Urban Greening

Posted 14/06/11 by Your Studio

Having recently posted on the growing popularity of Green Ecosystems, we asked our friend and landscape architect Tom Ginnett if he could shed some light on the subject in the wider context.  We hope you enjoy his beautiful blog below:

The increasing sprawl of urban cities around the world has provided both a challenge and opportunity in maintaining an element of green to balance out the concrete.  Being more integrated with digital experience than ever, our daily lives are less grounded with the earth we tread, whilst also being freer to be able to engage with work and play in a variety of locations.  The case studies in this article all illustrate new ways of weaving this essential green tapestry into the urban cityscape.

A concept by Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, Park(ing) Day was initially a one off installation with the ambition of generating debate about how public space is created and allocated. A metered parking space is rented as you would expect, however in place of a car, a turf lawn is rolled out, accompanied by a bench and a tree. When the meter runs out after two hours, the park is packed up and the space returned to it’s normal function. Since 2005 Park(ing) day has become an annual global event in which parking spaces play host to pop-up health clinics, temporary urban farms, ecology demonstrations, political seminars, art installations, free bike repair shops and more. The project’s success is in providing a range of activities that are normally situated outside of the city right in the centre of it. Park(ing) Day is on September 16ththis year, for more details please click here.

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Doing something with the spaces you normally can’t enter within the city always provides excitement.  The Urban Physic Garden, by Wayward Plants at 100 Union Street, SE1 tests this theory.  Making use of an underused space, a collective of designers, growers and local volunteers have constructed a medicinal garden using reclaimed and salvaged materials and donated plants. The garden will play host to a summer of talks, events, workshops and film screenings; food is also available courtesy of the Rambling Restaurant, served from a decommissioned ambulance.  A definite feel-good garden for the city dweller!

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Similarly Bootstrap, a development trust, social enterprise and charity, have applied its’ ambitions as to push borders on re-imagining space and creating unconventional experience” to create the Dalston Roof Park.  The roof garden comprises an astroturfed roof with raised bed planters and a packed summer events schedule accompanies the high flying veg.  Although the scheme is rather mundane physically, there’s no denying it provides a valuable green resource in an area that is deprived of such.

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Having considered projects of a personal scale, what about the greening of deep urban spaces at a city-wide scale? The High Line in New York, which recently opens it’s second phase, certainly does this.  Providing a thin ribbon of parkland on a disused railway track one storey above city level in Manhatten.  The planting is inspired by the self-seeded species that had established over the 25 years of previous abandonment.  This wilderness works well in conjunction with the High Line’s linear architectural layout.  The clever and seamless link of a variety of different landscapes and functions from seating to parkland to tiered seating overlooking road and river provides a genuine resource for Manhattan’s West Side residents.

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A similarly linear landscaping project is the Cheonggyecheon river in Seoul, Korea.  A previously dilapidated stream running below a concrete highway, the river is now a celebrated cultural centre of Seoul. The project was intended to be an exemplary precedent of sustainable regeneration, however the 120,000 tonnes of water pumped annually from the river Han to feed it somewhat undermines this notion.  It is a great resource for local communities and has contributed enormously to the provision of significant ecosystems.  Although it would maybe be interesting to question the comparative environmental impacts of pumping the water against qualitative habitat gain?

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Finally, MVRDV‘s Pig City proposes a strange but compelling view of possible green city-scenarios to come.  Housing every step of the farming process from birthing to slaughter, the project really does bring a slice of the countryside right into the city, in a vertical stack.

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As cities around the world become increasingly larger and more congested, we will see more and more inventive ways to green city space and provide pockets of calm.  Never has the phrase ’urban jungle’ been more apt!

Written by Tom Ginnett

For more information, please feel free to contact us at YourStudio: info@weareyourstudio.com

Tagged:Architecture, Landscape

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