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Biophilic Cities

September 22, 2011

I’ve been reading Timothy Beatley’s excellent book, Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature Into Urban Design and Planning, and thinking about his definition of biophilic cities. Often when we think of sustainable cities we focus on smart growth, mass transit, dense housing, mixed-use communities, and so on, and although these are of course vital components of a sustainable city, they don’t necessarily cover wildlife and green spaces.

Beatley defines biophilic cities as:

Central Park, NYC, (c) Ed Yourdon

“A biophilic city is a green city, a city with abundant nature and natural systems that are visible and accessible to urbanites. It is certainly about physical conditions and urban design–parks, green features, urban wildlife, walkable environments–but it is also about the spirit of a place, its emotional commitment and concern about nature and other forms of life, its interest in and curiosity about nature, which can be expressed in the budget priorities of a local government as well as in the lifestyles and life patterns of its citizens” (17)

And goes on that such a city:

“…is at its heart a biodiverse city, a city full of nature, a place where in the normal course of work and play and life residents feel, see, and experience rich nature–plants, trees, animals…Biophilic cities cherish what already exists…but also work hard to restore and repair what has been lost or degraded and to integrate new forms of nature into the design of every new structure or built project” (45).

And finally, stressing the importance of nature to human health:

“…biophilic cities tie the argument for green cities and green urbanism more directly to human well-being than to energy or environmental conservation” (45).

I’m really liking his thesis, and the examples he gives. Stay tuned for more!

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