biophilic cities: improving urban environments with greenery

in biophilic cities

One of the features of biophilic cities (yet not the only one) is certainly greenery, more greenery than what urban environments normally host these days.

Greenery is visually pleasing, it makes public areas healthier and more enjoyable, it improves air quality, it creates space for non-human life, and more. Also, green areas make cities more resilient to weather allowing rainwater infiltration, providing shade and reducing heat in the city.

So let’s review a few ways to make cities greener!

parks

Public parks are the form of urban greenery we’re mostly used to. When they’re well distributed across the city, parks provide equitable access to greenery for everyone while inviting residents to spend more time outdoors.

Not all parks are biophilic parks though. Ideally, urban parks should mirror the local ecological identity, incorporating native plant species and reflecting the features of local natural environments. Urban parks should also be designed to welcome and invite exploration and interaction, becoming the occasion for people to truly get close to nature.

Lush urban park with hidden pathways among plants.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: PLAT Studio (opened in a new window/tab) - Ph: Riye Photography
Urban park with varied greenery.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: SPRB Arquitectos (opened in a new window/tab) – Ph: César Béjar Studio
Lush urban park between buildings.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: ZIZU STUDIO (opened in a new window/tab) - Ph: Ruihua Liang

green roofs

Greenery can be used to enhance spaces that are now normally unused – roofs.
Planted rooftop terraces create enjoyable shared areas that give urban residents more options to spend time outdoors. On top of the recreational aspect, they can also stimulate healthy behaviours and introduce occasions to interact with nature – for example, doubling as vegetable and herb gardens or workout venues.

Also – and not less important – planted roofs retain rainwater and regulate indoor temperature in the building, reducing energy use for heating and conditioning.

Top down view of a planted rooftop terrace.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Arquitectura en Estudio (opened in a new window/tab) - Ph: Llano Fotografía
Independent home with green roof.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Snegiri Architects (opened in a new window/tab)
Planted rooftop terrace.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Archismith Architects (opened in a new window/tab) - Ph: W-Workspace

green façades

Compared with green roofs, green façades are not directly livable for people, but they're still valuable! Greenery breaks the concrete jungle effect that too often characterizes our cities, ultimately making urban environments easier on the eye and more enjoyable. Planted façades also help mitigate temperatures, both inside the building and in its proximity.

Green façades may not be livable for people, but they are livable for insects and non-human life. And one crucial point of biophilic cities (and biophilic design as a whole) is exactly realizing that we humans are not the only residents of Planet Earth nor the most important ones – no, not even in cities.

Planted building façade with a lush garden in front.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Nikken (opened in a new window/tab) - Ph: Harunori Noda
Green façade with moss, flowers and other greenery.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Ateliers Jean Nouvel (opened in a new window/tab) - Ph: Soledad Erdocia
Planted façade with a variety of greenery.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Kohn Pedersen Fox (opened in a new window/tab)

outdoor spaces

Imagine if every terrace, balcony, and window sill were planted. This alone would make a huge difference in our cities!

Green outdoor spaces add life to urban views, making the time spent outdoors or even looking outdoors more enjoyable. By changing throughout seasons, plants add variability to the view. By attracting wildlife, they support non-human life in the city while making the view even more stimulating for people. And not less important, caring for those plants introduces a regular appointment with nature and direct contact with it.

Villa with lush greenery hanging from every balcony.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Conlon Group (opened in a new window/tab)
Climbing greenery on an outdoor wall.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Armadillo (opened in a new window/tab)
Top down view of a planted internal courtyard.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: SeARCH (opened in a new window/tab)

everywhere else

Considering urban greenery from a biophilic perspective means weaving nature with buildings, streets and all other urban elements, creating a seamless transition. Pathways, roads, walls…every concrete spot is an occasion to introduce greenery instead.

The idea is moving beyond the concrete jungle idea we now have of urban areas, letting nature become one of the main building blocks of our cities and letting non-human life live together with people in the city. A new urban standard to make cities healthier, more enjoyable, and more resilient!

Urban pathway immersed in greenery.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Kev (opened in a new window/tab)

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