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Reducing Urban Stressors through Design: Nature in Amsterdam

Reducing Urban Stressors through Design: Nature in Amsterdam

Moving from a low-density neighborhood afforded by a desert city to the compact built environment of Amsterdam mandates more of a mental and physical shift than I initially expected. For me, being around people is a positive experience. Hearing a neighbor’s shower turn on or door close can even be comforting: others are alive and well; however, living in

Urban stress on the street

Moving from a low-density neighborhood afforded by a desert city to the compact built environment of Amsterdam mandates more of a mental and physical shift than I initially expected. For me, being around people is a positive experience. Hearing a neighbor’s shower turn on or door close can even be comforting: others are alive and well; however, living in an urban environment ultimately means experiencing more stimuli, and not always in a good way.

Noise from traffic, crowding, and fear of crime have encouraged an exodus to the suburbs in past decades, but with increasing numbers of individuals bound for urban cores (especially young adults), a balance between the built and natural environments is needed. Where home design can’t provide for a relief of a built environment, city design must compensate.

Over the past decade, researchers have found that taking a break in or within view of a natural setting (as opposed to built environment) is increasingly important to our health for the following reasons:

  • Relaxation and stress reduction;
  • Decrease in mental fatigue and/or restored mental clarity;
  • Quicker recovery for hospital patients and;
  • Enhanced childhood development.

Park in Amsterdam, Urban/Nature integration

Beyond just these benefits, urban nature can promote urban sustainability. As featured in Timothy Beatley’s Green Urbanism, the Netherlands (specifically, Cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Groningen, and the contemporary Town of Almere) is lauded for integrating nature and quality landscape design with the ever-increasing urbanity that our societies are experiencing.

After just two weeks in Amsterdam, integration of urban design with nature is evident.  I’ve already stumbled upon verdant canal pathways and well-occupied city parks where trees often completely obscure the built environment from view.

Still, residential preferences for the built and natural environments are increasingly important for urban planners to consider. Being a child of suburbia, I am still exploring with what quantity and quality of urbanity and nature I need or desire.

On the spectrum of “roof garden and urban park” to “edge of nature reserve,” what level of nature do you require?

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

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Ellen Schwaller is a former GRID blogger and graduate of Arizona State University's master's program in Urban and Environmental Planning. Spending most of her life in the sprawling sunbelt, it was a recognized desire for human-centered rather than au...

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