Biophilic design could hold the key to building better cities.
Idyllic outdoor scenes are often associated with peace, calm and relaxation. Turns out there might be a good reason for that.
Modern city living requires thousands of tiny decisions and judgment calls that tax our attention and deplete our energy, ranging from dodging traffic to checking email. According to some of the world’s leading urban planning experts, finding the antidote to urban ennui is a walk in the park. Literally.
Studies have shown that our connection to nature plays an important role in our mental health and well-being. Harvard University conservationist E.O. Wilson describes the instinctive human need to connect with nature as “biophilia”. This primal drive is the impetus behind a growing practice of “biophilic design”, a movement that aims to integrate natural features into our buildings and urban areas.
True biophilic design is more than just planting some trees and stopping to smell the roses. The ultimate focus is creating natural spaces, designed to facilitate contemplation and allow us to recharge our exhausted attentional stores.
What separates a biophilic city from one that’s simply biodiverse? In his book Biophilic Cities, researcher and author Timothy Beatley tells us what a true biophilic city looks like:
“It is a place that learns from nature and emulates natural systems, incorporates natural forms and images into its buildings and cityscapes, and designs and plans in conjunction with nature.”
A recent study aims to take this concept one step further and define what aspects of a natural environment foster the contemplative mindset that our psyche so desperately craves. By analyzing different photographs of urban parks and natural areas, researchers identified the exact features that trigger contemplation and rejuvenation. Their findings suggest people have relatively consistent views on what types of environments reduce stress and encourage a meditative state:
- Panoramic vistas
- Large, open spaces
- Natural asymmetry
- Stimulating skylines
Now that these features have been identified, modern planners are hoping to incorporate these findings into contemporary urban design moving forward. As psychology professor and self-professed “environmental neuroscientist” Marc Berman says,
“You can design the built environment in more informed ways.”
While many biophilic features exist naturally in Regina, leveraging this type of evidence-based design can help further integrate them into our growing city. New developments in Regina include green spaces, such as the Greens on Gardiner with a 16-acre park at the heart of it. Each communities green space take on their own unique formation while enhancing our prairie beauty, extending the walkability and promoting an active lifestyle.
All of these efforts will add to Regina’s already significant green space and ensure that Reginians have plenty of places to contemplate, rejuvenate and escape the stresses of daily life. As the era of biophilia begins, you can rest easy knowing that our city is well ahead of the curve.