Biophilia in Urban Design – Patterns and Principles for Smart Australian Cities

Over thirty years ago ecologist EO Wilson proposed the Biophilia hypothesis – a powerful idea which asserts that humans have an instinctive bond with nature and that it is an essential part of our well-being.

The idea was tested over the years and in 2008 the concept of Biophilic Design was formalised and popularised by social ecologist, the late Stephen Kellert, and cohorts. It has been further developed by Peter Newman and others, particularly Tim Beatley who has written extensively about Biophilic Cities. Biophilic design has been codified for commercial acceptance, notably with the 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, informed by empirical evidence and interdisciplinary analysis of more than 500 peer-reviewed publications and promoted by Terrapin Bright Green LLC.

There is increasing application and acceptance of the hypothesis in Australian planning and design practice, relating human biological science and nature to the design of the built environment, and biophilic patterns and principles can be identified in numerous examples of Australian urban design. However, there is little evidence of the concept being applied to the design, development and operation of smart cities.

Surprisingly, biophilic effects can be achieved with no physical or tangible link to ‘nature’ at all. Indirect experiences of ‘nature’ can generate measurable biophilic psycho-physiological responses, for instance in hospital rooms when people are exposed to images of nature such as artificial sky.

These ‘illusory’ effects may be valuable for environments that cannot readily support real biological systems – such as rooms buried deep inside large buildings. There are parts of our cities where nature struggles to survive; in such places, biophilia may be evoked by technological, rather than biological means. In research with Deakin University my colleagues and I established that places like the new underground railway system in Melbourne justified the addition of another biophilic design ‘pattern’ to describe these ‘virtual’ biophilic effects.

Biophilia enhances well-being. Part of the agenda of smart cities is to do just that. Our research suggests that cities should embed a biophilia ethos in their urban design to ameliorate the negative results of overly reductionist approaches to efficient urbanism.

Paul Downton, Architect & Researcher

Article based on a paper presented at the 9th International Urban Design Conference in Canberra by Dr Paul Downton and colleagues from Deakin University, Prof David Jones and Josh Zeunert.

Christchurch Rising – Landscape Driven City

Following on from the 2015 X-Section article Reimagining a City: 21st Century Landscape Architecture and the paper given by Mike Thomas at the 2015 6th Liveable Cities Conference titled Reimagining Christchurch City’s Post-Quake Public Realm: The Influence of 21st Century Landscape Architecture on the Rebuild, Mike posited that it is the work of landscape architects that will most consistently influence the appearance and social and economic success of Christchurch’s new post-quake public realm in the rebuild.  The following is a brief update on progress.

Mike Thomas

Christchurch is unique in New Zealand. Following the 2011 earthquake, it has started over. 70% of CBD buildings have needed demolition, services under the street have needed reconstruction and the city is now in a slow-but-steady state of rebuild.

A positive outlook of a city ‘beginning again’ has been the opportunity for the government to engage with the city and put in place an infrastructure rebuild using principles defined by its people. Cantabrians have asked for a green, walking, cycling city with public transport.

City planning has zoned the CBD into ‘Frames’ according to the activity of the district (e.g. innovation, health). A focus has been applied to developing the public realm and streetscape and so landscape architecture is playing a dominant role in shaping the character of the city centre – an evolutionary shift not a wholesale changeover.

This South Frame project consists of 20,000m2 of mid-block lanes and plazas across seven city blocks on major arterial routes in the city (Tuam/St Asaph and Madras/Antigua Streets). It’s part of a wider ‘Accessible City’ project which consists of 75,000 m2 of streetscapes containing 250 new street trees and 4,000m2 of rain gardens,   developed by a consortium of Jasmax, AECOM and LandLAB. South Frame’s construction began in 2016 and is now approximately 20% complete with work now proceeding at full pace.

A 12 metre-wide, 700 metre long, heavily planted Greenway collects, slows and treats storm water runoff with almost 3,000m2 of rain gardens. Designed as a setting for a creative new mixed-use precinct, connecting the Innovation and Health Precincts, the Greenway is a canvas for cultural expression in partnership with Ngāi Tahu; the local Māori tribe. A theme of this greenway is a “Story of Stone”, which features backlit pounamu (Jade/greenstone) pavement inlays, basalt laneways and boulders. The Greenway will be a venue for social activation and a safe movement corridor, particularly attractive to inner-city living and working.

The layout for the Greenway owes much to Canterbury’s beautiful braided rivers, pixelated to align with urban geometry. Local tree species, Kahikatea and totara, will rise above the buildings as future sentinels to help navigate the city centre. Ethno-botanical plantings with historical value to Ngāi Tahu will be planted, with identification tags.

Separated cycle-lanes and shared surfaces will enable safe cycling through the city, and connect to a regional cycleway network, the Peloton. Architecturally iconic Super Stops (for buses) are being fabricated, ready to play their part in a three-fold increase (by 2041) of public transport movements.

