Koekelberg – Brussels, Belgium

Location | Koekelberg, Brussels, Belgium

Among the 19 municipalities in Brussels, Koekelberg is the smallest municipality in terms of population. In the bottom of the picture we see Boulevard Leopold II which links Koekelberg Basilica (not in the picture) to the city centre. In 1958, a viaduct 10 meters high, was installed on top the boulevard. However this structure was dismantled after 30 years as the road planning, car park, lighting and street furniture became an more important factor. Koekelberg is famous for its Basilica which is one of the worlds biggest among Roman Catholic churches.

Are Insects the Best City Planners?

Are Insects the Best City Planners?

No offence to all the city planners and urban designers out there, but there is a lot we could learn from the little creatures of the world when it comes to planning an efficient settlement, says sustainable professional Celeste Morgan.

She states that nature has had the time to try out the different things and find out what works best. Moreover biomimicry, which is the practice of matching strategies and patterns seen in nature to solve problems and challenges humans face, has recently helped great in understanding how we can plan cities. Morgan looks at a few examples:


1. Size your city to match your means

Ants have their own community where they work and live in, just like us humans. But they are experts in housing large populations and keeping a balance between density, land use and resources. They know how big a ant nest should be by taking into account of size, available resources and distance to neighbouring settlements.

Of course we also try plan this. For instance, on a sunny day in a park we carefully choose a spot to sit which is a polite distance from others. And as it becomes more crowded we still do the same action even until we have to sit right next to someone (searching for the optimal space). However ants do this as a means for building settlements. Additionally, they are self-sufficient while we get resources from all over the world.


2. Interweave and connect landscapes amongst the city

As bees need a healthy network of vegetation to pollinate, we humans need green infrastructure for our health. But bees,  which could create pollinator habitats in cities that would benefit both bees and urban landscapes, are declining. They would ensure well-distribution across the urban environment. An example of this is being put into action in Portland city in Maine whom recently made a Pollinator Vision Plan to re-plan green corridors and open spaces. The social and ecological benefits are said to be of equal measure, which would contribute to creating a well-scaled mix of large parks and community gardens.


3. Develop the next suburb creating active links with existing suburbs

When ants establish a new nest they trail from the new nest to the existing settlement, and they have a food source available to provide support for the new settlement to blossom. In doing so the new nest has access to the existing resources in the area and infrastructure to the neighbouring settlement.

If we draw parallels to city planning the ants approach to new development ensures well-planned infrastructure which can accommodate growing settlements. This principle applies to social infrastructure, transport and utilities: "connect new communities to existing infrastructure until capacity is exceeded, before building new infrastructure when the new population grows to support it in its own right."


Of course this doesn't mean we don't have any need for city planners. The article gives some attention to how we can learn about city planning from nature which is our greatest resource. By studying nature we have found some core principles of urban planning. However, unfortunately we do not always follow these principles. City planners often lost sight of the masterplan in the work, and compromises are made. Looking from a bug's perspective might just be the best way to ensure our sustainable future.

Durrat Al Bahrain, Bahrain

Location | Durrat Al Bahrain, Bahrain

Durrat Al Bahrain is the largest collection of artificial islands in Bahrain. With its 21 km² planned master development it has been created across a cluster of 15 spectacular islands. The finished include five-star hotels, an 18-hole golf course, 12 bridges, and a marina. The rest will consist of residential and other business related buildings. In the long run it has the goal of becoming a self-reliant city, which is yet to be seen.

Worlds longest roundabout, Malaysia

Location | Persiaran Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, Putrajaya, Malaysia

Did you know that the world's longest roudabout is located in Malaysia? This roundabout which was completed in 1999 is 3.5 km long and a part of the planned city Putrajaya which was established in 1995. The city is located 25 km south of Kuala Lumpur and serves as the administrative centre of Malaysia. The seat of government shifted in 1999 from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya, due to overcrowding and congestion in Kuala Lumpur.

Elche, Spain

Location | Elche, Alicante, Spain

Elche is one of the 20 largest cities in Spain. It is the successor of La Alcudia which Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans had in possession at a time. Elche lost its some of its importance when it was moved from the sea, but became important for its traditional footwear industry when the railway was introduced. The "Palmeral of Elche" is an UNESCO World Heritage for its over 200.000 palm trees.

Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar

Location | Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar

The stadium takes 40.000 people, and has a roof on the western side of the stadium. It will be one of the stadiums where the 2020 FIFA World Cup will take place in Qatar. It was built in 1976 and is a source of pride and symbol for the country’s sporting ambitions. It is being renovated for FIFA World Cup and will use green technologies, such as a metro line line to the stadium, to conform to the commitment to sustainability.

Jin Yuan Bridge area, Beijing, China

Location | Jin Yuan Bridge area, Beijing, China

The interchanges in China are one of a kind, not to mention the traffic itself! The 400 main interchanges in Bejing itself takes up 60% of the time spent in traffic. But what a masterpiece enveloping the land. It might not be seen when driving but it is beautiful seeing it from above.

Boudevilliers, Switzerland

Location | Boudevilliers, Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Boudevilliers is a former municipality of Switzerland with 750 inhabitants. Out of the 12.6 sq. km land available, 61.3% is used for agriculture, 32.2% is forested and 6.3% is built land (buildings and roads). Boudevilliers consist of the village Boudevilliers and the hamlets of La Jonchère, Malvilliers and Landeyeux. Landeyeux can be seen at the bottom right corner in the picture. Fantastic colours of agricultural land can be seen from such an aerial view like this.

Port Ariane, France

Location | Port Ariane, Lattes, France

Port Ariane is a port located in Lattes. Lattes is a small commune with about 16.000 inhabitants. The city centre experience flooding once in a while so dykes and a spillway was built in the last years. If you look at the water in the picture we see a circle-shaped water area with a small park located in the middle. Quite fascinating and nice design!