All updates

Urban biotopes for resilient cities


On the 22nd of May we celebrate International biodiversity day, proclaimed by the United Nations to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. One of our core beliefs is that a healthy city cannot be achieved without the inclusion of nature. We therefore put continuous effort to research and integrate the urban biotope in our projects.


At OKRA we prioritize creating environments that allow nature to thrive without the need for constant care. This approach allows us to turn cities into vibrant and healthy ecosystems for people, plants, and animals.


The paradox of urban nature

The concept of urban biotopes integrates human activity and the built environment as part of the various living and non-living factors that influence the life cycle. This integral view of the urban context allows us to perceive our cities not as barriers to nature, but as potential habitats where nature can thrive.


“The urban context has a great potential for nature to thrive as it offers more diversity than the open landscape surrounding our cities today, both in terms of spatial conditions and micro-climate.”

Giuliana Sibilia, associate


There are a lot of positive elements that can help develop urban nature: the variety of spatial factors yields a multitude of habitats, fostering a dynamic and diverse ecosystem, warmer environments, abundant food sources, and a blend of tranquil and bustling locales that further enrich the urban biotope.


Integrating environmental strategies in the heart of Brussels


In order to fulfill the high ambitions set for LOOM in terms of energy efficiency, ecology and carbon neutrality, we implemented a green and blue strategy, that will turn the block into a resilient, climate adaptive machine.

Various habitats have been defined, corresponding to multiple typologies of green, such as intensive green roofs, vertical green, and a forest-like environment on full soil. The diversity of green atmospheres on multiple levels will strongly support the local biodiversity, while providing the users of the building with a pleasant working and living environment.

The inner courtyard has been designed as a rich green heart, inspired by the atmosphere of the Sonian Forest and provided with an attractive water mirror, active part of the circular water system.


Balancing human activity and ecology

The acknowledgement of both humans and animals as integral components of the urban biotope is priority. This entails always seeking for the right balance between the envisioned use of space and its ecological potential for all stakeholders. When designing for human activities, the animals’ needs are considered with integration of safe paths and ensured connectivity of habitat.


People, animals and plants coexisting harmoniously

Our approach to shaping public space considers both the spatial needs of the new inhabitants and the requirements of the local wildlife, ensuring safe passages and shelter options for the animals in the area.

The aspiration is that, in Merwede, people, animals and plants can coexist harmoniously, fostering a relationship built on mutual respect.

Discover Merwede

Healthy soil as key foundation

Our design thinking integrates the underground world and recognizes the vital importance of soil health, including the precious role of microbes’ bacteria and fungi.


A key role in soil structure and fertility is played by soil organisms. We are fascinated by the natural mechanisms at play among the living organisms underground. Certain fungi, for example, can facilitate communication among plants via their roots, transferring nutrients and sending warning signals.

“Inspired by these natural processes, we have shifted from designing planting schemes to initiating planting populations, where organisms coexist harmoniously and support each other. This entails creating the conditions for the natural processes to happen.”

Giuliana Sibilia

In line with this thinking, we embrace nature-inclusive management over traditional maintenance approaches, aiming to create spaces that not only sustain but flourish within the dynamics of nature.


Positive outcome for everyone

The promotion of urban biodiversity stands as a core principle guiding our practice. Within the internal OKRA Academy program we look at the urban context as an opportunity, not a limitation. This drives us to gather and incorporate the latest research findings and up-to-date insights on urban biotopes, equipping our team with the tools needed to meaningfully contribute to its preservation and enhancement.

By fostering a culture of deep respect and responsibility towards our natural environment, we strive to uphold our duty to safeguard biodiversity for the betterment of present and future generations.

Creator of meaningful places

Healthy cities as natural habitats

As cities house a growing majority of the world's inhabitants, their impact on the planet poses new challenges. We develop creative solutions to turn them into green, hospitable, sustainable and healthy living environments.
Read more

Discover nature-inclusive projects