advances at a dizzying pace around the world, our urban lives are moving further and further away from nature. Most of us spend most of our time in urban environments, surrounded by concrete and steel. However, an emerging approach, known as "Biophilic design", seeks to break this disconnect and promote a closer relationship between cities and nature. In this article, we will explore how Biophilic design is being integrated into urbanism, and how these changes can benefit the health of pedestrians and the well-being of cities, while contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). the United Nations, with a particular focus on "Biophilic Cities".


Biophilic Design: Bringing Nature and the City Together


Biophilic design is a design philosophy that seeks to incorporate natural elements and organic qualities into built environments. Its objective is to create spaces that promote connection with nature, improving the quality of life and well-being of those who inhabit them. These elements can include natural light, vegetation, water, natural materials and organic shapes.


Benefits of Biophilic Cities


Biophilic Cities, or those that apply Biophilic design holistically, can experience a number of significant benefits that address both the health of citizens and the challenges of urban sustainability:


1. Health Benefits (SDG 3)

Biophilic Cities focus on the well-being of their inhabitants through:

  • Stress Reduction: The presence of green spaces, parks and gardens in the urban fabric allows citizens to escape the hustle and bustle of urban life, reducing stress levels and improves mental health, contributing to SDG 3 of health and well-being.

  • Improved Physical Health: Access to walking trails, outdoor play areas and active recreation spaces promotes physical activity, combating diseases related to a sedentary lifestyle, such as obesity and heart diseases, in line with SDG 3.

2. Sustainability (SDG 11 and 13)

Biophilic Cities strive to address sustainability challenges through:

  • Reducing the Carbon Footprint: Vegetation in cities helps absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, contributing to the fight against climate change (SDG 13).

  • Urban Impact Mitigation: The inclusion of natural elements in urban planning can help regulate urban temperature, reducing the need for air conditioning in summer and heating in winter. This promotes energy efficiency and greater sustainability in cities (SDG 11 of sustainable cities and communities).

3. Connection with the Community (SDG 11)

Biophilic design encourages social cohesion and the building of stronger communities:

  • Meeting Spaces: Parks and green areas designed with a Biophilic approach become meeting and recreation points for the community, promoting social interaction and strengthening the sense of belonging, which contributes to achievement of SDG 11 of sustainable cities and communities.


4. Sensory Stimulation (SDG 12 and 15)

Biophilic design involves a wide range of sensory stimuli:

  • Touch and Sight: The incorporation of natural materials and organic elements stimulates touch and sight, connecting people with their environment in a deeper and more respectful way (SDG 12 of responsible production and consumption ).

  • Urban Biodiversity: The presence of vegetation and water in Biophilic Cities promotes biodiversity, which is essential for life in terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15 of life in terrestrial ecosystems).


Biophilic Cities in Practice


Biophilic Cities are inspiring examples of how urbanism can effectively integrate natural elements into its fabric. Notable examples of Biophilic Cities include:


1. Singapore - The Garden City:Singapore, often called the "Garden City," is a leading example of how a city can successfully incorporate Biophilic design into its urban planning to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants and promote sustainability. Singapore Garden City is an ongoing effort by the government and local authorities to infuse nature into the fabric of the city.


Botanical Garden-Singapore


Singapore is proud of its many urban parks, gardens and green spaces spread throughout the city. One of the most iconic parks is the Singapore Botanic Gardens, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Additionally, the Garden by the Bay, with its iconic Supertrees and impressive Flower Dome, offers a spectacular natural setting in the heart of the city.


Singapore has proven to be a pioneer in the construction of sustainable buildings that incorporate natural elements. Skyscrapers with vertical gardens and green roofs are a common feature in the city.

Supertrees Singapore's Gardens-Singapore

Singapore has implemented effective conservation policies that protect its natural environment. Conservation efforts extend to areas such as wetlands, where parks and nature reserves have been established to protect the region's unique biodiversity. Likewise, it has invested in sustainable public transport systems and has promoted the use of bicycles. The city is also developing the "Water Park Network," which will connect bodies of water and green areas, promoting sustainable mobility.


2. Portland, Oregon, United States: This city is widely recognized as a leading city in adopting Biophilic design principles in its urban planning. The city has demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainability and incorporating natural elements into its built environment.


City of Portland, Oregon


Portland is famous for its extensive network of bike lanes and its focus on sustainable transportation. This not only promotes a more active and healthy life, but also reduces air pollution and traffic in the city, contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 11 of sustainable cities and communities.


The city has a wide variety of parks and green areas. Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States and offers extensive walking and biking trails, allowing residents to connect with nature without having to leave the city.

OHSU Center for Health & Healing-Portland, Oregon


The city has implemented policies that encourage the construction of green buildings, with features such as green roofs, solar panels and rainwater collection systems. Notable examples include the OHSU Center for Health & Healing Building and the Portland Audubon Society headquarters. On the other hand, the city's neighborhoods have numerous community gardens and shared gardens that allow residents to grow their own food and experience nature in their everyday surroundings.


3. Ljubljana, Slovenia:The capital of Slovenia is an inspiring example of how a city can embrace Biophilic design to improve the quality of life of its citizens, promote sustainability and protect the environment. The city has been widely recognized for its focus on nature and sustainability, making it a model for other cities to follow.


Ljubljanica River-Ljubljana, Slovenia


Ljubljana has prioritized people over vehicles by pedestrianizing much of the historic city center creating a healthier and more pleasant environment for residents and visitors, encouraging social interaction and connection with nature at the heart from the city. One of the most notable projects is the renaturalization of the Ljubljanica River, which runs through the city. Riverside green areas have been restored and wildlife protection promoted, allowing citizens to enjoy the beauty of a clean and healthy river in the city center.


Tivoli Park-Ljubljana, Slovenia


Ljubljana has numerous parks and green areas, such as Tivoli Park, which offers extensive spaces for outdoor activities, walking and cycling, encouraging an active lifestyle and connection with nature. The city also supports the creation of community gardens, where residents can grow their own food and experience the satisfaction of gardening. This promotes social interaction and environmental awareness.

Ljubljana has demonstrated how biophilic design and a focus on sustainability can improve the quality of life of citizens, protect the environment and create a healthier and more attractive urban environment. The city is an inspiring model for other urban areas that wish to adopt similar practices.

Biophilic design and the focus on Biophilic Cities can transform our cities into more liveable, healthy and sustainable places, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. By incorporating natural elements into the built environment, we promote a greater connection with nature, improve the health and well-being of citizens and move towards a more environmentally harmonious urban future. Biophilic Cities are living examples of how this design philosophy can contribute to a more balanced and sustainable urban life. Biophilic design is not just a trend, it is a necessity in 21st century city planning, which can help build a more sustainable and healthy future for everyone.

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