Scientific Seminar 06.10

Biocities: placing nature and people at the centre of the urban environment

For the first time in human history, globally, we have more people living in cities than in rural areas. Cities already account for more than 80% of global economic output, consume close to two-thirds of the world’s energy, and account for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Every day our cities add around two hundred thousand people more, which explains that by 2050 more than two thirds of the global population will live in urban areas. Rural out-migration to urban areas and the urbanisation of lifestyles also beyond city borders is happening at record speed and on a scale the world has never experienced before, giving birth to what some scientists start calling the era of Urbanocene. This also means that cities represent at the same time our greatest challenges but also the greatest opportunities to transform our existing linear fossil-based economy system towards a new economic paradigm where prosperity takes place within the planetary boundaries and its renewable potential. This requires a new and synergistic relationship between economy and ecology, as well as new and fair partnerships connecting rural and urban areas. In this context, trees, forests and wood can become the backbone for sustainable and resilient cities. The use of trees and forests in urban areas does not only support human health and wellbeing and are critical for urban biodiversity. They also reduce the energy needs for cooling and heating in buildings as well as the urban heat island effect. In addition, wood is key to replace non-renewable and carbon intense materials like plastics, steel or concrete while de facto transform cities into carbon storage infrastructures.

The Scientific Seminar will facilitate an international science-policy-practice dialogue on the transformative potential of trees, forests, and wood (and other biomaterials) to rethink the build environment and create healthy, sustainable and resilient cities as well as rural-urban sustainable interfaces.

Seminar location: Museum of Design  



  • Marc Palahí, Director, EFI
  • Janet Sanz, Vice-Mayor of Barcelona and Eloy Badia, Vice-President Metropolitan Area
  • John Schellnhuber, Prof. Dr., Director Emeritus of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Founder and Managing Director of Bauhaus Earth
The Nature of Cities and how Nature can transform them: a science perspective

Moderator: John Schellnhuber, Prof. Dr., Director Emeritus of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Founder and Managing Director of Bauhaus Earth

  • How nature can improve human health in urban areas
    Matilda van den Bosch, Researcher, Barcelona Institute for Global Health
  • Cities as carbon sinks
    Galina Churkina, Prof., Urban Ecosystem Sciences, Technical University of Berlin
  • Nature based solutions for climate resilient buildings and cities
    Barbara Widera, Associate Professor at Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, Faculty of Architecture, Member of Mission Board of EU Adaptation to Climate Change Mission

Coffee break

Creating cities in symbiosis with Nature: Biocities

Moderators: Andreja Kutnar, InnoRenew CoE, Slovenia (panel 1) and Cecil Konijnendijk, Director, Nature Based Solutions Institute (panel 2)


Keynote: Transforming our cities into Biocities: knowledge to action
Vicente Guallart, Founder, Director, Guallart Architects


Panel on Biobased construction for regenerative urbanization
Moderator: Andreja Kutnar, InnoRenew CoE, Slovenia

  • Devothe Mukeshimana, Rwanda 
  • Tye Farrow, Senior Partner, Farrow Partners Architects, Canada 
  • Alan Organschi, Gray Organschi architecture & Bauhaus Earth 

Panel on Urban ecology, forest trees
Moderator: Cecil Konijnendijk, Director, Nature Based Solutions Institute


  • Wiebke Klemm, Senior Policy Advisor at Municipality of The Hague
  • Yvonne Lynch, Royal Commission for Riyadh City on Green Riyadh 
  • Maria Chiara Pastore, Stefano Boeri Architetti
  • Fredéric Segur, Urban Forest Management, City of Lyon
  • Andrej Verlic, Head of Nature Conservation Unit, JP Voka Snaga 
13.30 – 15.00

Lunch break


Knowledge to Action initiatives: building synergies
Moderator: Carla Conejo González, Science Academy, Fundacio Catalunya La Pedrera

  • EFI Biocities Facility, Giuseppe Scarascia-Mugnozza
    Biocities Facility aims to create an informed dialogue on how trees, forests and wood can contribute to rethinking our cities, so they can lead the transformation towards a climate-neutral and nature-positive economy.
  • Built by Nature, Amanda Sturgeon
    Built by Nature is a network and grant-making fund dedicated to accelerating the timber building transformation in Europe: radically reducing embodied carbon; safely storing carbon in our buildings for generations; and sequestering carbon by championing forest stewardship and regeneration.
  • and BiodiverCities, Marina Ruta
    Nearly 70% of the global population is expected to live in cities by 2050, up from just 30% in 1950 - creating an urgent need to explore the nexus between urban growth and resilience, energy use, and biodiversity. The concept of BiodiverCities springs from the fact that healthy biological diversity should be a core element of civic space and urban development. As hubs for innovation, cooperation, inspiration, and economic growth, the potential for urban centres to help protect biodiversity should no longer be underestimated. The cities of the future have an opportunity to put nature at their core, and to hold themselves accountable for their collective impact on planetary health.
  • Bauhaus der Erde, Franziska Schreiber
    Bauhaus der Erde gGmbH is a non-profit organization with the objective to transform the built environment. Our purpose is to transform the way we construct and maintain the built environment so that the human species may live in dignity and harmony with the Earth’s natural systems.
  • The Uforest Alliance (Uforest), Rik De Vreese
    The Uforest Alliance is an outcome of the Uforest ERASMUS+ project. The Alliance unites enterprises, practitioners, decision-makers, agencies and researchers who are working on urban forest items. The Alliance offers networking, innovation, knowledge exchange and training opportunities. 


16.30 - 17.00

Marco Marchetti, Chair, EFI Board
Daniel Ibanez, Director, IAAC