Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 5.19.46 PM

Course Description

This class begins with the premise that contact with nature is absolutely essential to modern life. Daily contact with the natural environment is essential to lead to happy, healthy, productive and meaningful lives, and planners and designers must begin to put nature at the core of their work. The class essentially aims to develop and present the science and practice of Biophilic Cities, or Biophilic Urbanism.

The class will examine the evidence for why nature is important, and the many creative ways in which cities can plan for and design-in nature, and foster meaningful and everyday connections with the natural world. From green belts to green walls, the class will review the tools, techniques, policies and exemplary projects that advance nature in cities, and what leading cities are doing around the world to integrate and celebrate nature. Lectures and discussions will focus on the following topics, among others:

  • The many different definitions of nature and ways and places in which it can be found in cities;
  • The positive effects nature can provide and pathways by which nature can complement and enhance urban lives (and the evidence and research that supports these claims); and the many ways biophilic urban design can help to make cities more sustainable and resilient;
  • Concepts of Biophilia, Biophilic Design, and emerging concepts of Biophilic Cities and Biophilic Urbanism;
  • Innovative planning practice and approaches to foster connections with nature in exemplary Biophilic Cities around the US and the world; Examples will include Singapore, Wellington (NZ), San Francisco, Portland, Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain), Oslo, Rio de Janeiro, and many others;
  • Design and planning tools, concepts, and practices by which nature can be integrated into cities and urban design projects, as well as key obstacles facing this goal.
Class Requirements and Expectation for 3860 students:
  1. Attendance and Participation (including several field trips).
  2. Midterm and Final Exams [Each worth 25%, for a total of 50% of your grade]
  3. Participation in the UVA BioGrounds/BioBlitz: Each 3860 student will be expected to actively participate in BioGrounds, a semester-long effort to identify and document the many other living species that co-inhabit the spaces of the University with us. This data will then be entered on a map of UVA (to be found on our new BioGrouds website, currently under construction). Each student team will develop a plan/strategy to collect, identify and catalog their discoveries. In developing their collection plans, teams will be encouraged to seek out UVA faculty (in any relevant department) to guide them and assist them. Teams of between 3-5 students will choose one of the following bio-teams:
    • Nocturnal fauna;
    • Life in soils; 
    • Birds (and bird mortality related to buildings);
    • Micro-organisms of interior spaces;
    • Micro-organisms of gutters;
    • Fungi and Lichen;
    • Aquatic life of ponds and streams;
    • Trees and Forests;
    • Ants and other arthropods;
    • Others to be determined.

    Each student will be expected to prepare and submit at least one BioGrounds Observation and Blog Post over the course of the semester. [BioGrounds activities will together constitute 20% of your class grade].

  4. Biophilic Neighborhood Analysis and Design Exercise: This will constitute the final paper for the course. The task will be to apply the framework of biophilic cities to a neighborhood of your choosing, in a city of your choosing. One suggestion is to choose your own neighborhood where you are from, in your home town or city. You will be asked to analyze the biophilic qualities of your neighborhood (or the absence of those qualities), collect data for at least one biophilic indicator, and provide suggestions for how your neighborhood could become more biophilic. [This will constitute 30% of your final grade].
Requirements and expectations for PLAN 6860 students:
  1. Midterm Exam [worth 25% of your grade]
  2. Serving as a BioGrounds Mentor and Advisor; and class participation [worth 25%]
  3. Biophilic City Assessment for Global City of Your Choosing: Research and outreach focused on a specific city; preferably outside the US. A detailed examination of the biophilic dimensions of this city, an inventory of main efforts to protect, restore, connect to nature; and exploration of ways that students and faculty here at UVA can help it to become more biophilic. An expectation is that the student will develop actual contacts with officials and organizations in the chosen city doing work on urban nature, and in this way assist the UVA Biophilic Cities Project in their efforts to add cities to its global biophilic cities network [Worth 50% of the class grade]
Field Trips:

Two out-of-town field trips are being planned: one to Belle Isle in Richmond, Virginia, the other to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In addition, several local field trips will also be organized over the course of the semester.


Beatley, Biophilic Cities (Island Press, 2011); Selhub and Logan, Your Brain on Nature (Wiley 2012); Richard Louv, The Nature Principle (Algonquin, 2012); Elisabeth Tova Bailey, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (Algonquin, 2010); and others.

