Archives: exploring Biophilic Cities



Finding Nature, Quieting the Mind: The Promise of Forest Therapy in Cities

October 2018

Noise is nearly inescapable in the city. Parks, greenways, and other bits of nature offer visual, tactile, and olfactory relief from urban noise, but can only do so much to buffer the ears from sirens, horns, and engines that pop from the constant hum of people moving and talking. Despite the prevalence of potentially distracting sounds, a growing number of people are practicing Japanese-inspired “forest bathing” deep in the heart of urban areas. Translated from the Japanese shinrin yoku, forest bathing comes up frequently in discussions about nature, mindfulness, or environmental psychology. Though it can involve interacting with water, the practice isn't a literal bath, but a deeply sensory immersion in nature, and often called forest therapy to avoid confusion. While it is something that can be done individually, there are guides who lead forest therapy experiences across the world, many of them working in densely populated areas.


Biophilic Cities: Embracing the Optimistic Future of Natureful Cities

Published September 2018 on Bioneers

At Biophilic Cities, we are nurturing a growing network of partner cities that are working collectively to pursue the vision of a natureful city within their unique and diverse environments and cultures. Applying E.O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis to the scale of planning and designing cities, biophilic cities recognize that humans have co-evolved with nature and require a daily connection to nature for our overall health and happiness. This is a vision that embraces the understanding that humans are not separate and apart from natural living systems. The world has entered into what has been termed the “urban century” as increasing global populations congregate in cities. While this growth presents obvious challenges, it also presents an opportunity to provide meaningful access to nature for populations that traditionally have had the least access to nature and where such access can have an exponential positive impact on health, well-being and quality of life.


Austin’s Central Library Is an Experience in Orchestrated Delight

By Kathy Zarsky, Certified Biomimicry Specialist, LEED AP BD+C
Published June 2018 in Biophilic Cities Journal Vol. 2/Issue 1

Wonder in Architecture

Austin’s Central Library is a highly anticipated public structure sited along Shoal Creek and Lady Bird Lake on the western edge of downtown. Its climatic responsive design and use of local materials lend a timeless and iconic fit to its place amongst the many towering giants that are commonplace in the urban core. It’s a place that visitors relish and dream of frequenting, coining it “Austin’s living room.”


Biophilic Cities Welcomes Fremantle as Partner City

June 2018

The Biophilic Cities Network is pleased to welcome the City of Fremantle as its first Australian partner city. Fremantle recognizes the importance of nature in urban environments and pledges to continue to protect its urban biodiversity and foster opportunities for residents to develop a deeper connection with their environment.

Fremantle is located in Western Australia at the mouth of the Swan River. The combination of its thriving economy, port history, and natural environment makes it one of Australia’s iconic urban centers. Although heavily urbanized, Fremantle encompasses many biophilic qualities. Its diverse flora and fauna, waterfront location, and outdoor culture provide many opportunities for people to enjoy nature.


Portland’s Inspiring Vision of a Biophilic City

May 2018

An evening lecture from Tim Beatley in Portland, Oregon, marked an occasion to formally recognize the role of Portland as a founding partner city and leader in the Biophilic Cities Network.  City Commissioner Nick Fish accepted the recognition and provided his own remarks on the expression of the vision of biophilic cities across the Portland landscape: “Portland is proud to be a city where nature is celebrated and enjoyed … which is why Portland is a perfect match for the Biophilic Cities Project.” Truly, Portland is an inspiration as a biophilic city.  The city has designed and constructed over 2,000 green streets that are biophilic amenities performing the valuable role of controlling urban stromwater runoff.  Community volunteers, known as Green Street Stewards, help to maintain the green infrastructure in neighborhoods across the city.  Portland has spurred the installation of as many as 700 ecoroofs in high density areas. 

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Biophilic Cities Welcomes Reston, VA as Partner City

April 2018

The Biophilic Cities Network is pleased to welcome The Community of Reston, Virginia as a new partner city. This past summer, Reston’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) released the first Reston Annual State of the Environment Report (RASER), which launched the process of joining the Biophilic Cities Network. Among the fifty recommendations from the RASER report was the determination that becoming a part of the network would help Reston to fully integrate connections with the natural world into the daily lives of residents. Leading the effort was EAC member Doug Britt, who confirmed that membership in the Biophilic Cities Network would “enable our community to share experiences and lessons learned with other network urban centers regarding ways of integrating nature with the urban landscape to promote the health and wellbeing of our citizens.”



