The urge for Biophilic Urban Acupuncture

Paley Park NYC (c) Terrapin, Flickr, Wally Gobetz

The theory of Biophilia teaches us that humans long to (re)connect to nature, and that it improves our wellbeing. Positive impact on self-esteem and mood has been shown to occur in the first five minutes of experiencing nature (Barton&Pretty, 2010). Especially in cities expanding and densifying, there is a need to design places to connect people to nature. Everybody who has visited New York on a hot day and spent some time in Paley Park or one of the other pocket parks might recognize this effect. In the current corona period it becomes even more evident that we need to connect to nature, and therefor have to actively design our cities to bring nature in.

The consultants of Terrapin Bright Green set out a strategy for small and feasible interventions:  Biophilic Urban Acupuncture (BUA). Just as the practice of acupuncture is aimed at relieving stress in the human body, the goal of urban acupuncture is to relieve stress in the built environment. BUA is the theory that threads and nodes of biophilic interventions in specific urban places can help improve people’s moods, connect people to place, and help improve mental health.

BUA has higher levels of effectiveness in dense cities versus suburban places due to the ease of pedestrian mobility. Smaller BUA interventions should be placed in locations throughout the city which, in a web-like structure, users with different destinations will experience biophilic experiences no matter where they traveling to.

This blog is based upon a text by Jonce Walker, urban planner and sustainability professional, published online by Terrapin Bright Green, a small New York sustainability consulting firm founded in 2006.

Nice to know: Terrapin is also the name for a species of turtle that can live in both fresh and saltwater.