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The CityTree: Establishing Biophilia as an Integral Part of Urban Planning in 2020

Updated: Jul 5, 2020

January is often considered to be a very divisive time of year: some people are re-energised and focusing on another year of growth and progress whilst others can’t shake off the post-Christmas slump. However, Team ViDERE is very excited about 2020 & the upcoming months, as well as the increasing visibility of biophilic design within mainstream urban planning & interior design in the UK. One key piece of news which caught our eye this week perfectly encapsulates the growing demand and appreciation for biophilic design: London’s latest foray into ‘clean tech’, which aims to help solve their air pollution crisis, in the form of ‘CityTrees’. The benches have been made possible due to a collaboration between ‘clean’ tech company Evergen and Waltham Forest Council, the latter of whom previously declared a climate emergency in April 2018. 

But what is a CityTree? At first glance, it appears to be simply a bench attached to a green wall; however, the moss within the bench acts as the 'world's first biotech pollution filter' and has been described as having the equivalent benefits as planting 275 trees. The CityTree perfectly encapsulates the aesthetic & functional qualities that are central to the concept of biophilic design. Whilst their unusual design isn’t traditionally 'pretty', it is certainly distinctive and will help to inject a much-needed greenness to the city centre. 

Equally, it’s compactness is huge benefit: it’s no secret that London is extremely densely populated both in terms of citizens and architecture, so maximising the potential functionality of available space is a key concern for any urban planner or architect. This concept has also been adapted in several other European cities, including: Glasgow, Brussels and Paris.

Another benefit of the CityTree is that they are self-sufficient: they contain a water tank, irrigation system and sensors to monitor plant growth, powered by solar panels and internal batteries. Evergen’s technology also means that the CityTrees can provide performance and environmental data for the company & council to monitor. 

So, is the CityTree an innovative solution to the problem of air pollution, which endangers 7 million lives annually (according to the World Health Organisation), or just another fad-attempt at eco-friendliness? The long term benefits remain to be seen, but from our perspective, the CityTree definitely seem to be a step in the right direction! Their combination of of clean technology, green architecture and functionality is representative of an increasingly mainstream approach to implementing ‘greener’ urban planning and architecture. 

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