Urban environments in Aotearoa, New Zealand, face a series of challenges regarding the effects of climate change and urbanisation on ecosystems and human wellbeing. As a result of expansive urbanisation during the mid-19th century, the reshaping of natural landscapes saw the destruction of critical indigenous ecologies, causing ecological degradation and biodiversity loss and severely impacting people’s wellbeing; physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The way we continue to live in and build cities is causing further ecological degradation through overconsumption and pollution, which contributes to the current climate crisis, and leads to storm surge events and sea-level rise, among other direct negative impacts.
Porirua, New Zealand is no exemption to this condition. Its existing urban infrastructure and continued urban development to accommodate an expanding population are causing several environmental and social issues relating to ecosystem degradation. Regular flood events demonstrate the city’s inability to cope with storm water surges, which will only continue as the effects of climate change intensify (Daysh, 2019).
How might urban environments adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts affecting ecosystems and human wellbeing in a way which preserves social and cultural identities?
This thesis argues that a potential solution to address these issues is through increasing human-nature connections in the built environment at a range of scales and across disciplines. This research will test how biophilic design interventions (those related to increasing human/nature connections) could transform a city into a more livable, resilient place of wellbeing for a growing population. Challenging the typical juncture of ocean and land in an urban setting, The research reimagines Porirua as a ‘city on a wetland’ through a speculative biophilic design experiment ,exploring how architecture might respond to dynamic landscape conditions. Theories of biophilia are studied for their related effects on improved human cognitive, psychological and physiological wellbeing, creating anew typology for civic space which marries culture, environment and architecture.