Urban Biodiversity
October 1, 2019

As an urbanist, I enjoy seeing the diversity of cities. I mean this more broadly than just social diversity, rather more so in a biodiversity kind of way. We generally consider biodiversity to be good; continents have a number of biomes filled with a large variety of plants and animals that no too forests are alike. Some regions are filled with a diverse number of natural landscapes, such as central Colorado, where you can see desert, ravines, boulders, rapids, mountain ranges, forests, and tundra all on the same day.

Cities are living organisms, not machines, so in the same way that we appreciate natural diversity, I feel an appeal to urban diversity. For example, many urbanists are intrigued by Manhattan. The tenements of the Lower East Side, the early skyscrapers along the crooked streets of the Financial District, the brick townhomes of West Village, the cast iron warehouses and coupled streets of SoHo all feel very distinct.

One of my criticisms of modern urban planning is that it kind of looks the same everywhere you go. When our cat was sick, we took him to the emergency animal hospital out in the suburbs of New Jersey. I spent 3 years living in Arkansas, and despite now living 1,000 miles away, the suburbs across the United States (along with the suburban development I have seen in Europe and Australia) look virtually identical;


Paramus, New Jersey


Bentonville, Arkansas

Modern planning is creating a monoculture of places. I call these copy-and-paste towns; completely identical except by their configuration of chain stores and franchises. Do not get me wrong, there are plenty of unique places in the United States worth exploring, from Eureka Springs, Arkansas to Philadelphia, but the places created by our hyper-standardized modern urban planning bores me as an urbanist that seeks out the biodiversity of our built environment.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas


There are practical implications to urban biodiversity beyond just aesthetics, which I will follow up on in the future.

  1. https://www.google.com/maps/@40.962896,-74.0765229,3a,60y,346.07h,89.08t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sDCispRQGzmwqsWasudR0Hw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192
  2. https://www.google.com/maps/@36.370474,-94.2216002,3a,60y,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1ssPMQFVKGpR5_2QXk_k7Vsw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656 Bentonville, Arkansas