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A Global Journal of Innovation in Urban Nature Vol. 2/No. 1 June 2018

FEATURE Elevating Nature: Milan’s Bosco Verticale / Reid Coffman FEATURE Blue Cities for Better Health / Jenny Roe RESEARCH PROFILE The City of Crows / Kaeli Swift PARTNER CITY PROJECT Austin’s Central Library / Kathy Zarsky PIONEER INTERVIEW The Ground Beneath Interview / Paul Bogard


he Biophilic Cities Journal is produced by Biophilic Cities, which partners with cities, scholars and advocates from across the globe with the aim of helping to build an understanding of the value and contribution of nature in cities to the lives of urban residents. As a central element of our work, the Biophilic Cities Network is a global collaboration of partner cities committed to working in concert to conserve and celebrate nature in all its forms and the many important ways in which cities and their inhabitants benefit from the biodiversity and wild urban spaces present in cities. Participation in the network acknowledges the importance of daily contact with nature as an element of a meaningful urban life, as well as the ethical responsibility that cities have to conserve global nature as shared habitat for non-human life and people. Many individuals and organizations are due thanks for helping produce the Journal. We owe special thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Summit Foundation for their generous and continuing financial support for Biophilic Cities. We also thank the University of Virginia School of Architecture for hosting and supporting Biophilic Cities in many ways. For more information on the Biophilic Cities, and to learn about ways to become involved in this global movement, please visit us at Director Tim Beatley Program Director JD Brown Journal Design Developer and Editor Mennen Middlebrooks Director of Partner Cities Carla Jones Director of Biophilic Research Julia Triman BIOPHILIC CITIES ADVISORY BOARD Julian Agyeman (Tufts University); Bill Browning (Terrapin Bright Green); Lena Chan (National Parks Board of Singapore); Richard Louv (Journalist, Author); Peter Newman (Curtin University); Wallace J. Nichols (Blue Mind Fund); Richard Piacentini (Phipps Conservancy and Botanical Gardens); Fritz Steiner (University of Pennsylvania School of Design); Amanda Sturgeon (International Living Future Institute); Catherine Werner (City of St. Louis); Jennifer R. Wolch (UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design); Celia Wade-Brown (Wellington City, New Zealand). BIOPHILIC CITIES STEERING COMMITTEE Julia Africa (Boston, Massachusetts); Amber Bill (New Zealand Ministry for the Environment); Peter Brastow (San Francisco Dept. of the Environment); Matt Burlin (Portland, Oregon, Bureau of Environmental Services); Rebeca Dios (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain); Scott Edmondson (San Francisco Planning Dept.); Nick Grayson (Birmingham, U.K.); Cecilia Herzog (Inverde Institute); David Maddox (The Nature of Cities); Luis Orive (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain); Erick Shambarger (City of Milwaukee); Jana Soderlund (Curtin University); Stella Tarnay (Biophilic DC); Helena van Vliet (BioPhilly).


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March for Our Lives Protest; Charlottesville students in Washington D.C. Photo Credit: Tim Beatley

Marching for Our Lives and for Nature By Tim Beatley My high school daughter recently boarded a bus very early in the morning, carrying her to the Marching for Our Lives protest in Washington, DC, where she spent the day. She worked the night before on a sign that carried a Nelson Mandela quote. Seeing her and half a million young people (likely more) descend on Washington was a moment of optimism in an otherwise dismal spring. The unfathomable level of gun violence seen in the Parkland, Florida shootings and the tumult of too many similar events in recent history tests our collective sense that change is possible. Deep 6

sadness has been followed by hope and inspiration as we see the leadership of high school students, who have become voices of reason and beacons of hope. I’m not sure why we are surprised by this. They are clearly angry about the direction the world is taking. I know from my own high school-age daughter the trauma and fear that attending school today entails, complete with actual lockdowns and numerous drills to prepare for the kinds of unthinkable things that happened in Parkland. How does the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas

High School connect with or relate to biophilia, and to biophilic cities? There are many connections, I believe. It starts for me with the school’s namesake, someone who for many of us was an admired champion of conservation, author of the classic 1947 book River of Grass, and tireless advocate for the Everglades. Others have made similar connections. The Washington Post ran a story on Stoneman Douglas’s life, noting her activism on behalf of the Everglades: “She believed that the circumstances demanded her participation.” She would

very much approve of the work these young people are doing.

visit and celebrate the nature all around us in cities.

As the Parkland students have been quick to note, many of the ideas offered for hardening schools (more bullet proof glass, arming teachers), won’t do anything to protect them (and us) beyond schools. Visiting a local park, hiking a community forest, tending a garden plot, watching shorebirds at the beach, are just a few of the many natureful experiences that require us to be in the public realm; indeed nature is the ultimate public space. Tackling guns and gun violence make sense to ensure that we may continue to actively enjoy and

We need these nature spaces to heal, to celebrate, to come together. We need to be near trees and shorelines and walking on urban trails -- we need natureful spaces in which to grieve, to contemplate, and sometimes to argue. Nature is an essential backdrop to our lives and when these places are not safe they lose those functions for us. This is one reason why the Parkland kids have it right: we can fortify schools, but that misses the larger point. In the face of such unthinkable events as Parkland, I find that

nature is often what often gives me the strongest sense of solace and hope. Nature is a balm in the face of anger and hatred, and increasingly the evidence suggests that in the presence of nature we are more likely to be generous, to be cooperative, to be more concerned about the long term, in short to be better human beings. This is at least a partial antidote to Parkland. About a year ago, I had the chance to film a segment of a new documentary film about connecting oceans and cities (called “Ocean Cities”) at the

Seagrass Adventure at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center. Photo Credit: Tim Beatley

Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, which shares its namesake with the Parkland school. We spent several hours filming something they called the “Seagrass Adventure”, where groups of 4th-graders from area schools waded into the Atlantic ocean to

see what marine life they could find. They divided that day into groups of around eight, each accompanied by a naturalist. Each pair of students was given a net and encouraged to scoop the sandy sea bottom to see what they could find.

The scene was magical as kids discovered many things and brought them to the surface to a chorus of collective surprise. There were filefish and sea worms and Queen Conks. My favorite discovery that day was a puffer fish: it looked to us like an over-inflated tennis ball, BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 7

but when deposited into the floating receptacle it returned to the shape of fish, a wondrous transformation. This was a visit these kids would not forget, and we captured a bit of this magic on film. I believe there are clear connections between violence of all kinds towards other humans, and violence towards nature and the natural world. It is a fair question to ask whether we ever hope to truly care for the other organisms and the larger ecosystems we admittedly depend on if we are not able to prevent events like Parkland. Erich Fromm’s original notion of Biophilia, and the way in which he defined the concept, was about the contrast between those choosing goodness, life, and hope, as contrasted with those who support the opposite. Fromm was trying to make sense of the horrors of war in the aftermath of WWII. Wars have continued of course, and the war on nature is as relentless as ever. But in the concept of biophilia perhaps lies the kernel of a different approach. Nature can help to foster the best in us all, the common humanity, and the care, respect and, dare I say, love, we must show for each other and and the larger biological community of life with which we share this planet. Much of the nature found in cities is harbored in private spaces, of course; often these are places we don’t see and can’t access -- backyards, balcony feeders, rooftop gardens - -and they are 8

important places of solace and respite. But much of the nature we want to spend time in and celebrate is in the public realm, that is part of the point of it. We want to be in nature, enjoy seeing and hearing birds, for instance, or walking in a park, not separated from people but amongst others. And there are special times in our lives when we need and must come together in public spaces to act together, and these are often urban parks.

Statue of Marjory Stoneman Douglas at Fairchild Tropical Botanic, Miami. Photo Credit: Lisa Jacobs

Here then we have a problem. If we fear for our lives in public spaces, how can we enjoy parks and city forests, how can we wander and stroll the streets of our neighborhoods, how can we paddle our harbors or rivers? To be outside requires not only a shared sense of community and personal safety, but confidence in the reasonable laws and regulations that create this safe context for us to come together. There is no place for military weaponry here, certainly no place for guns of any kind in places where we come together to debate, disagree, share, and protest. In this way, the nature and the natural spaces of communities are at the heart of what makes

democracy work. I have also been thinking a lot about the role of protest, something critical in the fight to protect nature. A city (or culture) must avoid making earnest and heartfelt protest difficult or dangerous. As with the Washington march, and countless others, it is an essential element of a free society. And it is an essential avenue for expressing our collective values about the natural world; it is a part of the collective conscience that steers us to a better, gentler path; one that recognizes the need for nature in our lives and in our communities. I spent much of June and July (2017) in Perth, Western Australia learning about and filming the story of how a community came together to oppose a highway expansion project (known as Roe 8) that was threatening to destroy a remarkable ancient banksia woodland and wetland. Thousands actively campaigned in a variety of ways, occupying trees, marching, showing up ahead of land clearance crews, standing up for wildlife and nature. There are many lessons to learn here, including: how to creatively protest -- with humor, music, poetry. One protester dressed up in a Black Cockatoo costume and confronted the Premier at a shopping mall. The road was stopped ultimately, but not before about half the land was cleared. I saw the sad aftermath of this campaign: 500-year old


trees felled and lying on the ground, and a landscape that had been brutally scraped and bulldozed. The violence of this land clearance was not lost on those who witnessed it, including traumatized children. Bandicoots and other small mammals and birds were seen fleeing, and witnesses (including children) were understandably shaken and emotional at what they were witnessing. My filmmaking colleagues (Peter Newman and Linda Blagg) and I spent one afternoon filming Kate Kelly, one of the main organizers of the opposition to the road, founder of the group Save Beeliar Wetlands. She took us into one

of the remarkable remnants saved from the bulldozers. She talked compellingly of the way that forests like that one soften us, open us to feelings and connections; it is her church, she tells us. Another day, we filmed Noongar elder Noel Nannup, who spoke of the sacred role these lands have played in the lives and culture of his people. These lands contain storylines and are places that the Noongar return to throughout their lives. It was a privilege to help to collect these voices and to tell this hopeful story of how biophilia was channeled into a potent political force. Later in 2017, I had an

Kate Kelly, Founder of Save Beeliar Wetlands Photo Credit: Tim Beatley

experience that further reminded me of the essential value of protest, and the role of nature in reminding us of the sanctity of life. Speaking at the annual Land and Water Symposium at Kent State University, I visited the memorial there to the victims of the National Guard shooting there in May 1970. Four students were killed and nine others wounded when guardsmen opened fire. It was a horrific and defining moment as the nation grappled with an unpopular war. These college kids, not much older than those from Parkland, similarly saw the need to stand up against something they saw as senseless, in this case the carnage of the Vietnam War.

