Biophilia is a growing topic in modern urban design. It essentially rests on the hypothesis that we humans have an innate attraction and genetic connection to nature, built up through hundreds of thousands of years of living in rural settings, thus its absence in today’s cities could be detrimental for our wellbeing.
The term was initially popularized by American biologist Edward O. Wilson in the 1980s, following his observation on how the increased urbanization was indirectly forcing humans to disconnect with nature, affecting them both psychologically and physiologically.
Today, biophilia is trending especially in workplaces, as scientific researches are increasingly confirming that incorporating natural elements into the built environment- such as adding indoor plants around the office, allowing natural light in and even hanging photographs of nature on the walls- reduces stress and boosts workers’ productivity.
But can this concept be implemented on a city-wide level? Urban planners are not only saying it is doable, but it is also necessary for smart cities -the cities of the future- where technology enables people-centric city services in a sustainable setting.
In fact, 12 cities around the world are members of the “Biophilic Cities Network”, a “growing global community of partner cities, organizations and individuals committed to planning and designing cities with abundant nature, where citizens have rich contact with the flourishing natural world as an element of daily life.”
For example, Singapore implemented a regulation called Green Area Ratio, ensuring that new buildings are designed with living plants on roofs, terraces, and balconies to total an area larger than the footprint of the building.
When it comes to smart cities, planning a sustainable and happy urban environment is complementary to the core concept of what makes a city truly smart.
Biophilic urbanism is a perfect addition for cities that integrate IT solutions with everyday activities while addressing environmental issues and reducing the impact of environmental degradation.
Implementing this model in the city of the future could have immense collateral benefits to people’s happiness, air and water quality, flood control, food production, and other economic benefits.
After all, the development of smart cities must happen hand in hand with nature to fully unlock a bright green future for all.