- Handbook of Biophilic City Planning and Design by Timothy Beatley
Timothy Beatley. 2017. Island Press. Washington, DC. 312 pages. Hardcover ISBN: 9781610916196. Paperback ISBN: 9781610916202. eBook ISBN: 9781610916219. https://islandpress.org/books/handbook-biophilic-city-planning-design
Timothy Beatley’s Handbook of Biophilic City Planning and Design is grounded by the proposition that connecting people, living in cities, with urban nature is necessary. The author contends that people are biophilic, that is, they are innately predisposed to connect with other life forms and they receive massive physical and emotional benefits through contact with natural settings. Connecting people to nature makes them understand it better, care about it more, and become not only stewards of their home habitat, but more creative and generous human beings.
The book’s premise is that since the world’s population increasingly lives in cities, it follows that cities [End Page 79] need to be planned and designed in a way that the opportunity to connect with nature is ubiquitous. Biophilic urbanism ensures that nature is not found only in parks, greenways, and arboreta. Rather, a biophilic city, as defined by Beatley “is one . . . where every major planning and development decision is judged by the extent to which nature is restored and connections with the natural environment enhanced” (p. 24).
The book, really a manual of different ways that biophic design is being accomplished in cities around the world, is divided into four parts. Part one, The Backgound and Theory of Biophilic Cities, makes the argument for biophilic cities by reviewing biophilic theory and planning and design. A strength to Part One is that it references a large body of research showing that contact with nature provides mental and physical health benefits and considers new ways of understanding nature in cities, from the scale of the regional ecosystem to the smallest urban patch. A key point, that reoccurs throughout the book, is that it is not enough to have the opportunity to be in nature, but some how people need to be more fully engaged with nature.
There is a chapter focused on the need for cities to be resilient in the face of climate change and makes the case that a biophilic city is a more resilient city. However, it is not necessarily the case that every biophilic initiative will deliver ecosystem services. A more detailed look at the relationship between biophilic urbanism and the provision of ecosystem services would help to support the author’s case for biophilic cities.
Part Two, Creating Biophilic Cities: Emerging Global Practice, devotes individual chapters to three U.S. and five non-U.S. cities that are making progress in becoming more biophilic, namely Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; Wellington, New Zealand; Birmingham, United Kingdom; Oslo, Norway; Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain; and Singapore. The case studies are inspiring in their vision, scope, and degree of commitment by individuals, non-profits, businesses, and government agencies, often working in combination. The biophilic initiative was sometimes birthed by a visionary elected official, such as Oregon’s former Governor Tom McCall, or Singapore’s former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew. We learn that Portland’s green infrastructure stormwater management began as a response to state pressure to reduce polluted urban runoff entering the Willamette River, while the Big Float, a popular event celebrating Portland’s connection to the river, was a grass roots initiative. In each locale, different sets of individuals and organizations began the biophilic change and in every case something particular to the place has been implemented.
Part Three, entitled A Global Survey of Innovative Practice and Projects, is a series of short (a few pages), more detailed case studies arranged by category, from policy to design. Throughout the book, and especially in this section, the reader will wish for more visual information showing how what was being described in the text looked or functioned even though the book has 69 photos and three illustrations. More photos or graphics and stronger linkages of text and figures would increase the reader’s enjoyment and knowledge gained from this book. Part Four, entitled Successes and Future Directions, is a useful...