Biophilia is a term popularized by Harvard University conservationist E.O. Wilson to describe the extent to which humans are hard-wired to need connection with nature and other forms of life.

Research shows the emotional and psychological benefits of nature is mounting and can result in reduced stress, improved recovery from illness, enhancement of cognitive skills and academic performance, assistance in moderating the effects of ADHD, autism and other child illnesses. All these values are in addition to the immense economic value of the ecological services provided by natural systems.

As a result, support for the practice of biophilic design has been growing and there are now many examples of buildings integrating natural features and qualities.  We recognise the need for biophilic workplaces, for healing gardens and spaces in hospitals, and for homes and apartments that provide abundant daylight, natural ventilation, plants and greenery.

Less attention, however, has been focused on the city or urban scale, despite the fact that the planet continues an inexorable trend in the direction of urbanisation. Urban residents need nature more than ever, and much work is needed to find creative and effective means for incorporating it into urban environments. Councils and city planners have special opportunities and unique obligations to advance biophilic city design, utilising a variety of strategies and tools, applied on a number of geographical and governmental scales.

The agenda is one that must extend beyond conventional urban parks and beyond building-centric green design. It is about redefining the very essence of cities as places of wild and restorative nature, from rooftops to roadways to riverfronts. It is about understanding cities as places that already harbour much nature and places that can become, through bold vision and persistent practice, even greener and richer in the nature they contain.