Cleared Wetlands in Perth, Austrialia Photo Credit: Tim Beatley BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 9


*** Endangered Numbat Mural Photo Credit: Tim Beatley

It is worth remembering that nature, in the form of a flower (“flower power”) became the symbol of the peace movement of the 1960s and 1970s. I remember the imagery of the anti-Vietnam protester facing a wall of soldiers, bravely placing flowers in the barrels of their M1 rifles. Fast forward a few decades to the work of Rutgers environmental psychologist Jeannette Haviland-Jones who showed through her creative work how humans presented with flowers respond with a true smile -- the so-called Duchenne Smile -- demonstrating biophilia and the deep and innate ways that nature can reach us. In the spirit of embracing this remarkable power of nature, our Biophilic Cities Network continues to grow and blossom. Most gratefully, we have received a two-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to grow the network, deepen the connections among its partner cities and build new 10

alliances with other networks and organizations. New Cities joining include: Curridabat, Costa Rica; Reston, Virginia; and Fremantle, in Western Australia. Conversations with prospective partner cities have been extensive and numerous: from Toronto to Richmond to Dubai. Reston and Fremantle are two examples of the biophilic power of smaller cities. Reston, a famous new town, was conceived from its beginning as a city in a park. Its biophilic stats are impressive: some fifty-five miles of trails, a tree canopy coverage of fifty-three percent, and a high percentage of residents participating in some form of citizen science from dragonfly counts to stream monitoring. Fremantle, a bit smaller still, is the region’s historic port city, with strong environmental bona fides, and a strong connection to water. It has recently adopted a new

Urban Forest Plan, has piloted installation of vertical green walls in the city, and is one of the most impressive walking cities anywhere. Public art, such as the endangered numbat shown above (the state’s official mammal), is a priority, and the city has adopted a unique onepercent-for-art public art policy that applies to private as well as public projects. We continue to explore new relationships and new partnerships with a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Green Building Council, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, and the Half Earth Project, among others. We are collaborating in several major upcoming conferences where Biophilic Cities will be a major theme, including the International Federation of Landscape Architects World Congress in Singapore in July 2018 and the Activating Biophilic Cities Conference in London in September 2018. We recognize that growing our global network

and achieving the vision of Biophilic Cities will require the work and efforts of many people and many different disciplines and voices. Our monthly partner city calls have become a highlight for sharing, inspiring, and growing the global movement, and we continue to work on ways to facilitate interaction between and among cities. This includes regional meetings and exploring new web based tools for connecting and collaborating. This past April we had a very successful second Biophilic Leadership Summit, co-hosted by the Biophilic Institute and the community of Serenbe, near Atlanta. Leaders from the biophilic design field converged there for three days to hear about and discuss inspiring projects, ideas, and future directions. Social equity and inclusivity were key themes this year as we learned of remarkable efforts of the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture and the Greening Youth Foundation to tap the power of nature in underserved communities in Atlanta. We also had the remarkable opportunity to spend several hours interviewing and filming students and teachers at the Chattahoochee Hills Charter School. This K-8 grade school is unusual in many respects. It is designed as a series of smaller classroom buildings embedded in a forest, where the kids spend a large part of their day outside. They tend food gardens, go on hikes, and use the nature around them as a laboratory and extended learning environment.

There are pigs and chickens, and the sounds of birdsong all around. I came away convinced of the promise of these students -- they are learning how we are all connected, how we are and must be part of the environment, and how we ought to be compassionate about the other forms of life with which we share the world. They, like the Parkland students, are not likely to just stand by but are learning to stand up for nature (and for themselves). I have been heartened to see the now more common references to Biophilic Cities in the press and in social media. Our partner cities, moreover, increasingly represent points of reference. One small example can be seen in the recent controversy over the cutting down of street trees in the UK city of Sheffield. As a result of a flawed and unpopular contract with a management company, thousands of beloved street trees have been cut down, to the surprise and sadness of many residents. A protest has been mounted, coordinated through an umbrella group called STAG -- Sheffield Tree Action Groups. The protests, around single trees, have been personal and courageous. In the case of one tree threatened with felling, the Vernon Oak, residents mustered with “songs, poems and speeches and a good crowd of 120 people.” What has been unfolding in Sheffield seems inconsistent with the ideals of a Biophilic City and some observers have noticed. As one recently tweeted: “What happened Sheffield? You were once a leading biophilic city. Not anymore it seems.”

Resources: Biophilic Leadership Summit. http:// Chattahoochee Hills Charter School. City of Fremantle. Public Art. https:// City of Fremantle. Urban Forest Plan. council/key-council-strategies/urbanforest-plan. Greening Youth Foundation. https:// Jessica Contrera (March 22, 2018). “At March for Our Lives, you’ll see her name again. But who was Marjory Stoneman Douglas” The Washington Post. https://www. at-march-for-our-lives-youll-see-hername-again-but-who-was-marjorystoneman-douglas/2018/03/22/ e85dc728-2d49-11e88688-e053ba58f1e4_story. html?noredirect=on&utm_term=. b78bc348b5da. Never Again: a story about a highway and remnant bushland [video]. watch?v=0uiVUiAqUzU. Save Beeliar Wetlands. Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG). The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center. http://www. Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture. https://www. University of Virginia, School of Architecture (Jan. 23, 2018). UVA’s Biophilic Cities Receives Grant to Expand Its Reach and Impact. https://www.arch. Vernon’s Week (Oct. 22, 2017). treebound: a sheffield’s community’s love for its trees. https://treeboundblog. BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 11



The Vertical Forest Photo Credit: Stefano Boeri Architetti


ELEVATING NATURE: MILAN’S BOSCO VERTICALE By Reid Coffman, MLA, PhD Finding nature in a high-rise

apartment seems quixotic, but it may be just the biophilic injection dense cities need. After centuries of practice distinguishing the urbane from wilderness, a pair of residential high rises in Milan, Italy has flipped the paradigm by proposing a new social ecology within its building façade, and is providing an option for ultraurban access to nature. Bosco Verticale, designed by architect Stefano Boeri, opened in 2014 to provide residents with an alternative to suburban 12

single-family neighborhoods. Boeri envisioned public exchange with neighbors occurring through a terrace-scape on the building’s exterior façade. In this space, residents would have views of nature, direct access to vegetation, and the opportunity for neighborly exchange about the pleasantries of gardening, plants, and wildlife. Relying on a compact intimacy of the gardening tradition, Bosco Verticale expands Milan’s cultural habits of terrace gardening into a community level asset that occurs as a forest on a building within the city.

The eighteen- and twentysix-story tree-covered towers emerge from the historic stone and brick city as an aberration to the sculptured glass buildings flourishing today in Milan’s Porta Nuova district. Taking a closer look at the neighborhood, it is easy to see how Bosco’s 800 trees, 4,500 shrubs and 15,000 plants are an unfolding evolutionary adaptation of the local balcony gardening tradition.

New opportunity comes from how the terraces connect trees and people. By looking at the façade from the city, the overall terrace layout breaks regimented uniformity common in high-rise balconies to create a seemingly random visual condition. This design offers spaces that accommodate tree canopies while echoing the mysteries of larger systems that are at play. The selection and arrangement of trees and vegetation creates neither landscape nor garden. It is a novel environment, a sort of phyto-scape or terrace-scape, if you will. More than simple balcony gardening, the setting provides an exposure to plants and wildlife inside and outside the building while delivering a shared set of ecological benefits including: beauty; mystery; light filtration; and air and temperature regulation. It is rare to have an intimate experience with plants in a high-rise building, let alone one that is so exposed to the public. Through the windows, residents are continuously oriented at

varying distances from trees and plants creating a feeling of being cloaked in nature. Yet, in the background, the city is alive with activity, creating an extremely uncommon association of nature in its context. For example, residents can sit at the kitchen table within a few inches of glossy green foliage and beautiful warm colored branches while, through the canopy, they can enjoy the view to the city streets filled with motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. This comforting prospect is enriched with the realization that the vegetation being enjoyed is not one’s own, but a neighbor’s. The plants enjoyed through the windows are part of a much larger interdependent social experience. The tree canopies visible through windows are actually growing from a downstairs neighbor’s terrace and the tree planted on one’s terrace is enjoyed primarily by the upstairs neighbors. This overlapping creates a one-ofa-kind social ecological setting that exceeds anything found in the single-family home suburban garden.

The experience is magnified when standing outside on the terrace. Every terrace is more than an extension of private real estate. Stepping outside, one notices very few terraces align on the same floor creating a nice sense of privacy. Instead, diagonal views downward and upward offer views that prioritize the vegetation while composing a casual environment of chance encounter common in the city. These staggered, off-set terraces are where the neighborly discussions of plants, weather, and local community can begin. The engineering systems that provide support, water, and nutrients to the trees and plants are equally unique. Structural planters contain light-weight designer growing media, irrigation tubing, and drainage pipes that service the plant roots while wires stabilize tree trunks to withstand extreme winds. All the plant material is maintained and stewarded by a team of professionals that is governed by a residential board making the entire façade a public space organized and operated by the community.

View from the 20th floor & View through neighbors’ trees Photo Credit: Reid Coffman BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 13

LEFT & ABOVE: Bat Cloud

The neighborhood context Photo Credit: Stefano Boeri Architetti

The settings at Bosco Verticale begin to defy current categorization. Using the term “garden” to describe these places is inaccurate, because gardens have traditional practices, orders, and narratives that fail to properly translate in these new settings. Bosco Verticale places humans in contact with nature, and subsequently other people, in a novel way to reveal the innovative potential of biophilic architecture. Other speculative projects offer similarly compellingly experiences that require translation and definition. At the building scale, Torre Rosewood by Ateliers Jean Nouvel (São Paulo, Brazil), Solaris at Fusionopolis by T.R. Hamzah & Ken Yeang (Singapore), and the M6B2 Tower of Biodiversity by Eduardo Francois (Paris, France) each aggressively address social and vegetative dynamics in the exterior façade and are far from being categorized as gardens. Meanwhile, at district scale, New Government City by Balmori Associates (Sejong, South Korea) is 14

exploring how living architecture engages urban culture and politics and, if expressed beyond convention, could offer a larger language of urban nature. In creating innovative ways to engage nature, we must develop new verbal expressions and terminology to help explain the value and benefits of such experiences. It turns out that growing a vertical forest on a building façade is a visionary, workable, and realistic form of biophilic architecture that can be a refreshing way of accessing nature in the densifying city.

Reid Coffman is the Editor of the Journal of Living Architecture and an Associate Professor at Kent State University. Resources / Projects: Journal of Living Architecture. Research. https:// research. M6B2 Tower of Biodiversity. Eduardo Francois. http://www. towers/details/article/58/m6b2-tourde-la-biodiversite/#.WplTKejwaUk. New Government City. Balmori Associates. portfolio/new-government-city. The Vertical Forest. Stefano Boeri Architetti. https://www. portfolios/vertical-forest. Torre Rosewood. Ateliers Jean Nouvel. en/projects/torre-rosewood.

