Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Thinking and designing the city as an ecosystem

Today designers and policy makers are facing urban challenges that cannot be solved by thinking traditonally in only local, punctual or linear interventions. Causes and effects, architecture and the environment but also humans, plants and animals are interrelated. These relations can be approached afresh with system thinking.

Applying this thinking Mathias Lehner of nextcity taught a design course at the Academy of Architecture Amsterdam with inspiring results. The tasks for the Master Students of Architecture, Landscape and Urbanism was not only to design a new neighbourhood on a given location, but to design it with a systematic approach that took into account stakeholders. Moreover it included time: What happens in between the design phase and a future re-use of the realized project?

The students focused either on energy, food, water or an other dimension of their interest. See above Vyasa Koe’s work that integrates local fish breeding in the urban plan and below Augusto Rodrigues’ design that focuses on the changing energy system of the new neighbourhood.

4 features for succesfull wildlife-inclusive urban design

(Landscape and Urban planning/Volume 200, August 2020, Beate Apfelbeck e.a.)

In an urbanizing world there is an increasing priority for making cities nature-inclusive environments. Cities offer places for human-wildlife experiences, and thus for broad societal support of biodiversity conservation. Cities also depend on ecosystem services provided by biodiversity to remain healthy, liveable places. Although biodiversity is frequently addressed in urban green infrastructure plans, it often is not an integral topic in city planning, urban design and housing development. As a result, wildlife-rich urban green is often lacking in those parts of the cities where people live and work. Here, the authors introduce the concept of ‘wildlife-inclusive urban design’ for the built-up area of cities that integrates animal needs into the urban planning and design process. To identify key features that determine the success of wildlife-inclusive urban design, they evaluated lessons learnt from existing best practices. These were collected during an international workshop with architects, landscape practitioners, ecological consultants, conservationists and urban ecologists. in which Maike van Stiphout participated as well.

The authors propose that features of successful wildlife-inclusive urban design projects are:

1) interdisciplinary design teams that involve ecologists early on,

2) consideration of the entire life-cycle of target species,

3) post-occupancy monitoring and evaluation with feedback to communicate best practices

4) stakeholder involvement and participatory approaches.

The authors propose how wildlife-inclusive urban design could be included into the different steps of the urban planning cycle. They conclude that following these principles will facilitate incorporation of wildlife-inclusive urban design into urban planning and design and enable urban environments where humans and animals can thrive in the built-up areas.