Construction of these projects is in full swing with a significant portion built by 2018.

By Mike Thomas, Principal, Jasmax 

Can Architecture and Smart Design Help Prevent Terrorism?

London, Paris, Stockholm, Brussels, Manchester and Nice – the list of cities hit by terrorism continues to grow by the month. While this has seen volumes of page space devoted to try and explain the reasons behind the carnage, scant attention has been given to the use of urban design as an anti-terror weapon. But what if we could use smart design and architectural innovation to help prevent this scourge? Could better urban design help in the fight against global terror?

The concept of attenuating public space to improve public safety is nothing new. Ever since ‘The Troubles’ of the 1970s and 80s, the UK has changed and redesigned parts of Belfast and Londonderry in Northern Ireland a bid to better cope with future IRA attacks.

As for the US, since September 11, 2001, America’s architects have been on a steep learning curve on how to balance between designing for aesthetics and designing for public safety.

Today this scenario has more resonance considering that since 2007, more people than ever in human history are residing in urban centres as opposed to rural ones. By 2050, it has been estimated that up to 75 percent of the global population will be classified as being urban.

This massive increase in urban habitation invariably means an increase in high-density living. The irony being of course, when it comes to public safety and social cohesion, high-rise and high-density structures rarely make the list of final designs.

can architecture and design prevent terrorism?
Photo: article provided

Minimalistic public safety designs 101

In New York City, one popular public safety feature has been the addition of bollards to many public spaces. But these were not just any old bollards – in the city’s famed financial district, these bespoke bollards are designed to be also used as street furniture and aesthetic enhancements.

However, while it’s easier to redesign (or re-engineer) a relatively simple item like a bollard – entire buildings, and for that matter, whole neighbourhoods, are a very different proposition.

Considering the need for safety usually trumps most other human needs, perhaps it’s time to consider combining the need for beauty with the need for safety especially in an era that bears the burden of the “ugliness of terrorism”.

At the same time, it should not be all bland function over beauty and form. Last year, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Ruth Reed, highlighted RIBA’s ‘counter-terrorism design guidelines’ and noted that it was “important to remember that we are an open and inclusive society”. In terms of architectural design, she claims we shouldn’t be “driven by security measures”.

This article was originally published by Architecture and Design.

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Queensland Government Plans First Inner-City Brisbane School In Decades

Two new schools will open in the inner-city in Brisbane and another significantly expanded as the Palaszczuk Government committed $500 million to the Building Future Schools Fund.

The fund’s purposes centres around building new schools, securing land in Queensland’s fastest growing regions and creating the necessary jobs to accomplish the projects in place.

Image: A ‘vertical school’ in Melbourne – the emerging concept throughout Australia to deliver more educational institutions without requiring vast amounts of land. Courtesy Hayball.

“We will build the first new high school in inner Brisbane since 1963,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“We want every child to benefit from a quality education no matter where they live. That’s why we are investing $500 million over five years to help deliver world class education facilities where they are needed most,” she said.

Ms Palaszczuk said through the Fund, the Advancing Inner City Schools initiative will:

  • deliver a new state secondary school at the former Fortitude Valley State School site in partnership with Queensland University of Technology
  • establish a new high school in the inner-south working with the University of Queensland to take enrolment pressure off Brisbane State High School
  • support the expansion of West End State School to meet enrolment demand

The Palaszczuk Government also claimed to have plans already underway for new state high schools in other growth areas across Queensland including Mt Low in Townsville, North Lakes/Mango Hill north of Brisbane, Calliope near Gladstone and Yarrabilba in South Logan.

Deputy Premier, Minister for Infrastructure and Planning and Member for South Brisbane Jackie Trad said over the last 50 years, Brisbane used all available land to expand existing school sites, but she said you can only expand so much.

This article was originally published by The Urban Developer.

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This Incredible Skyscraper Is Actually A Vertical Forest

Nanjing Green Towers isn’t your average skyscraper, you see it’s actually Asia’s first vertical forest.

The idea behind a vertical forest is simple: You essentially turn a building into a giant living breathing air filter, helping to clear the air pollution that often comes hand in hand with city living.

stefano-boeri-architetti

It’s a truly astonishing piece of architecture, you see dotted along its facades are 600 tall trees, 500 medium-sized trees while a staggering 2,500 plants and shrubs then cover a 6,000sqm area.

Not only does this increase biodiversity in the local area but it will be able to absorb some 25 tonnes of CO2 every year while producing some 60kg of oxygen every day. As our cities have grown exponentially it has become clear that new buildings have to take a different approach.

We can no longer just build boxes that contain humans, we have to build ecosystems. Designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti, Nanjing Green Towers will be the first vertical forest in Asia.  This will be the third vertical forest project by the architecture firm after they completed their first building in Milan and then a second project in Switzerland.

Originally Published by The Huffington Post, continue reading here.