Author Archives: Mathias Lehner

Temporary working space in nature announces future urban development

(c) Outside Society, Polis Magazine

From earlier this week, 15th of July until 14th of August 2020 a special working space in immediate contact with nature although set amidst the urban environment of Berlin is available for small business meetings. This Outside Society Box announces the development of the 97 ha former military site in Berlin Lichterfelde with 2500 apartments which claims to protect today’s landscape character and its rich biodiversity – with partners on board like the German BUND, the national nature protection agency.

The box was built by the ‘Outside Society’, a young Berlin start up, and can be rented for workshops, strategy meetings and other work related sessions, ideally set next to an S-Bahn station. The idea of the sustainable, wifi equipped and PV operated autarchic box is based upon the notion that “the best ideas and creative solutions in business life are often found during free time and in spaces that offer freedom and recreation. The green character of Berlin offers a unique opportunity for this”. The box is naturally ventilated and opens up on all 4 sides which makes it covid-19 proof to convene with groups up to 12 persons.

More info: Groth Gruppe, Outside Society

Daylighting brings back (green-)blue networks in cities and improves Quality of Life

“Mooi…” – the daylighted Grift in Apeldoorn, (c) WEF. Still of video ‘Dayligting Urban Rivers’

More and more towns break open culverts to reveal hidden rivers in the heart of the city, such as Freiburg im Breisgau did already in the 70ies en more recently London and Zurich. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) the reasons to uncover hidden rivers are the “social, environmental and economic benefits” like “public desire to recapture lost spaces and improve quality of life in the city”. The economic advantage of having clean water flowing through the city instead of jamming sewage works is the reduction of wastewater treatment costs.

The 2005 Cheonggyecheon stream project in Seoul is an almost 11km-long artificial water corridor that diverts water from an underground river, that is a flood relief channel and touristic attraction. In addition, the WEF states that these daylighted waterways can help cool cities and reduce the Urban Heat Island effect, and bring benefits for urban wildlife. In the Dutch city of Apeldoorn the urban stream of the Grift has been daylighted successively from 2002 and the inner city segment will be finalized in 2020 as last piece.

Read more in an article of the WEF and see the detailed plans of Apeldoorn (Dutch only).

Positive spin-off of urban biodiversity seen from a health perspective

A call for more ‘Rewildering’ in our cities was just one of the aspects ecologist of Breda Municipality Rombout van Eekelen addressed in his lecture on health in cities. Next to confirming’s call for more wilderness set out in the declaration Wild Amsterdam published earlier this month, Van Eekelen called for more primary prevention of diseases by building and designing for biodiversity in order to let ecosystem services contribute to healthy cities.

Stress, hay fever, desease of Crohn and other physical and mental diseases occur less in more natural and biodiverse neighbourhoods because a biodiverse set of bacteria in the human body (skin, intestines) helps us to build op resilient health, shows research of the University of Helsinki from 2012.

Therefore in cities, the use of native green in outer layers of buildings, on circulation such as galleries or next to windows sleeping rooms are clearly recommended to bring dwellers in contact with biodiversity. An intriguing example shown was the Sottish parliament by architect Enric Miralles, which integrates large areas of planting with indigenous Scottish wildflowers, trees and shrubs. The wild grasses and trees used in the outside seating areas of the building were mainly found already in the area. The planting list can even be downloaded on the parliament’s website. This is what I call nature inclusive!

Re:cap Nature inclusive building

Within the ‘Grensverkenningen’ series Arcam, the Royal Insitute of Dutch Architects BNA and Pakhuis De Zwijger discussed the aspect of nature inclusive building on 24th of June.. was present with Maike van Stiphout. Watch the 60 mins program back online and learn more about the nextcity, biomimicry and what we can learn of nature’s R&D department, but also the importance nocturnal networks and concrete plans for the borders of the city of Amsterdam.

Watch the LiveCast here.

Melbourne Urban Forest Fund to activate private land owners to increase Quality of Life

In reaction to the impact of climate change the City of Melbourne wants to double the tree canopy cover, increase the amount of green iconic lanes, improve biodiversity and enhance urban ecosystems, such as tempering urban heat islands. The Municipal measures are taken in the public realm. The 75 % privately owned land in the city is targeted with an innovative approach: The Urban Forest Fund.

The UFF aims to build PPPs to deliver additional greening. The Fund was created after extreme heat periods in the summer of 2015 that seriously threatened public health. Today ‘habitat grants’ are available for up to to 50% of the costs made by the applicant for contributing to the Urban Forest. For the 2018 the Fund’s website shows 7 projects realized by now, ranging from green walls and canopies to a sky farm co-funded with 300.000 AUD.

