Biophilic Design in Combating Urban Biodiversity Decrease.
Many plant and animal species are battling to survive as cities continue to grow and urbanisation deepens. Biophilic design, on the other hand, can serve to enhance biodiversity and improve the ecological health of metropolitan places. Biophilic design is a method of incorporating natural components and processes into constructed settings in architecture and urban design. It is gaining popularity as a means of combating urban biodiversity loss.
Figure 1: The Italian Bosco Verticale or “vertical forest” (https://bioneers.org/elevating-nature-milans-bosco-verticale-zp0z1806/)
Biophilic design, according to Timothy Beatley, can be a major strategy for tackling urban biodiversity loss, since “connecting people with nature through biophilic design can help create the conditions for more sustainable and resilient cities” (Beatley, 2016).
The High Line in New York City is an example of biophilic design in action. The High Line is a park in Manhattan created atop an abandoned elevated railway line. The park has native plant species that attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, as well as providing habitat for birds and other wildlife. The park has been praised for promoting biodiversity and offering a green respite in the midst of a highly populated city.
Figure 2: High Line Park view. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Line)
Another example is Singapore’s Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Green roofs, vertical gardens, and an inner courtyard filled with plants and trees are among the highlights of the hospital. These natural components create a soothing and healing atmosphere for patients while also reducing the urban heat island effect, improving air quality, and providing a habitat for birds and insects (Kishnani, N. 2017). Stephen Kellert – a pioneer in biophilic design defines it as “the practise of creating built environments that connect people with nature.”(Kellert et al. 2008)
Figure 3: The inner area of Singapore’s Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. (https://formnutrition.com/inform/khoo-teck-puat-hospital/)
The inclusion of biophilic design into urban environments has long been a source of contention among urban planners. Some claim that biophilic design is overly concerned with aesthetics and may have little impact on biodiversity. For example, in their article “The Incremental Demise of Urban Green Spaces,” Colding and Barthel argue that while biophilic design can improve human well-being and satisfaction with urban environments, it may not result in a significant increase in biodiversity (Colding and Barthel. 2020). They say that in order to support a varied range of species, more attention should be paid to the management and development of green spaces in cities. Others contend that biophilic design is costly and difficult to implement and that it may not be feasible in all metropolitan locations.
However, proponents of this strategy say that it can have a major impact on biodiversity while also providing multiple health and well-being benefits. They also cite the success of projects such as the High Line and the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital as proof of the efficacy of the biophilic design.
Finally, such design has the ability to counteract urban biodiversity loss and improve urban ecological health. The projects mentioned above highlight the advantages of incorporating natural elements into urban architecture. While there may be disagreements over the effectiveness and practicality of this design method, it is apparent that it has the potential to have a substantial impact on both human and environmental health and well-being.
American Museum of Natural History (2019). Habitat in the Sky: Studying Wild Bees on the High Line. [online] The High Line. Available at: https://www.thehighline.org/blog/2019/04/23/habitat-in-the-sky-studying-wild-bees-on-the-high-line-with-the-american-museum-of-natural-history/.
Beatley, T. (2016). Handbook of biophilic city planning and design. Washington, Dc: Island Press.
Colding, J., Gren, Å. and Barthel, S. (2020). The Incremental Demise of Urban Green Spaces. Land, 9(5), p.162. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/land9050162.
Kellert, S.R. (2018). Nature by Design : The Practice of Biophilic Design. New Haven, Ct: Yale University Press.
Kishnani, N. (2017). Human Spaces. [online] Human Spaces. Available at: https://blog.interface.com/en-uk/singapores-khoo-teck-puat-hospital-biophilic-design-action/.