biophilic urban acupuncture-compressed Photo: David McSpadden/Flickr

Although is sounds a little ominous, “biophilic urban acupuncture” is a straightforward design theory that incorporates living design (like parks) to improve quality of life in dense urban environments.

The idea is that incorporating biophilia — love of life — is extremely important when considering the outdoor spaces of densely populated cities, because humans have an innate need to connect with the natural world. Acupuncture refers to small-scale interventions to help connect people people with nature. These interventions can include parks, urban gardens and even street art depicting nature.

GreenBiz says that, although the term is relatively new, New York City is already a world leader in biophilic urban acupuncture.

One shining achievement is the High Line, the Big Apple’s public park built on top of an abandoned elevated train line. The line first opened in 1934, thanks to the West Side Improvement Project, but the last train ran in 1980. By 1999, people were advocating to preserve the High Line and reuse it as public open space. Now, more than 4 million people visit each year, enjoying its seasonal landscaping and city and water views.

The Million Trees Project is another “only in New York” success story that brings nature to the people. A collaboration between the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and The New York Restoration Project (NYRP), New York City actually planted its 1 millionth tree two years ahead of schedule, increasing the urban canopy by 20 percent. The project was strategic, identifying high-need areas by overlaying urban canopy maps with community health survey maps. Turns out, unemployment, low incomes and children’s hospitalization rates for asthma all correlate with the absence of trees.

An upcoming project in the biophilic urban acupuncture movement is New York City’s “pop-up forest.” With an estimated cost of $1 million and designs by COOKFOX Architects, the project aims to bring a massive art installation of trees and other plant life to Times Square sometime this year. It hopes to “connect New Yorkers to their wild neighbors” and help inspire “a more resilient and livable city.”

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