“Trees, plants and green open spaces are essential infrastructure in our city, helping to cool the environment, reduce pollution, support biodiversity, boost the economy and improve health and well-being. At a time when Melbourne is experiencing rapid population growth and increasing impacts of climate change, the green elements of our city are more important than ever” states the Municipality.

Looking at a city from an animal’s perspective in Nijmegen

Many animal species are now more common in the city than on meadows and fields. The city is therefore of ever greater importance for the lives of people and animals. This can generate tension as was shown when a foraging wild boar on the green outskirts of Nijmegen was shot immediately. But how can we learn to relate to nature, and profit from its benefits? How can ecologists, architects and residents help to accommodate our flora and fauna co-inhabitants ?

A first step is to understand the urban ecosystem: seeing the city through the eyes of the animal. The most recent podcast ‘Stadsgenoten’ produced by the Nijmegen Architecture Centre. Together with city ecologist Jochem Kühnen they stroll through Nijmegen and look through the eyes of an animal. The swift to be precise. People share the same place of residence with this species but experience it very differently.

During the one hour exploration walk listeners are assisted by two experienced professionals. Architect and specialist in nature-inclusive design and co-initiator of, Mathias Lehner, discusses the topic with program director Green Metropolis Harry Boeschoten of Staatsbosbeheer.

Listen to the 64 minutes podcast on Sound Cloud here (Dutch only) and download the walking route here.

Wild Amsterdam: Delta Plan for Biodiversity Recovery leading to Natural Richness

How to make Amsterdam the most biodiverse and wild city in 2025, when the city celebrates its 750th anniversary?

This visionary question was discussed with experts in the packed Artis Zoo Sea Lion Auditorium in the 2019 conference ‘Wild Amsterdam’. The conference featured top level speakers such as Louise Vet, biologist and in 2018 named ‘greenest thinker’ of the Netherlands. The event was moderated by’s research director Mathias Lehner.

The thoughts, ideas and results of the conference have now been transformed into a Delta Plan that aims to recover biodiversity in the city. The compact Delta Plan mentions 10 points with concrete goals, such as making Amsterdam a Park City with in each park the least 1000 species. And what do you think about drinking water quality in the Amstel river? Or a designated area for ‘wilderness’ in each of the city districts?

Curious about the visions presented? Download the Delta Plan here.

On Monday 8th of June, 20:30 hrs the Delta Plan will be presented to Laurens Ivens, Alderman of Amsterdam. He will receive the Manifesto from our partners Thijs de Zeeuw and Joost Janmaat during the presentation the long awaited Green Vision (GroenVisie) for the city in a free online broadcast from Pakhuis de Zwijger. Join in!

The Wild Amsterdam Delta Plan is a joint initiative by Nature Optimist, Partizan Publik, De Gezonde Stad and Artis together with, and with support of the Amsterdam Municipality.

June 5th, Dead Duck Day

As Katapult Magazine from Germany shows in their recent publication ‘102 Green Maps to Save the World’, most birds in their home country die because they cannot comprehend the concept of a glass window, making architecture and cities a potentially dangerous environment for our flying friends. Of course adovcates the design of more bird friendly architecture – which, as research shows, is possible. See our earlier post about the NYC approach towards this topic.

June 5th is an appropriate date to ask attention for this topic, as it is Dead Duck Day, referring to a day of the life of Kess Moeliker of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam in 1996, which was the day of the death of a male duck that hit the fassade of his office. Normally this day would be memorized with a public meeting, but due to covid-19 the ‘ceremony on site will involve only Kees, the stuffed duck and a bottle of beer’.

Don’t forget to watch the hilarious 2013 TEDex talk on the subject, Mr. Moeiliker’s scientific publication for which he as awareded the Ig Nobelprize. Picture below (c) Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam.

Villa connects people and nature by ‘forest living’

Vo Tron Nghia architects realized a villa in Ha Long, Vietnam, that despite of the small plot features lush green co-living on every floor due to a substanstantial, and spiralling layer of trees and access routes wrapping the 6 story patio house. “A house that will connect people and nature”, says the architect, to “become part of its landscape” with a concept which allows that “people can live in a forest”.

“Ha Long Villa aims to be a space where people return to living surrounded by nature” claims the office, “It is one of the prototypes of “House for Trees”, which is a series of residential projects. The aim of the series is to bring green spaces back into the city, and to design as much greenery as was present in the original landscape to provide a healthier life to people living in the city.”

Find out more on the tropical architeture of the architect at VTN’s website.