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Eindhoven (NL): Nature-City Hybrids
Freitag, 15. Mai 2020, 10:00 Uhr

Green design strategies for the city of tomorrow

Biotope City Congres 2020

The symposium is organized by Foundation Biotope City in close collaboration with Architectuurcentrum Eindhoven, Eindhoven University of Technology and Eindhoven municipality. The symposium is sponsored by Synchroon.
The symposium will take place in the Klokgebouw, 4thFloor at Keukenconfessies. Keukenconfessies is not only an inspirational venue, but also a stage for innovative and food-related projects.

Registration here

While we witness an increased longing for nature more and more humans are living in artificially produced dense urban centers. This symposium addresses the question how to interpret nature within cities and how nature related design strategies help to address key challenges of sustainability. 

In November 2002 the first international Biotope City conference took place at the University of Technology Eindhoven. At this conference a new view on city and urban life was introduced. The city was no longer regarded as the counterpoint of nature, but as an integral environment for human beings, flora and fauna. Now, 18 years later, the international Biotope City Symposium is back in Eindhoven. Since its introduction in 2002 the basic idea of the Biotope City has gained an urgent importance due to urban challenges as sustainable development and climate change; it has been grown out to international activities, among them a first pilot project at the coming International Building Exhibition Vienna 2022.

But how to conceptualize, create and implement urban natures, which are vulnerable and require a well-considered approach? Policy makers, clients, designers and residents can do a lot to integrate nature into the built environment in multiple forms. How do their design strategies help to address challenges like CO2 emissions, heat islands, air pollution, resource depletion, loss of biodiversity or flooding? How can policy instruments stimulate a well-considered integration of nature in the built environment? How can the application of green actually contribute to biodiversity in the urban environment? How do we shape responsible use and management of city green? In short, how can we create nature-city hybrids?

These questions and other related issues will be tackled during the Biotope City Symposium, which takes place on Friday 15 May in the Klokgebouw /Strijp-S. Concrete actions and perspectives for policy makers, clients and designers are being presented and discussed during various workshop sessions. In addition, experts reflect on the usefulness and necessity of nature-inclusive design and construction.

Guest speakers include:

Torsten Schröder: Architect and Assistant Professor of Sustainability in Architectural Design, TU Eindhoven

Robbert Snep: Ecologist and senior researcher Green Cities at Wageningen Environmental Research, Wageningen University & Research (WUR)

Helga Fassbinder: Urban planner, author and initiator of the basic idea of Biotope City, em. prof. TU/e and TU Hamburg

Tom van Duuren: Forester and member of Wilde Weelde, platform of specialist companies in the field of landscaping and management

Bernhard Scharf: Biologist and landscape architect specialist in IT-added planning and design of building integrated greening, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) / Greenpass 

Harrie van Helmond: Architect, specialist in greening buildings en green urban areas, van Helmond architects/Foundation Biotope City


Outline symposium:

Morning program 10.00 am:

Welcome: Rik Thijs (Alderman for Climate & Energy, Public Space & Green municipality of Eindhoven) positions the theme and goal of seminar in the municipal policy for greening and densifying the city. He is invited to reflect on important concrete steps and actions needed in the context of climate change and greening the city.

Introduction to goal and set up of the day (design, objective, guests): Mathias Lehner (architect BNA, Nextcity). On behalf of the initiators (Foundation Biotope City / Architectuurcentrum Eindhoven / TU/e / municipality of Eindhoven) Lehner will explain the reasons and objectives of the symposium: what we are going to hear, see and do…

Introductory reflection on humans and nature: Torsten Schröder, TU e

How we see ourselves and our relationship to (or understandings of) nature also shapes how we look for solutions to the problems we face. We are witnessing an increased longing for nature. But how to understand ‘nature’? (indeterminacy of the concepts of ‘nature’. What is there, and what creates such a political stir are the different cultural models of nature).

The question how to understand ‘nature’ is not as simple as it might appear. When we think of nature we tend to think of harmony, purity, untouched, the good, rolling hills, trees and wildlife. But this is an idea that we owe to the romantics. The romantics attempted to bridge the gap between man and the natural world, but this idea of nature is still dependent on the idea that it’s possible for man to be separate from nature in the first place. Then nature is seen as something outside of us, which we can choose to indulge in, but only if we want to. With this framing comes a psychological distance.

The first step towards a working philosophy of ecology is the abandonment of the romantic concept of nature and enter an altered understanding of our relationship to nature. We tend to perceive human activity as a perversion of nature, forgetting that we are ourselves a part of it. Nature is not outside of us, it is us! This understanding allows to confront the ecological devastation we have produced without viewing it as a pervasion of nature, but as a problem within the system! This way nature, man and technology are not opposites, but co-constitutive parts of the same world.

[In philosophy, a number of basic attitudes are being distinguished.

Key question: what does this (paradigm) shift mean for the way in which we make our living environment more nature inclusive? Example: perhaps explain introducing ideas of Timothy Morton.