Films, Blogs, and social media

In addition to readings, we will be asking you to watch films along the way and to peruse relevant web sites. In addition, we ask that you visit and keep up with online discussions and posts on the following blogs:

The Nature of Cities blog:

The Dirt blog, ASLA:

Also consider following on Twitter:


Cities + Nature: Class Schedule and Reading List

Tues Jan 14: Course Intro and Overview: Preliminary Thoughts On the Importance of Nature in Cities.

Thurs Jan 16: Current Urban Trends and Conditions: How Much Nature Is There in Cities?
Strands of the New Urban Nature Movement.

Read: Beatley, Biophilic Cities, “The Importance of Nature and Wildness in Our
Urban Lives,” and “The Nature of (in) Cities”; Cities and Biodiversity Outlook, 2013, Read Sections I and II found at:

Tues Jan 21: What is Nature? Where Do We Find It and What Are the Many Forms It Can Take in Cities?

Read: Anne Whiston Spirn, The Granite Garden Ch 1: “City and Nature” (1984); William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness” (1995), found at:

Thurs Jan 23: Why the Urban-Nature Disconnect?

Read: Rich Louv, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Life in a Virtual Age, Introduction and Part One.


Tues Jan 28: Reviewing the Evidence of the Power of Nature: How Does Nature Make us
Healthier, Happier, Smarter, and More Creative?

Read: Selhub and Logan, Your Brain on Nature, Chapters 1-5; Louv, The Nature Principle, “Vitamin N” and the rest of Part Two; Optional Read: Aspinall, Panagiotis, Mavros, Coyne, and Roe, “The urban brain: Analysing outdoor physical activity with mobile EEG,” British J of Sports Medicine, 2013.

Thurs Jan 30: The Concept and Theory of Biophilia;

Read: Kellert, “Dimensions, Elements, and Attributes of Biophilic Design,” in Kellert,
Heerwagen and Mador, eds., Biophilic Design; Optional Read: E.O. Wilson, Biophilia, “The Right Place,” and “The Conservation Ethic.”

Tues Feb 4: Biophilic Cities: What Are They?

Read: Beatley, Biophilic Cities, “Biophilic Cities: What Are They?”; Louv, The Nature Principle, Chapter 16, “Living in a Restorative City.”

Thurs Feb 6: Biophilia and Urban Resilience

Read: Beatley and Newman, “Biophilic Cities Are Sustainable, Resilient Cities,”
Sustainability, found at:

Tues Feb 11: Biomimicry and Cities: Learning From Nature

Read: Jeanine Benyus, “A Good Place to Settle: Biomimicry, Biophilia, and the Return of Nature’s Inspiration to Architecture,” in Kellert, Heerwagen and Mador, Biophilic Design; Watch: Janine Benyus, “Biomimicry’s surprising lessons from nature’s engineers,” TED Talk found at:


Thurs Feb 13: Green Walls, Green Rooftops, Green Architecture, Biophilic Design Features

Read: Louv, The Nature Principle, Part Four, “Creating Everyday Eden,” Chapters 13-
15; Hough, “Urban Ecology, A Basis for Design” (1984); Francis, “Urban Reconciliation Ecology” (2011); Optional Watch: Stephen Kellert and Bill Finnegan film, Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life, trailer found here: (we will either place on library reserve or arrange a screening).

Tues Feb 18: Parks and Greenspaces

Read: Cranz and Boland, “Defining the Sustainable Park: A Fifth Model for
Urban Parks” (2004); Kowarik and Langer, “Natur-Park Südgelände: Linking Conservation and Recreation in an Abandoned Railyard in Berlin” (2005); Watch: Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks (film)(2011), found at:

Thurs Feb 20: Healing Gardens and Spaces [Guest Visit by Reuben Rainey]

Read: Rainey, “The Garden in the Machine: Nature Returns to the High Tech
Hospital,” SiteLines, Journal of the Foundation for Landscape Studies; Optional: Esther Sternberg, Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well Being, Chapters 1, 2, 10-12.

