Category Archives: Urban Design

MOER Green roofs: history, classification and naming

Scandinavian Green Roof Institute at Malmo

Scandinavian Green Roof Institute at Malmo

This blog has often discussed green roofs and green roof typologies but they always need more consideration:

Green roofs c3500BC

Turf was the standard roofing material in Neolithic North Europe. You can still see this roofing technique in Norway and Iceland

Roof garden c1000BC

The most famous elevated garden in history, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, may not have been on a roof. Nothing is known about the construction and they may have been ‘hanging’ on an embankment rather then a roof. But they were definitely used as a garden and the only illustration of this type of space is a carved tablet in the British Museum. This was a place for fruits and flowers and a place to walk in the cool of the evening

Roof gardens in the twentieth century

Cities were becoming much denser and much higher-rise, so people began making modern roof gardens. Corbusier proposed one in Paris and the landscape architect, Ralph Hancock, designed one for Derry and Toms, now called the Kensington Roof Garden

Green roofs in the twentieth century

People began to remember that ‘green stuff’ could also serve as a roof-covering material and then found many reasons for reviving the idea: water conservation, biodiversity, acoustics, insulation etc. This led to the making of what are called ‘extensive’ green roofs and, by way of contrast, roof ‘gardens’ came to be called ‘extensive’ green roofs. I think the terminology began in Germany.

Moer Roofs in the twenty-first century

The City of Malmö and the Scandinavian Green Roof institute established a 9000m3 green roof which is called the Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden. It is a good project and, though the name suggests ‘a botanical garden on a roof’, the design objectives of the Malmö roof are broad: ‘environmental, economical, and to improve storm water management, health and aesthetics in our communities’. This type of roof needs a new name and we could base it on MOER technology: Multi-Objective Environmental Roofing (pronounced as ‘mower’, for irony). The roles of a broad spectrum Moer Roof would include: social use, aesthetic use, food production use (including aquaponics), water conservation, biodiversity, acoustics, insulation, energy generation, sustainability etc. The SGRA has a useful classification of green roof advantages and design objectives
Image courtesy i-sustain

Space and place

Famous Danish Urbanist Jan Gehl after a nine month study of central Sydney in 2007 called for the addition of three new public squares along George Street:

“His report paints a picture of a city at war with itself – car against pedestrian, high-rise against public space. “The inevitable result is public space with an absence of public life,” he concludes.

His nine-month investigation found a city in distress. A walk down Market Street involved as much waiting at traffic lights as it did walking. In winter, 39 per cent of people in the city spend their lunchtimes underground, put off by a hostile environment at street level: noise, traffic, wind, a lack of sunlight and too few options for eating.”

If the City of Sydney was to implement his vision how would the addition of public space improve the perception of place in Sydney?

The City of Miami is also feeling the lack of a public centre. In considering the attributes of good public squares they describe a few of the most successful spaces in the US, including Union Square and Madison Square.

Feel free to nominate your favourite public square and tell us why it is so good!

Cycling policy in Amsterdam and London

With thanks to Christine for the link, I am delighted to extend the availability of this history of cycling in Holland. Britain had a Conservative Government at the time of the 1973 oil crisis, which is identified as the starting point for the Dutch cycling policy. The response of Heath’s government was pathetic. They (1) gave a few grants for 50mm of roof insulation (2) borrowed a lot of money to keep downt he price of fuel (3) did nothing whatsoever about cycling. Today we have a Mayor of London and a Prime Minister who are keen cyclists. Please can we do what the Dutch did after 1973. And please can the London Cycling Campaign stage some really good stunts. I would, for example, like to see Whitehall, The Mall, Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square CARPETED WITH PRONE CYCLISTS for the state opening of parliament. I’ll the there, sun, wind or rain.