Man and his natural biotope – concept en realisation: Harrie van Helmond / Helga Fassbinder, Foundation Biotope City

Man’s natural habitat is not an environment of concrete and steel. On the contrary, humans thrive best in a natural and green environment. We feel that intuitively! Green plays an important role in urban planning since the middle of the 19th century when, as a pioneer, the restructured Paris with its broad avenues with 4 rows of trees and its many public parks became a Mekka for city governers of all Europe. But now in these days things are more urgent: we need as soon as possible an efficient and at the same time affordable strategy to protect our cities against the effects of climate change. And more than that, not only to reduce the environmental impact of the emissions our cities produce, but even to help improve environmental conditions. This sounds audacious, but it is possible: intensive greening not only absorbs CO2 emissions, reduces temperatures, retains rainwater and slows down winds – it also strengthens biodiversity and, last but not least, contributes to our own physical and mental health. This is the impact of the concept of an intensively greened city, which was introduced by the Biotope City Foundation. It already has become reality in a first large project of over 1,000 apartments and housing follow-up facilities in Vienna: the Biotope City Wienerberg will be accomplished at the end of 2020 and will be presented as a pilot project for the future by the Interational Building Exphibition Vienna 2022 (IBA Wien).The speakers will explain the concept and its realisation in detail, including the associated hurdles that had to be overcome.

Key question: why should we design and build nature-inclusive living environments? What has been working on explicitly in recent years to make this concept of integrated greenin a reality?

The design of a nature-inclusive environment – generative design: Marlies Zuidam, FAAM architects / Bernard Scharf, Greenpass 

A well-functioning green living environment is not just a matter of adding greenery and, by extension, creating a balanced ecosystem. More factors play a role in the design of a living environment: material choice and impact on the environment, function and use by its users, climate aspects, etc. Marlies Zuidam (FAAM architects) about regenerative design, where mandatory and desired objectives can be weighed in a rational design process. Bernard Scharf (landscape architect, director of Green for Cities) about the Green Pass. This is a scientifically supported and certified method for implementing greenery in buildings and urban space.

Key question: what does a holistic, integral design approach entail? Example: De Kleine Aarde, Boxtel of other examples

Humans and ecosystems – an introduction:  Robbert Snep, WUR

As a child we already learned in elementary school that small animals are eaten by larger ones. They are part of a food chain. In an ecosystem, various life forms interlock and form multiple food chains. Biologists discover that ecosystems are extremely complex. Even so complex that it is very difficult to talk about this in generalizations.

At the same time, insights into the functioning of urban ecosystems are crucial. Especially if we want to green the city and its built environment in a sustainable way. If we introduce more green, what does that mean for the fauna? And, what about insects and bees, birds and small mammals in the city? How do different green islands in the cities work together (or do they not)?

Key question: which fundamental insights are needed to introduce green to a sustainable environment in the urban environment?

Proposition: ecosystems are complex, therefore work together with ecologist in shaping a nature plan for the built environment. Example: food chains in an urban (man-made) living environment

Man and managing nature: maintenance and management of an ecosystem: Tom van Duuren and other members of Wilde Weelde.

Creating a nature-inclusive environment is one aspect, but maintenance and management of it also requires special expertise. In an urban context it is important to keep a close eye on the created urban nature and to organize its maintenance with attention to the entire ecosystem (food chain: soil, plants, animals): Tom van Duuren and others zoom in on management aspects and examples of the management of urban green.
Theory: nature-inclusive design basically means designing an ecological management approach. Example: experiences with parks and nature in the city. 


Afternoon program 14.00 pm:

Mathias Lehner: introduction to workshops

There are two rounds, so each participant can choose from two workshops: 14.00 and 15.30.

Each workshop starts with an explanation by client or architect of an overall 20 minutes on the project concerned. The tools used are then discussed using a number of criteria (see below).

In every workshop an expert side kick will introduce nature and ecology related aspects.

Nature-inclusive design and construction:

  • How does the plan fit in with the green qualities that are already present in the area?
  • Which expertise is involved?
  • Which considerations were made?
  • What connection was sought with other (green) developments in the area?
  • What is the relationship between green on the building (s) and the surrounding land-bound nature?
  • Have provisions been made for insects or birds?
  • How is the aftercare organised? How are effects monitored?


  • Which forces were stimulating or obstructing in the process in achieving this?
  • Is a clear assessment framework or steering instrument being applied?
  • How are (future) users involved in the initiation phase, design process and management phase?

Climate-adaptive building:

  • What measures have been taken to build climate adaptively?
  • What kind of expertise is involved?
  • How were materials being selected?
  • How were energy related issues being tackled?
  • How has water storage been tackled

Wrap up and drinks…

During the drink the most important experiences are collected and discussed in an informal way. The outlines of the presented projects and the results of the workshops are summarised and published on the website of Architectuurcentrum Eindhoven.

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