Biophilia, a term popularized by conservationists and environmentalists, describes the innate sense of connection to nature and emotional affiliation with other living beings that we have as human beings. We need nature to be part of our lives and as more and more of us are living in cities, that nature is no longer the countryside or the mountain, there is no rural environment near so the nature we need must be urban nature. Biophilic cities are cities that incorporate nature in abundance into their design. They are cities that care for, protect, rediscover and grow their urban nature and that try to foster the daily and deep connection with the natural world as an essential part of a full, healthy and happy life. Biophilic design is a growing practice and today we can find various examples of buildings that try to integrate natural characteristics and qualities as part of their integral design.
We are becoming more aware of the physical, psychological and emotional benefits that nature provides us, its ability to reduce stress, to aid recovery from illness or to enhance cognitive skills. We need biophilic workplaces, healing gardens in health centers and green spaces in our homes that provide us with sunlight, natural ventilation, plants and greenery. And in cities, we need this nature to be incorporated into our urban environment in ways that go beyond the mere functional benefits provided by trees, green roofs, wetlands for stormwater management and for temperature control or air quality. To achieve the integration of nature in our daily life biophilic cities have to include some traits that define them:
With ‘green belts’ to bring green areas into cities or with areas declared ‘urban nature reserves’ biophilia is increasingly present in our cities.
- Urban plans to bring nature closer to dwellers so that they have green spaces or community gardens nearby.
- Programs to raise awareness of the climate, flora and fauna that define the ‘urban home’ and ‘on-site’ education with hiking, camping or volunteering activities in natural areas.
- Connecting the different urban parks through roads or trails to increase the options of being and walking in the open air.
- Investing in ‘green’ social infrastructure and biodiversity projects.