anthropology · architecture · environment

As you digest your turkey and reflect on a hopefully happy Thanksgiving, I am offering this summary of a recent conference session that talked about how to integrate biophilia into urban spaces and cities. As the human population increases, more people move away from the country and into the city, yet as humans we still crave nature and natural environments. Three researchers suggest how to go about addressing that.


In a session on a new planning and design theory called “biophilic urbanism” at the 2012 Greenbuild conference in San Francisco, Judith Heerwagen, a professor at the University of Washington; Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at the University of Virginia; and Bert Gregory, head of Mithun Architects + Designers + Planners argued that cities can be in tune with nature, actually embody nature in physical design, and foster deeper connections with natural systems.

For Professor Heerwagen, biophilia is best defined by the amazing biologist E.O. Wilson, who came up with the actual concept. It relates to the “innate emotional connection of humans to all living things.” In cities, for example, this means that people are attracted to trees and will pay more to live in areas with them. People will pay more for hotel rooms with views of nature. “These are things we intuitively know. We chose places that are…

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