Photo Credit: Stefano Boeri Architetti

T. R. Hamzah & Ken Yeang (April 2014). Solaris at Fusionopolis. http://www.

Looking up from the public park Photo Credit: Elijah Less

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Milan’s Bosco Verticale Photo Credit: Stefano Boeri Architetti

Plant Selection and Performance in a Vertical City By Julia Kane Africa Dense urban centers struggle to satisfy residential demand for privacy and contact with nature. Milan’s Bosco Verticale is a striking example of the trend towards distributing green space vertically, joining similar projects worldwide in a race to improve environmental health, residential well-being, and biodiversity. While this building is an exemplary project and has inspired many, it also offers opportunities to examine how elevation changes the ecological performance of the facade. Generally speaking, increases in building height expose plants to increased wind speed and decreased temperature. Given that we seek to replicate nature in the sky, we might do well to consider the example of a mountain. In the foothills, one expects broadleaf deciduous 16

trees and long-stemmed wildflowers whereas conifers, woody shrubs and low, hardy plants dominate the chilly peaks. Following the principle that “nature knows best,” we see that leaf characteristics evolved to protect plants from the elements while enabling vital metabolic functions of photosynthesis and gas respiration. Accordingly, the plant specifications in our “Vertical Forests” may vary from the ground floor to the penthouse. Milan has historically struggled with poor air quality stemming from both pollution and airborne dust particles. The increase in leaf surface area on the façade of the Bosco Verticale will doubtless improve occupants’ perception of important sensible air quality parameters like temperature and freshness; in addition to

CO2 absorption, it may also provide objective improvement in air quality through removal of contaminants. How does plant filtration of airborne particles work, and how might that process change with elevation in an urban context? Popular anxiety regarding air quality is increasing; terms like particulate matter (PM) 10 (larger particles like dust or pet dander) and PM 2.5 (smaller byproducts of combustion) are common in popular media. Smaller size particles are considered more hazardous because they have the capacity to penetrate the lungs more deeply. The external surface of the particle determines synergies with other allergens and irritants. The absolute amount and allergenicity of ambient pollen is expected to increase as temperature increases and growing seasons lengthen

globally; particulate matter bound to pollen will continue to elevate the incidence of asthma, respiratory and cardiovascular disease. With this knowledge in hand, the performance of design interventions that improve air quality takes on renewed importance for population health. Environmental characteristics like wind, temperature, and precipitation interact with the surfaces of leaves to mediate the fate of particulates. Leaf size, thickness, surface roughness, and distribution of stomata (the pores through which gas exchange takes place) have evolved strategically to protect plants from water loss, wind shear, and predators. Stomata serve to control the gas exchange process for the plant; the goal, at a very simple level, is to accept gaseous CO2 for energy production without losing much water vapor in the process. As a general matter, most particles are too big to be absorbed by the stomata. The physical structure of a leaf (rough, hairy, waxy, smooth) combined with the micron-thin boundary layer determines whether particles stick to the leaf surface or are sloughed off. While it is true that a leaf may remove dust and particulates from the air (think of the film you can wipe off your long-suffering houseplants), it cannot do so under all conditions. High winds disrupt the boundary layer, stripping the plant of the electrostatic and moisture properties that encourage particle deposition and retention. Waxy, water repellant leaf surfaces also shed particles easily. Choosing plants that will thrive in their built environment

Diagram: Plants of the Chicago Region Credit: Indiana Academy of Science,

habitat – and, in the process, reliably improve our habitat – is both a science and art. While it is true that the addition of plants to our facades improves building performance through cooling and physical barriers to airborne contaminants, their most important contribution may also be their most ephemeral. The perception of cool, clean air or shelter conferred by a balcony that resembles a sylvan grotto is less trendy amenity than critical habitat to support health and wellbeing. And yet while we recognize how extraordinary these spaces are, we must remain sanguine about our expectations of the plants we have chosen to sheath our buildings.

Phytofiltration of airborne contaminants is still a relatively new field with footings in botany, forestry science, meteorology, physics and environmental health; in order to fulfill the promise of green facades, we must continue to rigorously evaluate our designs to ensure optimal performance.

Julia Kane Africa is a Biophilic Design and Wellness consultant and researcher formerly with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.




Photo Credit: Jan Woudstra, University of Sheffield

Blue Cities for Better Health By Jenny Roe “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever” - Jacques Yves Cousteau These words, penned by the French conservationist Jacques Cousteau, articulate what we all intuitively feel about moving water – be it the sea, a river, or a downtown fountain – and the unique magic and wonder it harbors. Recall when you were a child: running through fountains, the irresistible urge to dip your feet in a pool, or the thrill of diving into the ocean. This inherent fascination and curiosity in water, in turn, triggers a host of well-being benefits, including a change in our mindbody interactions. Taking a walk along a downtown riverfront, 18

for example, can improve how we manage stress. Even viewing images of the sea in a virtual reality environment can reduce the pain we experience at the dentist. In this article, I address why water settings have this positive effect on us, citing research from around the world. I argue that access to water in our cities is not just a “necessity of life” for basic human survival, for example, providing safe drinking water and sanitation, but is integral to sustaining our psychological well-being.

A Blue Model of Health The notion that a dose of nature is good for our health is not new or novel. There is now a wealth of evidence to show that access to nature in our cities provides multiple benefits, from improving life longevity to alleviating depression. The World Health Organization’s 2016 review of the evidence currently offers the most rigorous overview of the benefits of urban green space to physical, mental and social well-being. Collectively this is referred to as “green health.” In recent years, researchers have

begun pursuing the evidence in relation to “blue health” – the positive health benefits of access to our coasts, rivers and canals – led by several European research groups. By “blue,” I mean any environment that fosters interactions with water: from walking along a canal towpath, interacting with the sparkle and flow of a city water fountain, or even through virtual reality in a hospital or care home. The evidence for blue health has recently been brought together in a systematic review by Gascon et al. (2017) with limited evidence showing the benefits of blue environments to physical health and psychological well-being. I’ll take a look at this evidence below, but first I explore the theory behind blue health. What Triggers Blue Health? There are four main pathways through which it is believed that nature contact (including blue environments) supports health (Hartig et al. (2014)). Two of these pathways are direct, meaning nature has a direct impact on our health without us consciously being aware of it. In the case of blue environments, one direct pathway is temperature

regulation, for example, water bodies help mitigate urban heat island effects. A second direct pathway is stress regulation with evidence to show that contact with nature slows down our stress response and induces calm. The other two pathways in the model are physical activity and social contact. These pathways indicate that we are more active in environments where there is access to water and more likely to meet people in these environments, either incidentally or for organized activities. In these two scenarios, there is purposeful, direct interaction with the blue environment: we consciously choose to engage with the setting. Another complementary, but distinctive theory, posits that our response to the blue environment is primarily a cognitive one, and that the soft stimuli of water – the patterns and light falling on it as it flows – promote our involuntary attention and recovery from cognitive fatigue. Called Attention Restoration Theory (ART) (Kaplan and Kaplan (1989)), it argues that “fascination” in the natural environment - in

this context, the curiosity and wonder that water sparks – is a critical environmental cue in the process of psychological restoration. The Health Benefits of Blue Space Blue Space Makes Us More Physically Active We are more likely to be physically active if we live near inland water or the coast. Blue features – such as fountains – simply make walking about a city a happier and more enjoyable experience. Sheffield, in the UK, is one city where urban designers and engineers have worked to integrate blue features into the urban fabric. The water theme is announced at the city’s major arrival point, the train station, that has a linear water feature screening the sound of the adjacent traffic, making the arrival experience welcoming and memorable. There are a handful of studies showing that living near inland water increases one’s likelihood


Water, water everywhere … in Sheffield, UK . Photo Credit: Jenny Roe ***


*** Photo Credit: Jan Woudstra, University of Sheffield

to walk or run (see Gascon et al. (2017) for a full review). The most powerful evidence, however, comes from research in coastal settings. Studies from the UK (Wood et al. (2016)) and New Zealand (Witten et al. (2008)) have found a link between living near the coast and a lower Body Mass Index in children, and adolescents and adults. Several studies from Croatia have observed reduced hypertension among adult coronary heart disease patients in hospitals located in coastal areas (Bergovec et al. (2008)) as well as a higher prevalence of cardiovascular health problems among those living inland compared to those living near coasts, particularly in women (Kern et al. (2009)). While the evidence is very limited currently, it does suggest that access to water improves the chances of being physically active, and potentially reduces the risk of obesity and associated chronic health problems, such as diabetes. Blue Space Improves Psychological Well-Being Access to blue space can reduce our stress levels and improve our psychological well-being. Our study carried out in West Palm Beach, Florida, has shown how a short walk along a downtown 20

waterfront can improve perceived and physiological stress as measured by heart rate variability and self-reports. Furthermore, a tactical urban intervention along the waterfront significantly improved selfreported well-being, by directly engaging participants with the blue environment (via historical imagery of the sea) and improving the waterfront’s comfort level by offering shade and seating. In this unique experiment, we showed how encouraging fascination in the blue environment can further enhance its effect on visitors’ well-being. Further evidence is provided by a handful of studies showing the effects – mostly of coastal settings – on psychological well-being (see again Gascon et al. (2017) for a review). Individuals report being happier in marine and coastal areas, as well as freshwater, wetlands and floodplains, compared with urban or rural settings (MacKerron and Mourato (2013)) (UK). Living nearer coastal areas has been shown to bring multiple benefits: better mental well-being (Alcock et al. (2015)) (UK); improved life satisfaction (Brereton et al. (2008)) (Ireland); and reduced psychological distress in adults and adolescents, simply from increased views of

blue space (ocean and freshwater) (Nutsford et al. (2016)) (NZ). The benefits of blue space are sustained across the life course: for children (Amoly et al. (2014)) (Spain), adolescents (Huynh et al. (2013)) and seniors (Finlay et al. (2015)). Older adults, in particular, have distinctly therapeutic relationships with blue space, providing opportunities to connect with the past as well as assisting with independent living in the present (Coleman and Kerns (2014)). Blue Space Makes us More Sociable Only a handful of studies to date have found relationships between access to water and improved social well-being (for example, see Triguero-Mas et al. (2015)). Our study in West Palm Beach found significant positive change for social well-being indicators (including social trust and sense of belonging) from walking along a downtown waterfront designed with short-term seating, shade and interaction opportunities, compared to an exposed and empty section of the waterfront. Although the evidence is currently limited, access to canals and waterways arguably afford significant opportunities for social connections, including: impromptu activities, for example walking the dog; organized

activities such as canoeing or rowing; or purposely designed activities with environmental cues that trigger engagement.

Amoly, E., Dadvand, P., Forns, J., López-Vicente, M., Basagaña, X., Julvez, J., Alvarez- Pedrerol, M., Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J., Sunyer, J. (2014). Green and blue spaces and behavioral development in Barcelona schoolchildren: the BREATHE project. Environ. Health Perspect. 122: 1351–1358.

1: 11–17. pubmed/19563140.

Blue Environments for All

Bergovec, M., Reiner, Z., Milicić, D., Vrazić, H. (2008). Differences in risk factors for coronary heart disease in patients from continental and Mediterranean regions of Croatia. Wien. Klin. Wochenschr. 120: 684–692. https://www.ncbi.

Nutsford, D., Pearson, A.L., Kingham, S., Reitsma, F. (2016). Residential exposure to visible blue space (but not green space) associated with lower psychological distress in a capital city.Health Place 39: 70–78. pubmed/26974233.


Tanja-Dijkstra, K., et al. (2017). The Soothing Sea: A Virtual Coastal Walk Can Reduce Experienced and Recollected Pain. Environment and Behavior, 1-27. https://doi. org/10.1177/0013916517710077.

As yet, we don’t have a full understanding of the impact of blue environments on our health and well-being but what we do know – outlined above – suggests great potential for blue space as a health resource. The fountains and waterways in our cities are not only practical and aesthetically pleasing, but are a human necessity that sustains our health and well-being. If blue space is to be employed as a really useful health tool, it needs to offer a quality environment that is accessible and safe for all. As Sheffield demonstrates, managing urban water systems with an integrated and sustainable urban water planning system, makes for a joyful and health promoting place that leaves a long-lasting sense of wonder. Resources Alcock, I., White, M.P., Lovell, R., Higgins, S.L., Osborne, N.J., Husk, K., Wheeler, B.W. (2015). What accounts for England’s green and pleasant land? A panel data analysis of mental health and land cover types in rural England. Landsc. Urban Plan. 142: 38–46.