Parliament square urban landscape redesign LCC

London Cycling Campaign re-design of Parliament Square landscape

Congratulations to the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) for publishing a re-design of Parliament Square’s urban landscape, also discussed on this blog this last year (see The landscape architecture of Parliament Square, Westminster, London UK). My comments on the LCC design are:

  • it concentrates on traffic at the expense of other considerations
  • the urban design history of the space is crucial: it began as New Palace Yard. The Square was a nineteenth century addition
  • the future use of the space is also crucial: just creating a patch of grass is insufficiently ambitious
  • the LCC design proposals also lack ambition: the fountain is perfunctory and the roadworks are ugly

The LCC’s scheme opts for a ‘Trafalgar Square’ solution on the north and west sides of the square. It would be better to revert to the historic idea of a ‘palace yard’ in which paved space was shared between vehicles and pedestrians. This is now known as a ‘shared space’ and Exhibition Road is a good recent example. With regard to the future use of Parliament Square, it should be a place for the elected representatives of the people (MPs) to meet the people they represent and the people who are affected by their decisions (you, me, cyclists, drivers, visitors to London). The below maps show the evolution of New Palace Yard into the Parliament Square Traffic Gyratory

Retrospective Planning

Gongbei District, Zhuhai City

Master Plan

View to Conference Centre

Extremely rapid development is not generally compatible with far-sighted urban planning, but it does offer surprising advantages when it comes to retro-planning. The city of Zhuhai was one of China’s first Special Economic Zones, called into being by Deng Xiao Ping in the 1980’s. These were areas strategically chosen for accelerated development, Zhuhai because of its proximity to the economic hothouses of Hong Kong and Macau.

The result of these economically wildly successful areas has been an enormous urban mass, devoid of nodes, points of focus and green networks. There are now moves afoot to address these deficiencies by revisiting those areas of light industry, warehousing and mass housing that, instead of being outside of the city centre where they would normally and sensibly be sited, now find themselves disfunctionally marooned in the inner city, which has simply grown around them. A combination of selective demolition, change of function and new construction can create not only the missing urban nodes, but also public parks and the beginnings of green networks. Thus can the seeds of a Chinese urban planning renaissance be sown in the context of the economic renaissance that is required to finance these changes to the urban fabric.

The images show the Gongbei District of Zhuhai, how it looks now and how it might look within the next 10 to 20 years.

iGardens, iCities, iArchitecture, iLandscapes, iPads and the Steve Jobs design theory

Buddha, getting help from an iPad, with an idea for the Chelsea Fringe Flower and Garden Festival

Buddha, with an iPad and an idea for the Chelsea Fringe Flower and Garden Festival

Steve Jobs is the most successful product designer of modern times, bar none. Nobody has built so many fabled products. Nor have they built (what was briefly) the world’s largest coroporation in such a short working life – or such powerful brand loyalty. So if cities, gardens, architectures and landscapes are ‘products’ then what can designers learn from the Steve Jobs approach to design? Here are some of the possibilities:

  • classify every design idea as ‘insanely great’ or ‘absolute shit’
  • listen to ideas from members of the design team and tell the proposers they are all ‘absolute shit’,
  • come in next day claiming the best of their ideas are yours, now seeing them as ‘insanely great’
  • earn the undying love of your staff by these means
  • ignore public consultation, and market research of all kinds, because ‘people do not know what they want until I have built it for them’
  • practice Buddhism, become a vegan and drink bucket-loads of carrot juice
  • adopt the purest forms of the Bauhaus and Zen Buddhist approaches to design
  • focus, like a laser beam, on the user experience
  • find the necessary technology to realise your dreams
  • keep on and on and on simplifying and perfecting every detail of your design
  • ‘Don’t compromise’
  • ‘People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint’