Tues Feb 25: Cities Are For the Birds: Bird-Friendly Urban Design

Read: NYC Audubon Bird-friendly design guidelines:; “Fire Escape Red-Tails” on The Nature of Cities blog: read: Hager SB, Cosentino BJ, McKay KJ, Monson C, Zuurdeeg W, et al. (2013) “Window Area and Development Drive Spatial Variation in Bird-Window Collisions in an Urban Landscape.” PLoS ONE 8(1), found at:

Thurs Feb 27: Rivers and Cities [Guest Visit by Iñaki Alday]

Read: Laird, “Restoring the ‘Water Freeway'”(2012); Peruse: American Rivers “Rivers in Urban Settings” page:

Tues March 4: Trees and Urban Forests

Read: Intro and two (or more) American Forests urban forests case studies; Poe et al. “Urban Forest Justice and the Rights to Wild Foods, Medicines, and Materials in the City” (2013); Peruse: more generally; San Francisco, Friends of the Urban Forest found at:

Thurs March 6: Microscopic Biophilia: Microbiology and the City [Guest Visit by Rob Dunn]

Read: Rob Dunn, “Letting Biodiversity Get Under the Skin,” Conservation Magazine, found at:; Rob Dunn, The Wild Life of Our Bodies; Watch: Jessica Green, “We’re covered in germs. Let’s design for that,” found at:“Are we filtering the wrong microbes?” found at:

Tues March 18: Midterm Exam

Thurs March 20: Interior Nature; Small Nature

Read: Elisabeth Tova Bailey, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (Algonquin Books);
please read the entire book for this week); Peruse: Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s interview on the Biophilic Cities Project page:


Tues March 25: Nature in the Vertical City, Compact City

Read: Peter Newman, “Biophilic Urbanism: A Case Study on Singapore,” Australian Planner; Watch: “Singapore:  A Biophilic City”:

Thurs March 27: Nature in the Shrinking City

Read: “Inventing the New Urban Farm: Field Notes From Detroit,” SiteLines; Sullivan, “The Meadowlands” (1998)

Tues April 1: Nature in the Marine/Coastal City: Special Case of Blue Urbanism

Read: “Linking People to the Sea + City,” found at:“Our Living City,” Wellington, NZ, found at: council/projects/our-living-city; Watch: “Wellington a Biophilic City”:

Thurs April 3: Nature in the Desert City

Read: John Meunier, “Making Desert Cities,” found at:; Watch: “McDowell Sonoran Conservancy”:

Tues April 8: Co-Existence in Cities: Coyotes and the Others [Guest Visit by John Hadidian]

Read: Camilla Fox, “Coyotes, Compassionate Conservation and Coexistence,” in Marc Bekoff, Ignoring Nature No More; Jennifer Wolch, “Zoöpolis,” in Wolch and Jody Emel, eds., Animal Geographies; Peruse: Project Coyote, found at:


Thurs April 10: Biophilila, Art and Literature

Read: “Nature in Art: Celebrating the Beauty of Art – and the Nature in it,” The Nature
Conservancy, found at: and-art.xml

Tues April 15: Biophilia in Urban Schools

Read: “The Corps for Education Outside,” San Francisco, found at:

Thurs April 17: The Role of Citizen Science in Cities; Citizen-Based Restoration

Read: Louv, The Nature Principle, Part Three: “Near is the New Far”; Rick Bonney et al, “Citizen Science: A Developing Tool for Expanding Science Knowledge and Scientific Literacy,” BioScience; “Creating Biophilic Cities through Citizen Science,” found at:

Tues April 22: Urban Soundscapes and Multi-Sensory Dimensions of Nature in the City

Read: Bernie Krause, The Great Animal Orchestra, “The Organized Sound of Life


Thurs April 24: Glocal Biophilia: Cities Caring for Global Nature

Read: “Can Mayors Really Save the World? The Atlantic Cities, found at:

Tues April 29: Technobiophilia: Can Technology and Social Media Re-Connect Us?

Read: Sue Thomas, Technobiophilia: Nature and Cyberspace (Bloomsbury, 2013).

Thurs May 1: Equity and Ethics in the Biophilic City; Final Discussion: Future Directions in Biophilic Cities

Read: Byrne and Wolch, “Nature Race and Parks” (2009); Wesely and Gaarder, “The Gendered ‘Nature’ of the Urban Outdoors: Women Negotiating Fear of Violence,” Gender and Society.