Brereton, F., Clinch, J.P., Ferreira, S. (2008). Happiness, geography and the environment. Ecol. Econ. 65: 386-396. ecolecon.2007.07.008. Coleman, T., & Kearns, R. (2014). The role of blue spaces in experiencing place, aging and well-being: insights from Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Health & Place. 35: 206-217. https://www.ncbi. Finlay, J., Franke, T., McKay, H., Sims-Gould, J. (2015). Therapeutic landscapes and well-being in later life: impacts of blue and green spaces for older adults. Health Place 34: 97–106. https:// Gascon, M., Zijlema, W., Vert, C., White, M.P., Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J. (2017). Outdoor blue spaces, human health and well-being: A systematic review of quantitative studies. Int J Hyg Envir Heal 4.

MacKerron, G., Mourato, S. (2013). Happiness is greater in natural environments. Glob. Environ. Chang. 23: 992–1000. gloenvcha.2013.03.010.

Triguero-Mas, M., Dadvand, P., Cirach, M., Martínez, D., Medina, A., Mompart, A., Basagaña, X., Gražulevičienė, R., Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J. (2015). Natural outdoor environments and mental and physical health: relationships and mechanisms. Environ. Int. 77: 35–4. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.envint.2015.01.012. University of Exeter Medical School. BlueHealth. Witten, K., Hiscock, R., Pearce, J., Blakely, T. (2008). Neighbourhood access to open spaces and the physical activity of residents: a national study. Prev. Med. 47: 299–303. https://www.ncbi.

Happy City, University of Virginia, Street Plans Collaborative and Space Syntax (2017). Happier by Design.

Wood, S.L., Demougin, P.R., Higgins, S., Husk, K., Wheeler, B.W., White, M. (2016). Exploring the relationship between childhood obesity and proximity to the coast: a rural/urban perspective. Health Place 40: 129–136. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2016.05.010.

Hartig, T., Mitchell, R., de Vries, S., Frumkin, H. (2014). Nature and health. Annu. Rev. Public Health 35: 207–228. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/pubmed/24387090.

World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (2016). Urban green spaces and health. pdf_file/0005/321971/Urban-green-spaces-andhealth-review-evidence.pdf?ua=1.

Huynh, Q., Craig, W., Janssen, I., Pickett, W. (2013). Exposure to public natural space as a protective factor for emotional well-being among young people in Canada. BMC Public Health 13: 407. Kaplan, R. and Kaplan, S. (1989). The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. Cambridge University Press. Kern, J., Polasek, O., Milanović, S.M., Dzakula, A., Fister, K., Strnad, M., Ivanković, D., Vuletić, S. (2009). Regional pattern of cardiovascular risk burden in Croatia. Coll. Antropol. 33 Suppl.

Jenny Roe is Director of the Center for Design + Health, in the School of Architecture, University of Virginia and is an environmental psychologist who explores restorative environments, natural or built.

“A river is more than an amenity.... It is a treasure. It offers a necessity of life that must be rationed among those who have power over it”. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. U.S. Supreme Court justice, New Jersey v. New York, May 4, 1931.

The delight and curiosity of interacting with water in Sheffield, a UK city with an integrated urban water plan. Photo Credit: Jenny Roe




The Chicago Wheat Prairie Project Design by Omni Ecosystems

A pastoral wheat prairie sits atop a historic three-story building in Chicago, bringing amber waves to the heart of the city. This project is the work of a team of architects and ecologists led by Omni Ecosystems and garnered a Green Roof and Wall Award of Excellence. The winter wheat is one of fifty different incorporated prairie plant species providing an ecosystem for a variety of wildlife (and humans). The initial wheat harvest resulted in sixty-six pounds of high quality, hyperlocal whole wheat pastry flour. Thank you to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities for highlighting this project. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities has been a leader in promoting the growth of living architecture for nearly twenty years. Please visit them to learn more about this and other innovative green roof and wall projects.


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Interior Main Lobby


Rooftop Wheat Prairie Photo Credits: Hannah Hoggatt Photography




Above: Crops grown along the river in Pixian Right: “Welcome to our Happy Farm!” Photo Credits: CURA

Medellín River Parks Photo Credit: Jorge Pérez Jara-

Anlong Village: Integrating Biophilic City and Countryside By Phoebe Tran and Rositsa T. Ilieva The biophilic city can hardly

be attained by keeping action in the city alone. Considering ecological networks, rather than administrative boundaries, as the domain of naturecentered policies and actions is imperative if cities are to advance human and environmental well-being in tandem. Rivers are arguably the urban systems that best exemplify the need for a “rooftop to region” approach to biophilic urban development. The ecological restoration of the Funan River in the City of Chengdu, China through 24

decentralized ecological interventions in the rural areas of the region, like the Anlong Village Project discussed below, effectively demonstrates the virtues of a multi-scale strategy for planning the biophilic city. What is more, it calls attention to the importance of peoplecentered biophilic interventions, empowering urban and rural communities, as a means to an inclusive and durable urban ecosystems governance. The impetus for the restoration of the Funan River, and the ensuing development of

the Anlong Village Project, emerged in 1992, when the City of Chengdu launched the Funan River Comprehensive Renovation Project to recover the city’s most important waterway from severe pollution. Over ten years, the government invested RMB 20 billion (USD 3.4 billion) in pollution management, flood control, housing and infrastructure programs, and the construction of a greenbelt along the river. Despite these extensive efforts, results proved unsatisfactory.

This was due to a considerable amount of chemical fertilizer run-off from rural areas upstream, causing sixty percent of the total pollution in the river. In 2003, to address the root cause of river pollution in the city, the City of Chengdu supported the establishment of the Chengdu Urban Rivers Association (CURA) – a nongovernmental organization funded by government sources, private corporations, foundations, embassies, and individuals to explore new approaches to river pollution through research projects and environmental protection activities. One of CURA’s most notable initiatives, the Anlong Sustainable Development Model Village Project, took place in Ande town, Pi county about 40 kilometers (24.8

miles) northwest of Chengdu along the Funan River. CURA took the approach of rebuilding the community’s ecological system and promoting mutually beneficial rural-urban linkages to ensure resiliency in the coevolution of the city’s urban and rural landscapes. The association aimed to construct a river protection belt along the Funan River bank by integrating pollution-free, closed circuit ecological resource systems in villages. Anlong Village served as the pilot project for this plan, demonstrating that the sustainable ecosystem model is replicable, scalable, and has significant potential for positive change. Over five years, CURA’s team carried out their comprehensive program to address the

economic, social, and environmental issues affecting Anlong Village. They addressed the issue of river contamination from households by installing a closed-loop system consisting of urine-diverting toilets (UDT) and phytoremediation systems, also known as constructed wetlands. With the UDTs, urine was used as fertilizer and feces were used for the 8-cubic meter bio-digesters, which were built by households and compensated with RMB 500 (USD 75) by CURA in order to curb deforestation and cut down on household use of wood for fuel. CURA also collaborated with Huang Shida, the bioengineer who designed the Huoshui Park’s Water Purification System, to create a micro-water purification system for Anlong.

Wetland construction in Anlong Photo Credit: Mark Takefman, CURA BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 25

A hydrophyte filter bed was used to connect a waste water pipe to a natural filtration system made of gravel and plants with extensive root systems to absorb and break down toxic substances in the waste water. The constructed wetlands were tested by the Director of the Chengdu Center for Disease Control & Prevention, Li Xiaohui, with funding from the National Geographic Air and Water Conservation Fund. After a year of testing, the wetlands were shown to successfully treat the water for use in farmers’ fields for irrigation or directly back into the river. Since the grey water from the water treatment system and biofertilizer from the biogas residue could be used for the village’s agricultural production, they were able to eliminate use of chemical inputs and therefore reduce river contamination. CURA was not only able to systematically introduce organic

Gao family’s constructed wetland in Pidu District 26

farming practices to villagers, but also to increase their income through a communitysupported agriculture (CSA) program that targeted the urban market for organic food. In 2006, twenty households of the 160 with UDTs, wetlands, and bio-digesters in Anlong Village took part in a trial to return to traditional agricultural production. These farmers made a commitment to eliminate the use of pesticides and fertilizers, only plant seasonally, and attract wildlife back into the farmland to reestablish a natural biologic chain. The project allowed villagers to adopt a more environmentallyconscious lifestyle and created opportunity for new initiatives such as the Field with Hope organic plantation, a monthly philanthropic event hosted by volunteers that invited

organic farmers and organic food consumers to interact in a shared space. To maintain information sharing within the environmental sphere, CURA also established the Farmer’s Forum, a regularly held meeting that connects villagers with urban resources such as organizations and practitioners as well as new technologies and ideas. In addition, the Green Consumption Alliance was founded to mobilize and connect a network of over 2,000 urban volunteers and organic consumers who are interested in farming in their spare time. The re-establishment of trust between urban consumers and rural residents has, in fact, effectively enabled villagers to sustain their production independently from CURA, grow a strong relationship with city dwellers, and, in the process, transition Chengdu to a more biophilic city-region.

Family farm at Anlong Village Photo Credit: CURA

While different components of CURA’s project are still carried on to this day, such as monthly tours to the village and use of the Environmental Center for teaching and events, many eco-installments were lost when the local government replaced several of the village’s households to build small, centralized hamlets. The number of farmers still growing organically has reduced to about eight due to a number of reasons tied to their inability to achieve economies of scale and organic certification. As Chengdu’s urban area encroaches upon Anlong Village with high-rise buildings, the local communities of Ande Town will need to harness the support of their urban network to preserve the ecosystem that they have worked so hard to restore and preserve. Phoebe Tran is a student in sustainable foodscapes from The New School, New York, NY. Rositsa T. Ilieva is Adjunct Faculty at The New School, New York, NY focused on urban food systems. Resources

A Closed Cycle Eco-Household of Anlong Model Village

Beatley, T. (2010) Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning. Washington, DC. Island Press. Hsu, A. (April 19, 2008). Working the Land the Natural Way. NPR. Retrieved from Moon, P. (July 11, 2010). A Fresh Start. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from fresh-start. Ten Anlong Village Web Stories with CURA. (2015, July 13). Retrieved from news/201507/658.html. Ye, Y., Legates, R., & Qin, B. (2013). Coordinated Urban-Rural Development Planning in China. Journal of the American Planning Association. 79(2), 125-137. Retrieved from https:// 3?scroll=top&needAccess=true.

Wetland construction in Anlong Photo Credit: Mark Takefman, CURA

Zhao, R. (2013). Solving the Problem of Urban River Pollution: Protect the River from the Headwater and Restore the Ecosystem. China NGO Case Study Series. Rutgers University. Retrieved from e68a55d589811d6b4cff6992b1b89f48073f.pdf.




