Sierra Sathorn

The Future of Architecture: BioDiverCities and Nature-based Solutions (NbS)

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Architizer is thrilled to announce the winners of the 11th Annual A+Awards! Interested in participating next season? Sign up for key information about the 12th Annual A+Awards, set to launch this fall.

Imagine a city where vibrant green spaces and natural solutions not only enhance our urban landscapes but also boost our well-being, creating healthier and happier urban environments. Initiatives that place nature at the heart of decision-making and city infrastructure investments can reduce the impact on biodiversity, increase climate resilience, improve city habitability and secure significant economic benefits. These are some of the ambitious goals that a community of private and public organizations has set for the near future. In January 2022, the World Economic Forum issued the BiodiverCities by 2030 report with a key message: “Transforming Cities’ Relationship with Nature.” This report presents a vision of a nature-positive urban development that addresses climate challenges and ensures that all urban activities have a positive environmental impact by 2030. This inspiring vision encourages cities to put nature first in their decisions on infrastructure, governance, economy, health and well-being to improve resilience and habitability.

In response to pressing environmental and societal challenges in urban areas, a forward-thinking approach known as Nature-based Solutions (NbS) has emerged, with the building community playing a crucial role.

NbS: Embracing Nature-Positive Interventions

The term NbS (Nature-based Solutions) was put forward by international organizations — including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Bank — to address environmental and societal challenges in urban areas by working with natural ecosystems rather than relying purely on engineering interventions. In this context, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines NBS as “actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems, which address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.”

Due to the loss and limited availability of green spaces in metropolitan areas and fast urbanization in recent decades, there is a need to promote sustainable cities for the future. Cities can deploy nature-based solutions to leverage natural processes, ecosystems and biodiversity, improve their resilience and enhance the well-being of residents.

Architects and landscape architects are instrumental in the practical implementation of NbS in urban environments. Their expertise in design, planning and sustainable practices contributes to creating more resilient, healthier and enjoyable cities for residents while also addressing environmental challenges.

Sierra Sathorn

Landscape and planning development Sierra Sathorn. Bangkok, Thailand. Design by Redland-scape. Photos by Rungkit Charoenwat.

Learning from Natural Ecosystems to Balance City Growth and Human Well-being

Natural ecosystems offer valuable models for urban development that prioritize human health and well-being. They inspire sustainable practices, green spaces, efficient resource management and climate regulation. Emulating these principles in urban planning can create healthier, more resilient cities that balance growth with the well-being of their residents.

Sierra Sathorn presents a vision for the future of a rapidly expanding urban area that lacked public green spaces and offered a lower quality of life. This vision introduces the concept of an “urban terrarium,” which serves as an ecological framework highlighting the interconnectedness of mountain, forest and river ecosystems. The Sierra Sathorn prototype prioritizes the expansion of green spaces and efficient water management to establish a sustainable urban ecosystem that enhances its residents’ well-being.

The Advantages of Promoting Urban Ecology to Cultivate Sustainable Cities

Promoting urban ecology represents a sustainable initiative that addresses the intricate interplay between urban environments and nature. In densely populated cities with a growing demand for public open spaces, this initiative offers valuable advantages, including the promotion of biodiversity, the enhancement of environmental quality, the improvement of human health and well-being, the cultivation of resilience against environmental challenges, and ultimately, the creation of more sustainable and livable urban environments.

Hunter's Point South Waterfront Park

Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park. Queens, New York, United States. Design by SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi. Photo by David Lloyd/SWA.

This waterfront site was originally wetlands before transitioning into an industrial area. Over the years, its ecological vitality diminished. The design strategy harmonizes its historical character and champions resilience against waterfront flooding. It also remediates the polluted landfill, establishing a verdant park along the waterfront. Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park in New York City seeks to revolutionize the region by creatively uniting landscape, architecture, and engineering, creating spaces for relaxation and recreation, all while reestablishing the connection to nature by the water’s edge.

Fostering a Human-Nature Connection to Achieve Well-being and a Positive Work Environment

Integrating nature through biophilic design, greenery, natural light and outdoor spaces can enhance social interaction and the human-nature connection in urban work settings. Outdoor workspaces, walking trails, water features and public parks strengthen this connection and foster well-being, creating a more positive and productive work environment.

Mapletree Business City II

Landscape and planning development Mapletree Business City II. Singapore. Design by Shma Company Limited. Photos by Wison Tungthhunya.

Take, for example, Mapletree Business City II, which revolutionizes the work environment to harmonize with an urban setting coexisting with nature. A “Forest Ecosystem” at the core of the design generates an ideal microclimate for outdoor spaces in tropical conditions while extending ecological connections from nearby nature reserves. The landscape design includes efficient stormwater management to reduce flood risks and support rainwater harvesting for long-term sustainability. Additionally, the project defines diverse spatial experiences through topography, integration with the surrounding environment, and user connectivity. The result is an engaging outdoor space that promotes a healthy work environment.

These examples demonstrate that when cities incorporate nature into their spatial planning, the results are transformative. Nature integration rejuvenates abandoned or polluted areas, fosters a positive work environment that enhances productivity, and establishes a sustainable urban ecosystem, promoting residents’ well-being.

Embracing these nature-centric approaches is not merely an obligation but an opportunity for cities to cultivate resilience and competitiveness in their living environments. The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the significance of public open spaces in urban areas as indispensable components of healthy, livable environments, further emphasizing the pressing need for many cities to expand their public open spaces.

Architizer is thrilled to announce the winners of the 11th Annual A+Awards! Interested in participating next season? Sign up for key information about the 12th Annual A+Awards, set to launch this fall.

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