Exploring Biophilic Cities

The theory and practice of planning and designing biophilic cities from global leaders and practitioners

Seldom Seen Greenway. Image: Becca Halter

Seldom Seen Greenway. Image: Becca Halter

Open Space Initiatives: The Pittsburgh Greenway Program

The Greenways for Pittsburgh program was initiated in 1980 by the city's Department of City Planning. Since then, Pittsburgh has renewed the greenways project, revitalizing current greenways and creating new ones for the Pittsburgh community. Currently, there are 12 greenways in Pittsburgh, making up 605 total acres of open space in varying locations throughout the city.

What is a greenway?

greenway is a permanently conserved, passive open space that is stewarded primarily by the community, and serves to benefit adjacent neighborhoods and the general public.

Greenways are beneficial to both the nature in a city and its residents, protecting the local ecology while providing an outlet for activities such as biking, walking, and running. They can include trails, plantings, green infrastructure, and even art installations. Studies have also shown that greenways can improve employment density in urban areas.

Categories of Greenways

The City of Pittsburgh has outlined three types of greenways, each of which allowing for different opportunities depending on their unique characteristics.

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Imagine the future cities that we would really want to live in

Published on apolitical

Take a moment reader and envision a healthy city of the future. What is the picture that comes to mind? Does clean technology play a role? Is it free from cars and other carbon craving machines?

Is that vision also rich in nature? Such a living landscape is what we innately crave. E.O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis tells us that the human species has thrived in part because of our innate affinity with and connection to the living world.

An incredibly fruitful partnership — that has gone awry. Our current trajectory away from a symbiotic relationship with nature has disrupted the planet’s and our own prosperity in the currency of flourishing, healthy and happy lives.

Evidence demonstrates that daily connection with nature in the places we live reduces stress, decreases rates of depression and anxiety, and boosts the immune system. A recent piece on Apolitical documents a UK government initiative to combat loneliness by planning for green spaces that reduce social isolation.

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Supertrees at the Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Image Credit: Gardens by the Bay

Supertrees at the Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Image Credit: Gardens by the Bay

Phoenix Mountains Preserve. Image Credit: City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation.

Phoenix Mountains Preserve. Image Credit: City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation.

A City that Celebrates its Connection to Nature: Phoenix, Arizona Officially Joins the Biophilic Cities Network

The Biophilic Cities Network welcomes Phoenix, Arizona, the fifth largest city in the nation, as an official Partner City. A city known for its unique biophilic features in the arid southwestern United States, Phoenix has an impressive portfolio of conservation, educational, and restoration efforts. The Biophilic Cities Project has long studied Phoenix for its biophilic features and collaborated with David Pijawka, Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning at Arizona State University, along with many students since the inception of the Biophilic Cities Project. At a glance, Phoenix is home to:

41,000 acres of desert parks and mountain preserves;

200+ miles of trails;

182 flatland parks; and

16,000+ acres of land in one park, South Mountain Park/Preserve, which is one of the largest municipally operated parks in the country.

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Global Cities Answering the Call for Bold Leadership

Cities are in an unprecedented position of global leadership as innovators and incubators for creative solutions for sustainability.  An oft repeated message from participants in the recent ICLEI World Congress was that to meet present environmental and sustainability challenges, cities must “be bold” in the solutions that they design and pursue.  Business as usual is simply not enough.

Cities are embracing nature-based solutions as a primary pillar of the path forward.  The ICLEI Montréal Commitment and Strategic Vision for 2018-2024 identifies nature-based development as critical pathway that cities must embrace in this urban century to achieve sustainability.  Indeed, a focus on nature-based solutions was a primary theme throughout the three-day World Congress.

Addressing the question of how Biophilic Cities represents an innovative approach to scale local solutions, I was a participant in the Urban Nature Forum that marked a launching point for the focus on planning and designing natureful cities.  The forum included a blend of presentations from Montréal based practitioners, representatives from city governments and non-governmental global innovators like Biophilic Cities.

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View of downtown Montréal from Parc du Mont Royal. Photo Credit: JD Brown.

View of downtown Montréal from Parc du Mont Royal. Photo Credit: JD Brown.