London as the World’s First National Park City By Tim Beatley At Biophilic Cities, we are frequently suggesting the need to reimagine cities and urban life. We need a new narrative, a new story that blends the natural and the cultural. We believe that future cities should aspire to an immersive vision of nature and we often suggest the need to transition from designing parks in cities to a vision of a city as a park. The work of geographer and National Geographic Explorer Daniel Raven-Ellison is moving us close to such a vision, through what he calls a National Park City. For him, it flows from an epiphany that more than half the London metro area is comprised of parks and nature -- 53% to be more precise. It is a startling number and to be sure this represents a highly fragmented and fractured set of small spaces around the city, from road verges to backyards and some larger parks and landscapes such as Hampstead Heath (one of my favorite places). The 53% number is in some important ways a mental gamechanger. There is more land area in greater London undeveloped, and in some degree of natural state, than there is in the homes and offices that make up the built environment. 28

I spoke recently with Daniel about the genesis of this work. It grew for him out of the experience of visiting all fifteen of the UK’s national parks, and finding the lack of any urban connection curious: “I just wondered why it was that considering the fact that 10% of England, and 7% of the United Kingdom, is urban habitat, why that kind of habitat wasn’t reflected within the family of national parks.” Cities are also places of remarkable agency for residents, Daniel tells me: “I have incredible power to influence my street, my garden, my house, my local community.” In these ways, urban communities have significant power to shape future nature. By “flipping”, in a big way, our collective conception of what a “national park” is (think your backyard, or the town square) we begin to see these spaces with new eyes, new possibilities, new reverence as habitats that support significant biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Much of the work to date has been mustering support for the idea. Raven-Ellison believes that the best level to work at is the “ward”, essentially the smallest electoral unit in the British system. Already, some 238 wards have voted their

support for making London a National Park City, and he believes that they will reach a majority of wards voting in favor (only one has voted against so far). There is also an online petition and he has attracted the support of London Mayor Sadiq Khan. What the designation will ultimately mean in practice is unclear -- no new budgetary or planning powers would derive from it. The effects will be more mental and perceptual; a shift that will hopefully, in turn, convert to new personal commitments and public priorities. Raven-Ellison has been doing many things to raise awareness for this idea. He recently completed a “Big Walk Around London” covering 560 kilometers and crossing the Thames River some eleven times. You can see here the spiral route he took, speaking with people along the way. I followed his progress on Twitter and was amazed at his obvious stamina as he conducted many walking conversations with various citizens and officials along the way. Ravens-Ellison is busy building support in other ways too. One major initiative has been publishing a map of the

Big Walk Around London Created by: Charlie Peel Image Credit: Greater London National Park City

Greater London National Park City. It is beautiful, at once a practical guide to where to find nature, and a useful guide for residents to see how they might enjoy nearby nature (and how remarkably close it is). It is also a tool for grasping the larger concept and for seeding a new mental map of the city. Already, 6,000 copies have been distributed. There is also a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to plant wildflowers -- 9 million wildflowers actually, one for every resident of London. Daniel and I spoke of applying this idea to other cities. Washington, DC, another capital city (and home to the National Geographic Society), might be a logical next step. There are

natural synergies with the idea of DC as a National Park City, as DC is also a partner city in the Biophilic Cities Network. And in DC’s case there are already more than thirty different U.S. National Park System units within the city (Rock Creek Park and Anacostia Park to name just two) making the idea even more appropriate. We can only hope that the idea catches on. Daniel speaks of the first reactions that he gets when he introduces the idea of a National Park City: “On the whole people tend to think ‘this is crazy.’ But then you explain to them the idea and they think ‘okay, that’s pretty awesome, how can I get involved?”

Resources: City of London. Hampstead Heath. Pages/default.aspx. Daniel Raven-Ellison: Guerilla Geographer & Creative Explorer. https:// Greater London National Park City Initiative. http://www.nationalparkcity. london. National Geographic Society. Guerilla Geographer: Dr. Daniel Raven-Ellison. news/real-world-geography-daniel-raven-ellison. U.S. National Park Service. District of Columbia. dc/index.htm. BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 29



The Singapore Rail Corridor: Transforming a Former R

By See N Singapore is an island city-

state with a land area of about 720 sq. kilometers (just over 275 sq. miles) and a population of 5.5 million. While the country has earned its name as a “City in a Garden”, the need to set aside green community spaces for relief and recreation is increasingly important in the years ahead as the country continues to progress and develop. The Rail Corridor was part of the former Keretapi Tanah 30

Melayu (KTM) railway line that linked Singapore to Malaysia. It is twenty-four kilometers long (nearly fifteen miles), stretching across the entire island from Woodlands Town in the north to the old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in the south. Since the railway ceased operations in 2011, the Rail Corridor became an informal public space popular with nature lovers, trail runners and cyclists. To the people who use it, it is a delightful “green corridor” characterized by the unmanicured natural landscapes

throughout its length. Vestiges of railway history such as the black painted steel truss bridges and a small countrystyle railway station are retained and conserved as heritage structures. The Rail Corridor with its green biophilic experience and historical setting contrasts sharply with the rest of modern urban Singapore. The extraordinary length of the Rail Corridor and the diversified character of its surrounding neighbourhoods make it truly unique. An estimated one

Aerial view of Former Bukit Timah Railway Station node Photo Credit: MND

Railway Line into an Extraordinary Community Space

Nin Tan million people live within one kilometer of the Corridor. There are also many workplaces and community facilities nearby that include offices, retail areas, industrial and business parks, a hospital and more than fifty educational institutions ranging from primary schools to a polytechnic. Where the former KTM line physically divided communities, there is now the opportunity to transform the Rail Corridor into an inclusive and extraordinary community space that connects neighbourhoods and links communities.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop a Concept Master Plan for the Rail Corridor was awarded to a multidisciplinary team led by Nikken Sekkei in late 2015. The Concept Master Plan aims to achieve the following planning and design goals established by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) after extensive public engagement with various stakeholders, interest groups and the wider community: 1) Reinforce its unique identity as a “green corridor.�

2) Retain its sense of place and celebrate its railway heritage. 3) Re-establish a seamless connectivity along the entire twenty-four- kilometer route for pedestrian use and cycling. 4) Enhance its biodiversity and function as an ecological corridor through improved landscaping. 5) Create an inclusive, safe and inviting public space that encourages the spirit of exploration and discovery. BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 31

Artist Impression - Station Master Quarters re-purposed as Cafe Photo Credit: URA

6) Promote its use as a leisure corridor for sports, arts, education and various community activities. 7) Pilot community ownership and stewardship in accordance with local residents’ interests and needs. 8) Create opportunities for promotion of a healthy lifestyle. 9) Propose innovative and sensitive design solutions with possibilities for urban integration with the Corridor. The first phase of detailed design and implementation will commence in 2018 and will address a four-kilometer “signature stretch” of the Rail 32

Corridor. The rest of the Rail Corridor will be developed in stages with a basic trail in place for most parts of the Corridor by 2021. The Rail Corridor project won URA and the Nikken Sekkei Design Team the 2017 Landscape Institute (UK) Award for Urban Design and Master Planning, and the 2017 International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) Asia Pacific Region “Outstanding Award” for Analysis and Master Planning.

See Nin Tan is Senior Director of Physical Planning at Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Resources: Urban Redevelopment Authority. Singapore. Rail Corridor.

Rail Corridor Map Photo Credit: URA

Artist Impression - Forest Valley stretch of the Rail Corridor Photo Credit: URA BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 33



*** Bathing Crow Photo Credit (all): Kaeli Swift

THE CITY OF CROWS By Kaeli Swift It’s a river of red lights ahead of me as my bus sits on a Seattle freeway during rush hour. The seemingly endless merging traffic continues to choke our progress, and I settle further into my seat, resigned to my stifling crawl home. I press my face to the window to get a better look at the sky. High above our heads a different commute is taking place. In contrast to mine, this commute moves freely, even acrobatically, as evidenced by the dips, dives and flips of its participants. Rather than rubber and hard 34

surfaces, these commuters need no manufactured aids to get to their destination; their soft black feathers will carry them where they are going. I attempt to count them, but cannot keep pace with their progress from my vantage point. There are thousands of them at least. Their wings beating against the sky, calling out to one another with caws, rattles and squawks, as they make their way to their nightly place of rest. My body may be trapped among my human commuters, but my mind is in the sky with the crows, as it

generally is. As a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, my job over the last five years has been to think deeply about the funeral behaviors of American crows, but they are undoubtedly on my mind even when I am away from the office. In contrast to some of my colleagues who travel great distances to access remote field sites, I can see my subjects or reach my areas of study simply by looking out the window or walking out the door. With our

industrial lawns, fondness for trees, and our ability to produce profuse amounts of garbage, metropolitan areas like Seattle are magnets for crows, and they thrive among us. These are not animals that have adapted to living in the anthropocene, these are animals that have exploited it. In Seattle, there is probably no better illustration of this than the great river of crows that flows above our heads at dawn and dusk. Unlike my peers and I who are now heading towards our individual territories, these crows are just departing theirs. Soon they will join the many other thousands of commuters at their destination to form a black, cacophonous cloud before settling into the willow and alder trees to rest for the night in one of Seattle’s mass roosts. There is still much we don’t know about the functions of these communal roosts, but

we suspect they aid in predator aversion, warmth, and may provide social opportunities. As I scan the flock, I can’t help but wonder if my path has crossed with any of these birds before. Having interacted with hundreds of crows across Seattle in the course of my graduate work, it seems possible that at least one would show a sign of recognition. That such a feat is possible—a wild animal recognizing and remembering a person with whom it had a substantive experience—was the focus of my Principal Investigator, Dr. John Marzluff’s, work a decade ago (Marzluff et al. 2010). By wearing masks while trapping and banding individual crows, his team was able to test how the banded birds would later react to seeing the masked person again. They quickly discovered the answer was, “not warmly.” They were met with

a chorus of harsh alarm calls and threatening dive bombs. Perhaps more surprising was that this reaction was not limited to the birds they had captured. Indeed, the masked person found that their reputation was being passed to unmarked adult crows and even the offspring of the original subjects. It’s been over a decade since that study, and still the sight of that masked person stirs up a response. Although there’s been no published work, there’s no doubt that something similar can be said about people who feed them, but of course in that case their reaction is positive. How many people does each member of this flock know, I wonder? We still have no idea what the limits to their memories of us are, though we are beginning to understand all the contexts in which they might learn about us.

Zhang, Kang and Kang Fig. 4 Participants in restorative experience *** BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 35

People have known for a long time that corvids seem to recognize and respond to dead crows. Konrad Lorez described the behavior in 1949 in his seminal book, King Solomon’s Ring. But why they engage in this behavior—alarm calling and gathering around dead crows— remained mysterious until only recently. Through my work and the work of others looking at ravens and jays, we are starting to see what role danger learning and avoidance may play in motivating these funerals (Swift and Marzluff, 2015; Iglesias et al. 2012). In my study, we confronted wild crows with a person holding a dead crow, and found that they learned and remembered that face just as they had done in John’s original study. Furthermore, they remain wary of the location where the body was held for days following the event. This impact to their spatial use and evidence of novel predator learning suggests that dead crows are used, at least in part, as a way of assessing and avoiding danger. Whether this more utilitarian motivation is complimented with an emotive one remains unknown, but certainly crows possess the mental hardware for such emotionally intelligent lives. Looking around my bus, I wonder how many of my fellow passengers feel either in awe of or aghast at the mighty flock above our heads. Given their ubiquity and propensity for eating garbage, too many people write crows off, or simply hate them, without giving a second thought to depth of 36

the crows inside my head; the

character and brainpower that lies under those glossy feathers. Crows share a similar relative brain size to primates, elephants and dolphins, and rival primates with respect to complex thinking such as insight, mental time travel, and hints of consciousness. Couple that with their territoriality and fifteen-year lifespan, and the average city dweller has access to a profound opportunity to learn about one of the planet’s most intelligent creatures. Crows’ desire to extract food from us makes them willing participants in efforts to befriend the specific pair that shares your yard, a relationship that you can maintain for a decade or more. In that time, you can learn about their family life, witness instances of play and turmoil, or offer them challenges designed to test their cognition, or at the very least test their willingness to work for peanuts. There are few other wild animals for which the same can be said; especially for people living in some of our most densely populated urban areas. As darkness falls, the crows fade into the night and I can no longer make out their silhouettes. My attention turns to

ones from experiments past and future. There is so much left to understand about these birds, from decoding their dozens of unique vocalizations, to further exploring their funeral behaviors, and testing the limits of their mental abilities. For me, watching crows will never grow old. After all, what other animal can we say so closely watches us back?

