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

Rob Roggema, Nico Tillie, Greg Keeffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
136 Downloads (Pure)


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 pages31
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Food forestry
  • Landscape first
  • Nature‐based solutions
  • Nature‐driven urbanism
  • Research by design
  • Western Sydney


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