Biophilic Cities Welcomes Curridabat as Partner City

November 2017

Curridabat, Costa Rica joins the Biophilic Cities Network as our newest partner city. Curridabat is located in the San José Province in Costa Rica and includes four districts: Curridabat, Granadilla, Sánchez, and Tirrases, with a population of around 65,000 inhabitants. Curridabat enhances citizen wellbeing by integrating nature into its community and has conceptualized a new vision for the city called “Sweet City” (Ciudad Dulce). The goal of “Sweet City” is to increase conservation efforts within the city specifically through increasing the number of pollinators along with a number of other efforts. The project, which began in March 2016, has already made progress toward this goal by planting native trees and plants in order to improve the watershed and attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, bats, and birds.


The Vision and Practice of Biophilic Cities

Published June 2017 in EuropeNow

We are in a remarkable period of urbanization of the planet, as the percentage of the world’s population living in cities continues to grow, likely rising to 70 percent by 2050. However, it is not clear that we are creating cities and urban spaces that inspire, that invoke joy and wonder, and that nourish the soul. In many parts of the world, the cities being designed and built are antiseptic, detached and disconnected from the ecosystems in which they sit. Residents are profoundly disconnected from the nature that has sustained our bodies and spirit for millennia. This is the essential insight of the Biophilic Cities idea and movement: that we need nature, we need daily, hourly, frequent contact with the natural world. Nature is not an optional design element, but an essential ingredient in leading happy, healthy, and meaningful lives. Nature, moreover, should be understood as a destination, as a place to visit. It should be all around us, integrated into the spaces and places where we spend most of our time: our homes and offices, our urban neighborhoods.


St. Louis – A City That Helps People By Helping Butterflies

April 2017

The City of St. Louis aspired to become a partner city with the Biophilic Cities Network as an extension of a citywide effort to promote eco-literacy and advance urban vitality & ecologythroughout the city in ways that maximize social impact and economic benefits.  Under the leadership of former Mayor Francis G. Slay and Sustainability Director Catherine Werner, the City of St. Louis has made urban ecology a priority through expanded greenspaces, higher quality natural areas and opportunities to better connect people with urban natural resources.  At the heart of the city’s approach is the belief that people need nature, and nature needs people. The St. Louis model seeks to cultivate mutually beneficial outcomes for people and nature, both.  Within the last few years, the city has instituted a broad commitment to biophilic urbanism as a component of its overarching Sustainability Plan.  This has included the adoption of a series of innovative programs that assert a triple bottom line in approach; balancing social, economic and environmental considerations.



Continuing a Legacy of Conserving and Connecting Ecological Landscapes, Edmonton Joins the Biophilic Cities Network

July 2016

Summer 2016 is proving to be a fruitful time for Edmonton and its continuing dedication to embracing its urban ecological landscapes. Beginning with Environment Week Edmonton, the summer has seen the kickoff of Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy that looks to broaden where and how Edmonton residents and visitors experience nature and wildlife within the boundaries of the city.  Associated events include an open-space Twitter scavenger hunt where participants will scour the city in response to weekly questions.  This imaginative event coincides with the city’s implementation of a citizen survey on the future of Edmonton’s integrated open-spaces.


Your Next Prescription May Be a Park

By Stella Tarnay, Biophilic DC

March 2016

The next time you go to a doctor, your prescription may be to a local park. Responding to an epidemic of diabetes and obesity among his pediatric patients, Dr. Robert Zarr has been prescribing activity in parks at his Upper Cardozo Health Center in Washington DC for the past several years. Dr. Zarr is at the forefront of a movement among physicians who are making nature a fundamental in their patients’ health care. On April 24th, the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) joined him. Both agencies had recently initiated programs to support human health through outdoors activity, the USPH with a call to action for walkable communities, and NPS with the Healthy Parks Healthy People program. Their new cross-sector partnership was celebrated in Washington DC’s historic Meridian Hill Park with the first National ParkRX Day.



Valuing Dark Skies

May 2015

For at least half a century, astronomers have paid witness to the debilitating effects of artificial light on the night skies. In more recent years, growing science and our own innate understanding of a disconnection has led us to better understand that we are all suffering from a lack of dark skies. We not only suffer a human and spiritual disconnect without dark skies but there are also costs for our health and the environment. Cities and towns across the country have attempted for several years to adopt local laws to limit the adverse impacts of artificial light on the night sky.