Resources: Iglesias, T.L., McElreath, R., & Patricelli, G.L. (2012). Western scrub-jay funerals: cacophonous aggregations in response to dead conspecifics. Animal Behaviour, 84, 1103–1111. S0003347212003569. Marzluff JM., Walls J., Cornell HN., Withey JC., Craig DP. (2010) Lasting recognition of threatening people by wild American crows. Animal Behaviour 79: 699-707. https:// article/pii/S0003347209005806. Swift, KN., and Marzluff JM. (2015) Wild American crows gather around their dead to learn about danger. Animal Behaviour 109: 187-197. S0003347215003188.

Kaeli Swift is a doctoral candidate at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

For more on Kaeli Swift’s work please visit: Corvid Research.

Photo credits (except as otherwise indicated): Kaeli Swift Instagram: @swiftcrow

PhD Candidate, Kaeli Swift Photo Credit: Frank Miller JUNE 2018 | 37



Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System Review By Martha Morris The title Dirt is Good may sound simple enough, but research into microbiomes is shaking up old assumptions about health. Microbiomes, the unseen collections of microorganisms that live in, on, and around us, coexist in our homes and communities. Dirt is Good lays out a wide array of microbe-related questions from parents anxious to support their children’s development. Drs. Jack Gilbert and Rob Knight draw from well-rounded expertise as medical professionals, researchers, and parents themselves to present current hypotheses and new areas of research into how microbes may affect health, particularly for children. In the process they offer practical parenting strategies for navigating the mysteries of microbes, which in turn support planning strategies that infuse nature—of every size—into urban environments. Immediately at birth children begin their lifelong exposure to microorganisms. Their developing immune systems must learn to recognize both beneficial and potentially harmful microbes. Studies have shown correlations between indicators of immune function, like fewer allergies, and direct contact with domesticated animals and soil early in life. The “hygiene hypothesis” holds that overly sterile environments cannot stimulate the immune system, which ultimately leaves the body more vulnerable. 38

Early exposure to microbial diversity kick-starts immunity. Studies on the microbial landscape of the built environment suggest that urban homes, offices, and public spaces primarily contain dead skin bacteria shed by humans—not particularly threatening, but not so beneficial to building healthy microbiomes or immunity. Reducing excessive sterilization within buildings and adding indoor plants and animals may help bring some of the outdoors, with beneficial microbes, inside. Dirt Is Good, while focusing on individual parenting choices, offers good takeaways for biophilic city planning. People, especially young children, need opportunities to interact with an abundance and diversity of microorganisms to keep their immune systems active and strong. Time spent outside, in nature and particularly in agricultural settings, can deliver those microbes. It turns out that fostering good ‘germs’ may be another important, if often invisible, benefit from city green spaces, urban farms, living walls, and other biophilic strategies. We may not completely understand microbiomes yet, but scientific research is adding evidence that beneficial microbes around us promote health, and that, yes, dirt is good.




Blue Biophilic Cities by Tim Beatley

From publisher Palgrave Macmillan: There is a growing recognition of the contact we need with nature to be happy, healthy and to lead meaningful lives. We need that nature daily, if not hourly, and so it must be nearby to where we live and work. This is central to the concept of “biophilic cities� which is emerging as a global movement and guiding framework for city design and planning. Blue Biophilic Cities is about the promise of this movement and a kind of biophilic urbanism that is possible for cities perched on the edge of harbors and seas. In blue biophilic cities, much of the nearby nature is to be found in the marine realm. This book explores the efforts underway in a number of cities to foster new marine connections through a variety of innovative programs and initiatives. It also discusses a number of design ideas, from dynamic shoreline edges and floodable parks to living breakwaters, in order to emphasize the possibility of designing for resilience while also supporting marine biodiversity and strengthening biophilic connections to the marine world.

Beatley, T. (2018). Blue Biophilic Cities. London, UK. Palgrave Macmillan. https://www.palgrave. com/us/book/9783319679549.


Healthy Environments, Healing Spaces: Practices and Directions in Health, Planning, and Design. Edited by Tim Beatley, Carla Jones, and Reuben Rainey From The University of Virginia Press: This collection of essays by leading scholars and practitioners addresses a timely and essential question: How can we design, plan, and sustain built environments that will foster health and healing? With a salutogenic (health-promoting) focus, Healthy Environments, Healing Spaces addresses a range of contemporary issues, including health equity, biophilic cities, healthcare facility design, environmental health, aging in place, and food systems planning. Contributors: Ellen Bassett - Timothy Beatley - Emily Chmielewski - Jason Corburn - Tanya Denckla Cobb - Tye Farrow - Ann Forsyth Howard Frumkin - Judith H. Heerwagen - J. David Hoglund - Carla Jones - Andrew Mondschein Christina Mullen - Reuben Rainey - Samina Raja - Jennifer Whittaker

Beatley, T., Jones, C. and Rainey, R. (Eds.) (2018). Healthy Environments, Healing Spaces: Practices and Directions in Health, Planning, and Design. Charlottesville, VA. The University of Virginia Press. title/4988.




The Perth Cultural Centre Wetland

Perth Urban Wetland, Western Austrialia Photo Credits: Tim Beatley

By Tim Beatley

Completed in 2010, the Wetland at the Perth Cultural Centre demonstrates that it is possible to convert a standard sterile urban water feature (energyintensive, heavily chlorinated) into something that can support native flora and fauna in the heart of the downtown of the city. The redesign is the work of Josh Byrne and his firm. Byrne is well known as the presenter for the national television show “Gardening Australia” and is the author of The Green Gardener. Byrne speaks about and shows us the wetland in a recent documentary film: “The idea really was to provide an 42

opportunity for reintroducing the types of plants and animals that were once common through this part of Perth before it was drained and became the city.” From a biodiversity point of view, the wetland has been quite successful, with flora and fauna thriving on the site. A lot of care went into plant and faunal selection. There are Pygmy Perch chosen to control mosquitos. Plants are thriving here, with varieties chosen in part to ensure they don’t obscure views of an amphitheater stage. The wetland lies in the center of the

amphitheater, with the stage in the background, and helps to soften and draw people to these public spaces. The wetland itself sits on top of a museum storage facility. The project addresses several goals at once. There are now a variety of events that take place at the wetland, including concerts, and sometimes a light show is projected on the adjacent museum wall. The wetland adds an unusual dimension and Josh describes the setting of these performances as “quite magical.” The wetland also adds a

wonderful, cooling, biophilic element to the city’s downtown. There are stepping platforms that allow kids to walk into the wetland. The wetland also has an important stormwater management function, collecting and filtering stormwater from surrounding buildings before it makes its way into the Swan River. According to Byrne: “It’s a great example of where a bit of inner urban biophilia and civic space can go hand in hand.”

Resources: Biophilic Cities. Urban Wetland, Perth, Western Australia [video]. https:// Byrne, Josh (2006). The Green Gardener: Sustainable Gardening in Your Own Backyard. Viking.

Josh Byrne & Associates. Perth Cultural Centre. project/perth-cultural-centre-2. The Perth Cultural Centre. The Wetland. projects-and-places/perth-cultural-centre/organise-an-event/wetland.

The Wetland Photo Credits: Perth Cultural Centre

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Via Verde, New York Photo Credit: Tim Beatley

New Directions for Biophilic Design Research By Julia Triman Our partner cities in the Biophilic Cities Network are actively involved in fields promoting biophilic interventions in planning and design throughout the world, and are always seeking cutting edge research to support their work. We recently received an inquiry from a partner city representative asking for empirical research quantifying impacts of biophilic design on structures designed for people who reside in low income housing or homeless shelters, and government buildings that provide services to underserved populations. An excellent question, but one not easily answered in the current research milieu: much of the empirical work on the effects of biophilic design is in the realm 44

of impacts on employees in office settings (e.g. Gray and Birrell 2014; Browning 2015; An et al. 2016; Browning 2016; Yin et al. 2018) and healthcare settings (e.g. McGee 2015; Bazley 2016). A significant amount of research energy is directed towards the positive effects of nature and “green� features in disadvantaged communities. For example, Jenny Roe, contributing a feature for this issue of the journal, and her colleagues have done some incredible work to build evidence in support of green interventions for deprived urban neighborhoods focusing mainly on outdoor green space (see, for example, Roe et al. 2016 and Roe et al. 2017). However,

empirical research exploring biophilic design for buildings intended for under-served populations does not exist as of this writing. There is convincing evidence of the power of exposure to green space to, for example, reduce incidence of income-related health inequality (Mitchell and Popham 2008) among other things. Given this evidence, it seems a pressing concern to document the benefits of integrating biophilic elements into existing or new buildings designed to serve those most in need. Why is this a gap in the world of empirical research? A first concern might be the degree to which biophilic design, while in some ways an ancient practice and in others a relatively new

phenomenon, has been incorporated into buildings serving those with the least power and influence. With a few notable exceptions, such as Via Verde (a mixed-income apartment building featuring well over half of the units for low income tenants in the Bronx, New York), there simply are not many existing examples to study. How might this research be done? Are there ethical concerns or challenges for obtaining consent to conduct research with marginal populations? While it is certainly possible to extrapolate from research with other populations (those in office or healthcare settings, for example), firsthand empirical data supporting

biophilic design for buildings providing critical resources for underserved populations would be an extremely convincing factor in producing more and greater examples. What might influence the course of research towards this type of work, which would likely positively influence the day-to-day lives of people in great need of a biophilic boost? It is an open question, one that could be tackled in many possible ways. I hope that someone reading this piece will write me an indignant e-mail because this work is already being done somewhere (and I look forward to writing a follow-up if this is the case!), but barring that, please consider this a call to the research community at large to take up this issue.

Julia Triman is Director of Biophilic Research for Biophilic Cities and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Constructed Environment at the University of Virginia School of Architecture

Resources: An, Mihyang, Stephen M. Colarelli, Kimberly O’Brien, and Melanie E. Boyajian. 2016. “Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes.” PLoS ONE 11 (5): 1–17. https://doi. org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155614. Bazley, C., P. Vink, J. Montgomery, and A. Hedge. 2016. “Interior Effects on Comfort in Healthcare Waiting Areas.” Work 54 (4): 791–806. https:// Browning, Bill. 2015. “Healthier Workplaces, Happier Employees.” People & Strategy 38 (3): 14–17. ———. 2016. “Biophilia, Buildings, and Your Brain.” People & Strategy 39 (2): 8–11. Gray, Tonia, and Carol Birrell. 2014. “Are Biophilic-Designed Site Office Buildings Linked to Health Benefits and High Performing Occupants?” International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health 11 (12): 12204–22. https://doi. org/10.3390/ijerph111212204.

