Nature-Based Urbanization: Scan Opportunities, Determine Directions and Create Inspiring Ecologies

Rob Roggema*, Nico Tillie, Greg Keeffe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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To base urbanization on nature, inspiring ecologies are necessary. The concept of nature-based solutions (NBS) could be helpful in achieving this goal. State of the art urban planning starts from the aim to realize a (part of) a city, not to improve natural quality or increase biodiversity. The aim of this article is to introduce a planning approach that puts the ecological landscape first, before embedding urban development. This ambition is explored using three NBS frameworks as the input for a series of design workshops, which conceived a regional plan for the Western Sydney Parklands in Australia. From these frameworks, elements were derived at three abstraction levels as the input for the design process: envisioning a long-term future (scanning the opportunities), evaluating the benefits and disadvantages, and identifying a common direction for the design (determining directions), and implementing concrete spatial cross-cutting solutions (creating inspiring ecologies), ultimately resulting in a regional landscape-based plan. The findings of this research demonstrate that, at every abstraction, a specific outcome is found: a mapped ecological landscape showing the options for urbanization, formulating a food-forest strategy as the commonly found direction for the design, and a regional plan that builds from the landscape ecologies adding layers of productive ecologies and urban synergies. By using NBS-frameworks, the potentials of putting the ecological landscape first in the planning process is illuminated, and urbanization can become resilient and nature-inclusive. Future research should emphasize the balance that should be established between the NBS-frameworks and the design approach, as an overly technocratic and all-encompassing framework prevents the freedom of thought that is needed to come to fruitful design propositions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number651
Number of pages30
Issue number6
Early online date18 Jun 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 18 Jun 2021


  • food forestry
  • landscape first
  • nature-driven urbanism
  • nature-based solutions
  • research by design
  • Western Sydney


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