The Natural and the Urban can Coexist

Khalid Elmatbagi

Preface: Hello! My name is Khalid Elmatbagi. Welcome to my portfolio, The Natural and the Urban can Coexist. This work is under CC BY 4.0 (Attribution) license.


This portfolio aims to highlight how the distinct lines between urban and natural environments are arbitrary. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive. Rather, society benefits from a blend of both worlds. I seek to provide evidence of how incorporating the environment and natural scenes into urban cityscapes is easy and has a positive influence on the denizens and passers-by.


There are two themes I wish to explore with this set of images.

  • Nature has its place in everybody, and incorporating it into urban environments is beneficial.
  • Urban and natural landscapes can be interwoven seamlessly.


The first image is of Saint Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo. The building features a rooftop luscious green garden with a paved walkway and benches. Just as the modern hospital can bring about physical healing, nature can bring about mental healing. The garden creates an escape from drab interiors and allows for a breath of relaxation. The mental therapy of reconnecting with the environment can be just as important as the physical therapy of the hospital treatments. Hospitals can be stressful, and many studies conclude that walking through nature can lower blood pressure and cortisone (the stress hormone) levels. By integrating a natural aspect into the modern, urban setting of the hospital, patients and visitors can reap the benefits of both in one trip. The second image is of an urban garden situated on the Bow Back River in London. It was set up by students of the University of Innsbruck. The hanging portion of the garden is against a graffitied brick wall. Facing opposite the wall is the river, and past it, urban London. In the middle of the riverside path lies a community garden with plants such as raspberries. Any person can pluck and snack as they go. The secondary idea behind the installation was to “activate local people to participate in the urban farming.” There are other urban gardens full of food crops, which provide bountiful aid as well as aesthetic appeal for the communities that upkeep them. The third image captures the unusual top of the California Academy of Science in San Francisco. The roof is not only a natural landscape, but unlike the majority of rooftop-gardened buildings, this one includes rolling hills. When viewed from a distance the building resembles the natural hills that run through the area. Rather than create an outlying structure, the academy was designed to be integrated into the surroundings. The green top is just as functional as it is beautiful; its insulating properties cool the building down an additional 10 degrees*. The Academy epitomizes the seamless integration of modern, urban architecture with the natural environment.


Nature is a major inspiration to many artists. It should also be an inspiration for city planners and architects. Nature is an irremovable part of the human essence, and mashing it into our newer, urban identity is essential. It can serve functional purposes, it can act as a destressing agent in a duller metropolitan landscape, and it can help provide for people who need it. It is very easy to blend environmental scenes into cities; roofs can be remodeled into gardens, walls may be adorned with hanging plants of different varieties, empty and unused lots/spaces can be dug up and planted. With every installation, someone can have a relaxing walk through gorgeous flora or pick pleasing and healthy fruits without having to venture far out of the area where they live, work, and interact. Cities all over the world, from Tokyo, Japan, to San Francisco, America, to London, England, have realized the benefits and have sewn the seeds for more positive change.

Images are linked and credited to the sources they were gathered from.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The Natural and the Urban can Coexist Copyright © 2021 by Khalid Elmatbagi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book