Johnathan Rose Companies. Via Verde. http://www.rosecompanies. com/projects/via-verde. McGee, Beth, and Anna MarshallBaker. 2015. “Loving Nature From the Inside Out: A Biophilia Matrix Identification Strategy for Designers.” HERD 8 (4): 115–30. https://doi. org/10.1177/1937586715578644. Mitchell, Richard, and Frank Popham. 2008. “Effect of Exposure to Natural Environment on Health Inequalities: An Observational Population Study.” The Lancet 372 (9650): 1655–60.

———. 2017. “Coping with Stress in Deprived Urban Neighborhoods: What Is the Role of Green Space According to Life Stage?” Frontiers in Psychology 8 (October): 1760. fpsyg.2017.01760. Yin, Jie, Shihao Zhu, Piers MacNaughton, Joseph G. Allen, and John D. Spengler. 2018. “Physiological and Cognitive Performance of Exposure to Biophilic Indoor Environment.” Building & Environment 132 (March): 255–62. buildenv.2018.01.006.

Roe, Jenny, Peter Aspinall, and Catharine Ward Thompson. 2016. “Understanding Relationships between Health, Ethnicity, Place and the Role of Urban Green Space in Deprived Urban Communities.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 13 (July): 681. https://doi. org/10.3390/ijerph13070681.




Austin’s Central Library Photo Credit: Nic Lehoux

AUSTIN’S CENTRAL LIBRARY IS AN EXPERIENCE IN ORCHESTRATED DELIGHT By Kathy Zarsky 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.” The building’s atrium captivates and signals an irresistible 46

invitation the moment you walk inside, and gravity is no match for the stairs that bait feet to Escher-like stairs in an upward, spiraling ascent. Whether arrival takes place on foot, bicycle or car, the library is a destination that connects visitors to nature inside and out in ways that are immediately sensed if not easily articulated. The building siting and design arouse delight and well-being through experiences of connection, activity, mindfulness, learning and curiosity.

Local to Global Benefits of Integrating Nature Paul Hawken, in his book Drawdown, outlines an extensive variety of technological and ecological solutions to the urgent predicament of climate change. Drawdown’s research emphasizes many of the same solutions recommended by Biophilic Cities, namely the protection and promotion of nature within cities. Austin’s Central Library includes five “drawdown” design elements worth emulating elsewhere within the city.

The first biophilic solution is design that promotes walkable cities. If anything, the Central Library is a destination that is enjoyable to access on foot. The most popular way to approach the building is along the Shoal Creek Trail or across the new Butterfly Bridge. This path introduces visitors to a vital link to the pulse of one of Austin’s primary watersheds. The Shoal Creek Trail will include ten miles of connections to neighborhoods, schools, parks and employment centers when completed. Walkability correlates with livability, and the desire to walk carries into the circulation design within the building. Trails that meander along riparian edges and stairs that twist and turn in midair indoors are powerful design accomplices. Walking becomes the favored choice when feelings of discovery, curiosity, risk and play are evoked.

Austin is also investing more in bike infrastructure within the Seaholm EcoDistrict and beyond, and the library serves as the primary catalyst for more biking surfaces, maintenance stations and parking for the general public. Employees of the library enjoy gracious biking accommodations and changing facilities, making the commute a viable means of transportation all year long. The public has access to one of the most extensive and protected bike corrals in the city, making the library a likely staging area for a variety of nearby attractions. The health, energy and nature connection through bike infrastructure is the second biophilic solution. Once settled in, it doesn’t take visitors long to discover the library’s green roof on the sixth floor, which is the third

Photo Credits: Kathy Zarsky (left), Nic Lehoux (right)

biophilic drawdown solution. It is by far one of the most cherished design features. It offers expansive views of Lady Bird Lake, Shoal Creek and the always changing downtown skyline. The native vegetation is diverse and lush with a variety of textures and massing to attract people, pollinators and wildlife. The dappled light under the photovoltaic canopy is similar to sitting under the shade of a tree, with soft slits of light slowly shifting across the wood decking as the sun travels across the sky. It is exactly the kind of design element sorely needed with a population craving more ways to work and recreate in comfortable, nature inspired outdoor settings. Buildings with integrated vegetation, if scaled across contiguous transects, can turn cities into life-supporting systems.

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The 198,000sf library, pursuing LEED Platinum certification, is considered the best daylit library in the country. Over 61% of the outdoor site area is dedicated open space, and the site captures stormwater runoff and condensation to reduce potable water by 100% for the project’s irrigation needs and sewage conveyance. The building conserves over 87% potable water for internal use. The design has resulted in an energy cost savings of 33% with 10% on-site renewable energy.

Views and Vistas + Abundance of Natural Light

Integration of Culture & Ecology

Inside-Ou Space

Habitats & Ecosystems


Information Richness + Curiosity & Enticement

utside es Natural Materials + Patina of Time

Photo Credit: Kathy Zarsky BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 49

Natural Light, Filtered Light, Light and Shadow Photo Credit: Kathy Zarsky

What may not be readily apparent to infrequent visitors is the way in which the library is creating community. Metaphorically, it draws a diverse group of individuals and groups and creates opportunities for intersection and interaction. Quite literally, however, it is reintroducing a community of trees that together will moderate the extremes of heat and cold, erosion, water quality, evaporation and more. The ecosystem services of trees is hidden yet well studied, and this represents the fourth biophilic drawdown for cities. While these beneficial tree community traits often get taken for granted, the qualities that trees bring to the environments we inhabit are understood from early childhood. We enjoy their shady protection, the habitat they offer, the sound of wind through their leaves, and the seasonal changes they display. There are many lessons and experiences to be gleaned from these statuesque wonders, not least of which is that every tree is a valuable member of

Natural Materials- mesquite flooring. Photo credit: Theresa Cascio

their ecological community. Biophilia can also inspire reciprocity, the fifth drawdown concept that looks to human behavior to play a mutualistic role. The library site has left ample space to restore a once thriving, functional ecological corridor in the heart of the city that we can enjoy as amenity, but the opportunity for the city is to encourage robust extensions of similar natural corridors that link with other life-supporting systems in three dimensions. These biologically diverse and connected nature networks support more effective ecosystem services and also create more ways for people to connect to, learn from and nurture as symbiotic partners.

materials like limestone and mesquite, and it offers a variety of views and vistas in all directions from every level. The quality of the extensive daylighting is undeniable. The perimeter window seating goes fast because the natural light and views are so calming and restorative. The use of color, spatial gradients and volume have maximized the degree to which daylight is employed throughout the building. There’s truly not a bad seat in the house.

Scales of Biophilic Design The design of the library as a building is widely reported, but lesser known is the influence that the library’s designs play across scales of block, street, neighborhood and community. The building prominently incorporates natural, local

50 Bat Tower. Photo Credit: Albert Chao

Photo Credits: Nic Lehoux

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The central focus of the library is the atrium with grackles serving as the motif for a giant cuckoo clock rising as tall as the maze-like stair ascends. The entire library is filled with spatial variability and transitions to indoors and outdoors. The design lends to experiences of prospect, refuge, mystery and risk. All of these elements and experiences are translations of sensations that are typical in the natural settings that we are hardwired to seek out. The place-based biophilic design becomes more apparent with jumps in scale. The building opens up to the east to create areas for congregating and circulation along Shoal Creek. The vegetation transitions from maintained to wild, signaling both habitat and watershed edges. The creek connects to the largest water body in Austin, Lady Bird Lake, less than 200 meters away. The surrounding neighborhood is contained 52

within the Seaholm EcoDistrict, a historically and culturally significant part of downtown Austin due to its industrial relationship with water. The new developments within the EcoDistrict have shifted their relationship to water to one of reverence and attraction. The primary limestone building materials are reflected in similarly scaled office and civic structures nearby, paying homage to the character of place. More than any other downtown site, the library feels integrally linked with pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. Boundaries are soft and blurred, allowing for interpretation for a variety of community uses outdoors. The outdoor spaces meander and traverse elevation changes that nudge curious visitors to explore. This act of discovery quickly connects visitors to the site, street, neighborhood and eventually community as time and distance

allows. It is nature and the qualities it offers with breezes, sounds, daylight and glimpses of wildlife and watercourses that make these linkages so attractive. The library offers a new vision: that buildings in Austin can and should enhance the quality of day-to -day life through integrating nature at multiple scales, bridging building to place and place to community. Kathy Zarsky, Certified Biomimicry Specialist & LEED AP BD+C, is the LEED consultant on the Austin Central Library and Founder and Director of BiomimicryTX. Resources: Office of Sustainability. Seaholm EcoDistrict. City of Austin. seaholm-district.

Photo Credits (above left and right): Nic Lehoux Photo Credits (below): Kathy Zarsky Light + Space


Exploration + Discovery Prospect & Risk


JUNE 2018 | 53 Natural Analogue



Figure 3: Accessibility to a large park by population density in Portland Image Credit: Guoping Huang

A Biophilic Cities Index By Dr. Guoping Huang In 2017, 238 cities in North America joined a highly competitive bid to host the online retail giant Amazon’s second headquarters. National media all turned their spotlight on this Amazon HQ2 project, ranking participating cities by their economic vitality, livability, affordability, and other factors. This is not new. Since the dawn of globalization of the world economy, research institutions, think tanks, and government agencies have developed hundreds of indices or index systems to evaluate cities’ performance in various aspects. What is interesting is how the emphasis of these indices has shifted from urban economy to urban environment over the last three decades. For example, the well-known Globalization and 54

World Cities Research Network (GaWC) Index developed in the 1980s focused on financial and economic activities in global cities. But when global talents started to move as freely as capital, quality of living became the new focus of many indices. The popular Mercer’s Quality of Living Index has been heavily used by large companies to deploy human resources globally since that era. In recent years, there has been a growth of environment-related indices published by both private and public organizations emphasizing the important role of cities in global sustainability. As a result, many cities have set detailed agendas to become green cities or eco-cities. These indices are not only tools

to compare and rank cities, but also important instruments to encourage cities to examine themselves and find ways to improve operations. Today, with the growing interest among city managers to promote biophilia in cities, a quantitative city index focusing on some related aspects could be very useful. This new Biophilic City Index is structured to evaluate humannature relationships in cities in a hierarchy of three different levels. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of human social needs in which higher level needs are achieved only when foundational needs are first met, the hierarchical structure of the Biophilic City Index reflects human beings’ multi-level interactions with natural systems. At the bottom, this index

examines the quality of natural services that provide basic living environments, such as clean water and air, and vegetation abundance. At the second level, it examines if existing natural components are part of a sustainable ecosystem that co-exists with the city. Here, the spatial composition and structure of natural components, such as core size and connectivity are studied using theories and methods from landscape ecology. Finally, at the top level, the index examines the accessibility and service areas of natural spaces as indicators of human-nature interactions. Because each city is located in its unique environmental

setting, the Biophilic City Index is not designed to rank cities directly. However, some components in the Index, such as accessibility, could be used to draw comparisons across different cities. Most importantly, this Index will help cities examine their planning practices and find ways to improve the humannature relationship, helping cities become more biophilic. For more details about the Index, please read the full research article Indexing the HumanNature Relationship in Cities.

Resources: Globalization and World Cities Research Network. http://www.lboro. Huang, Guoping (2017). Indexing the Human-Nature Relationship in Cities. Upland Journal of Urban Planning, Landscape & Environmental Design 2(2): 25-35. http://dx.doi. org/10.6092/2531-9906/5255. Quality of Living City Rankings. Mercer. https://mobilityexchange.

Dr. Guoping Huang is an Assistant Professor and Master of Urban and Environmental Planning Program Director at the School of Architecture, University of Virginia

Amazon Spheres Photo Credit: JD Brown BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 55



Photo Credit (all): Paul Bogard

Interview with Paul Bogard on The Ground Beneath Us

By JD Brown


Paul Bogard, author and associate professor of English at James Madison University has published a new book entitled The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are. Tim Beatley and JD Brown had an opportunity to sit down with Paul to discuss his new book and his continuing quest to understand and explain for others why we need to hold fast to deep physical and spiritual connections with the natural world. Every time I talk with Paul Bogard, I come away inspired to try harder to keep my senses open to the world around me and to deepen my relationship with the natural world and the cleansing, enlivening feeling that results. Paul’s prior book The End of Night reintroduced me to the nighttime sky. Without conscious realization, the lack of visibility of the night sky had become merely a fact of life. The End of Night asks whether it has to be that way and what we are losing when we can no longer experience the nighttime sky. These questions kindled a strong desire in me to search for those dark skies and to appreciate them with the appropriate awe when I find them. It has given me a new added dimension to my vision of the world at night. With The Ground Beneath Us, Paul is creating that same connection with the solid living ground under me. It makes me question how much connection I have with the contours of the real earth. As with the night sky, I am seeking to connect with the ground under my feet and to cherish the moments when I can make a bond with the living foundation of my local environment. Piece by piece Paul is connecting me to the earth in an authentic physical and human way. As Paul indicates at the close of The Ground Beneath Us: “I believe that intimacy can be learned and practiced. That we have a history that need not define us. That we have the opportunity – and maybe more important, the instinct – to cultivate our connections with the life around us.”

Tim Beatley: So, this was wonderful to see in print. It’s really remarkable, but also quite a bit different from the last book where you looked above you. Now you’re looking below. How does The End of Night lead to this book and is there a common connection between looking above and looking below? Paul Bogard: There is definitely a connection. In both books, I’m really interested in the benefits of our connection with the natural world and the costs of our separation from the natural world. In The End of Night, I’m basically talking about that in terms of being separated from the darkness of the night sky by artificial light. And in this book I’m talking about it in terms of being literally separated from the natural ground by pavement. As well as being separated from the ground by our mindset, our thinking that we are separated from the ground by spending most of our time inside. Both of those literal separations have consequences. I was equally interested in how that literal separation symbolizes our more metaphorical separation from the ground. Other grounds that give us our food, our water, our energy, and even our spirit. I think both books are very similar in terms of the themes and the messages that I’m concerned about. So many of the problems that we’re dealing with in cities, but also in society in general, come from this lack of connection with the natural world and a mindset that we think we can exist, and that we do exist, as a separate entity from nature. I’m fascinated by that and obviously troubled by that and trying to, through my stories, comment on it.

JD Brown: At the beginning of the book, you start with the cities and urbanized areas where there is a particular disconnect. There is a physical disconnect but also a lack of equal access. You talk about that in the context of Mexico City and use the phrase “biological poverty,” which is a really powerful phrase.

Here are some excerpts from our recent conversation with Paul about his new book The Ground Beneath Us. BIOPHILIC CITIES JOURNAL | JUNE 2018 | 57

Paul Bogard: That comes from a report that I found where the author was talking about people in cities living in areas of biological poverty with a particular effect on children. Where people are growing up with no exposure to wild land and have no idea about the biological richness that the world usually offers. So many people grow up in urban areas and do not have access to a world beyond what they see. They don’t know that there could be something else.

Tim Beatley: Were there stories from cities that you discovered in your studies that you find particularly inspiring in terms of thinking about the future? I recall us having some discussions about “depaving” initiatives where hard surfaces are taken up and a connection to the soil is restored. Paul Bogard: There is an organization in Portland, Oregon, called Depave. What I found is that yes we can depave, we can pull up pavement to reveal what’s underneath. But when you pave over ground, you kill the life in the ground. The process is expensive and you have to bring in soil to replenish what was lost. I suppose it could be done, but it just didn’t seem possible on more than a limited scale. It seems like it’s so much easier to protect what you have and not lose it, than it is to try to bring back what you have lost.

Tim Beatley: Are there models of cities or places where you can still walk, maybe even take your shoes off, and have a physical connection to soil and what’s beneath us?

Paul Bogard: Yeah, I think there are. I could have written a lot more about the immense value of city parks. I live in Minneapolis, which has a park system that’s been ranked year after year as the number one park system in the country. Our house is right on one of the parkways and so I can walk out my front door, walk across a twelve foot single lane paved parkway onto a grassy median. It’s just that easy and there are 58

parks and lakes all over. The difference that it makes in terms of quality of life is important. I don’t know how many people consciously think about it, but to me that experience seems so invaluable. I tried to take my shoes off and walk wherever I went in the book.

Tim Beatley: It takes a little change of attitude too. We take off our shoes as we go into houses but then we put them on as we go out the door. It’s a mental choice. Paul Bogard: Central park is a place that I can think of right off the bat, where you see that people have their shoes off and are surrounded by the skyscrapers. That’s a pretty neat juxtaposition.

Tim Beatley: I wonder if that’s another one of our biophilic indicators of a good city. Somewhere you can take your shoes off. Making the connection back to the first book, have we made any progress on the night sky front? The book did resonate with a huge audience. Paul Bogard: There’s a lot more awareness of the issue. There are a lot more places that are wanting to take action. I regularly get emails from people who are reading the book or from high school students who are studying light pollution. Some of the people who’ve been active on this issue for twenty-five or thirty years tell me that when they first started talking about it, people had never heard those two words together: light and pollution. And now I’ll ask an audience: how many of you have heard of light pollution? And the majority of the hands go up. Tim Beatley: A little bit different than what you’re talking about in terms of connecting to soil, but there is a whole kind of world in cities underneath our feet. From a city planning point of view, I wonder what we can make of that. Is there potential for us to be using spaces underneath the ground?

Alaska Tundra


London’s Urban Archaeology Photo Credit: Paul Bogard


This question of subterranean spaces came up in the context of Singapore because they have a limited amount of space and are a growing vertical city. There is an interest in figuring out how to do things in a subterranean way. Also in other, northern cities like Toronto that have undergrounds and even parts of northern Virginia in metro stations with entire shopping areas. Subterranean options provide a kind of spatial planning, an efficient use of urban space that might be promising.

Paul Bogard: I think so. I really am struck by the value of soil. It’s so important that we understand how important it is and not pave it over and maintain an opportunity for people to access the soil. I’m thinking of little kids being able to dig in the dirt. Kids love digging and in general people like digging too. They like that sense of exploration. So can we maintain a place that where they can do that?

Tim Beatley: Diggable spaces. Diggable parks. Paul Bogard: I don’t think we’re paying much attention to what’s under our feet and that’s true in cities as well. There probably is a potential there that is unrealized. In the first part of the book, I describe my experience in London, where they are digging a trench for underground rail. The project designers told me that in London there has been human settlement for almost as long as any place on earth. But they said that if you go thirty feet down all evidence of human activity disappears. As one guy said, “the party’s over,” we’re not there. I think that’s representative of what we’re talking about here, that our consciousness and our literal presence just doesn’t go down very far beneath the ground. Again, in London, they found a woman’s skeleton lying beneath the ground, holding her favorite plate on her chest. She’s been there for 300 years and it’s right under a subway stop where millions of people have walked over the ground. It’s representative of just how completely oblivious we are about what lies beneath us.

Tim Beatley: What do we do about that? We need more parks and we need to maintain that connection to soil. But is there a more holistic way that we ought to be educating about nature or the environment that includes more than the birds and trees at ground level and above? Do we need something new?

Paul Bogard: Exactly.

JD Brown: At the end of the book, you highlight a quote and a single word from Thoreau: “daily.” This is a word that appears in Tim’s concept of the nature pyramid. At Biophilic Cities, we talk about the need to provide opportunities for daily interactions with nature. In The Ground Beneath Us, you talk about re-establishing that connection through practice and experience. How do we maintain a daily practice and experience with nature in urban areas?

Paul Bogard: I love that quote from Thoreau. I’m interested in the fact that while he is out in wilderness and having a completely different experience, it still relates to the urban world now. He’s saying how amazing it is that we have this opportunity daily to be shown this world.

Tim Beatley: “Daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it.” Beautiful. So the last chapter is home. Let’s circle back to what that means? Is it your home? Home in a broader way? Our collective home?


Paul Bogard: Yes. All of those, all of the above. In the chapter, I do go back to Minneapolis and talk about that. I talk about burying my dog, which is a starting point for the story. Before that I talk about the idea of sacred ground as ground that puts us in touch with or makes us aware of the connections that keep us alive, whether they’re human connections or connections with nature. The most important place for us to go is home. The most important place for us to understand the sacred is our home. Wherever we call home is where we need to make these connections. The misconception for people living in cities is that as long as there’s wilderness out west, we can do whatever we want to here in cities. I want to say: here’s the most important place. Wherever here is, whatever you do here, it is the most important place.

I wrote about it in In The End of Night and every time I read that section people wanted to hear more. It really resonates with people who’ve lived somewhere and are seeing it change. I had been thinking about that for a year and then we got pregnant and it had new meaning for me. I’m struck by that longing for the solace that we used to feel in a place. I’m really fascinated by the anticipation of having a child and how I negotiate the joy and the sorrow at the same time.

Tim Beatley: I did want to ask you about what you’re writing now and what’s your next project? Where do you go from the sky and underneath your feet? Is there a middle ground somewhere?

Tim Beatley: It’s hard. But I guess I focus on the positive. I have a daughter who’s now a senior in high school, which is astounding to me, but she’s into photography. She likes taking photographs of the sky. About a month ago, we went up to the upper Shenandoah National Park in the dead of night. And it’s actually not a bad dark sky moment. You get a little bit outside the city and you see the Milky Way. She took wonderful photographs. So there is a positive, a wondrous aspect to having children when you are able to share together things like that.

Paul Bogard: I am really hoping to write a story about trying to balance my excitement about becoming a father for the first time with my fear, sadness, and anxiety about what’s happening to my beloved world. I’m really interested in the human mind and spirit right now. So maybe if we looked up, we looked down, now we would be looking in. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors are starting to sound the alarm about the impact of environmental change in general, and climate change specifically, on our minds and spirits in terms of depression and anxiety.

Paul Bogard: A big piece for me is saying that this feeling of solastalgia is important. That sadness or anxiety about this is totally natural and it’s in many ways a good thing. It’s the same thing with talking about darkness in The End of Night. Darkness is good and is a normal part of being alive. Feeling sad about what’s happening is the start of the question. What can we do, what do we do? There’s a notion in America that we are supposed to be happy all the time and that if we allow ourselves to be sad that’s all we will feel. We’re capable of so much more than that.

You have people talking about acute trauma from storms and a sort of a chronic trauma from just seeing change around you every day. I think I say it in The End of Night, but you could be sad all the time if you wanted to. And nobody wants to live that way. So how do you stay engaged and not be sad all the time? I want to write about the emotion “solastalgia,” a term from an Australian writer, meaning to miss the place where you still live because it’s changing even if you haven’t gone anywhere. 62

View of New York skyline

Underground railway excavation in London



Profile for Biophilic Cities

Biophilic Cities Journal, Vol. 2/No. 1 (June 2018)  

June 2018 Issue of the Biophilic Cities Journal

Biophilic Cities Journal, Vol. 2/No. 1 (June 2018)  

June 2018 Issue of the Biophilic Cities Journal