Yes, I have been reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and, yes, I think all designers can learn from Jobs’ example. But there is a big problem: I detest the idea of an iCity, an iGarden, an iScraper and an iLandscape – with the ‘i’ standing for ‘international’. I believe, fervently, that the environmental design professions should hold to the principles of context-sensitive design. They should, like our predecessors down the millennia, CONSULT THE GENIUS OF THE PLACE.
Steve was interested in gardens. The ‘stalk and head’ idea for the iMac G4 came from the sunflowers in his wife’s garden and, more to the point, he stated that ‘The most sublime thing I’ve ever seen are the gardens around Kyoto. I’m deeply moved by what that culture has produced, and it’s directly from zen Buddhism’. Since the Zen idea (禪) came from China and, before that, from India, perhaps Steve was not as strong on history as on product design.
But there is one more thing that we want to tell you about…East Asia is building iCities as if there is no tomorrow. So? “….Tomorrow will never come“.

See also 2012 Chelsea Fringe Flowers Gardens and Gardening Festival.

Buddha image courtesy Miheco.

Laser hologram projection of dancing girls at Canary Wharf Underground station

London Transport need not worry about these girls obstructing the flow of communters from their suburban pads to the Canary Wharf money factory. They are a holographic projection into a thin cloud of disco fog, intended to give the salarymen and salarygirls a reminder of their next escape to Ibiza. [Nor do London Transport need to sue me for not having had a license to take the photograph: it is a simulation.] The troupe have decided to call themselfes the Flowers of Canary Wharf and are planning a performance for the 2012 Chelsea Fringe Garden Festival.

Christopher Alexander and Humphry Repton as landscape design theorists – UDG lecture

Christopher Alexander and Humphry Repton as landscape architecture theorists

Who is the most important landscape architecture theorist of the nineteenth century? Humphry Repton, through his influence on John Ruskin, Frederick Law Olmsted, Patrick Geddes – and most other landscape planners and garden designers in the century after his death.
Who is the most important design theorist of the twentieth century? Christopher Alexander, through his influence on urban design, architecture, computer programming and, through Ian Mcharg, on landscape planning and the develoment of Georgraphical Information Systems?
Are there any similarities between between the design theories of Repton and Alexander? Yes.
The photographs on the left, above, were taken at last night’s Kevin Lynch Memorial lecture, organised by the Urban Design Group. The lower left photograph shows Alexander and his opening slide. It was on display for a good while, because Alexander likes to show slides in rapid-fire (2.5 seconds each) and with no talking [unluckily for me, my tummy chose to rumble while the audience listened in silence]. The photgraph made me think he was going to talk about the fact that a City is no a Tree. But no. He wished to argue, as in his forthcoming book [The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle between Two World-Systems by Christopher Alexander, Hans Joachim Neis and Maggie Moore (OUP Jul 2012) – on the Eishin Campus in Japan] that (1) a design should be done on the spot (2) buildings should be positioned in the landscape with the aid of flags (3) the design process must be continuous and should constantly aim for ‘wholeness’ (4) the current system of producing a full set of working drawings before work starts on site is disastrous.
The first two points are 100% Repton. Repton argued that ‘The plan should be made not only to fit the spot, it ought actually to be made upon the spot’. The Repton drawings, on the right above, show the use of ranging poles to set out tree positions at Bristol – and he used the same system for positioning buildings. Alexander’s third point is also Reptonian, though he would have used the word ‘harmony’ instead of ‘wholeness’. As for the fourth point, Repton was a gentleman and never produced working drawings, so there is every likeliehood he would have agreed.
It was disappointing that Alexander spoke to slowly (though I have no expectation of being any faster when I am 75) but it is great that he still has the energy to work as a ‘building contractor and architect’. We must hope he lives long enough, like another great design theorist sill working (Charles Jencks), to give his full attention to landscape architecture and garden design. Let us pray.

Repton's design for Bayham Abbey and, right, his use of ranging poles to position the building: THIS is landscape architecture

Patronage – and the lovliest dolphin and naked boy fountain in the world

Dolphin boy fountain by David Wynne

I once worked in the garden of the David Wynne, who made this fountain – and am glad that his client was not the Caliph El Madhi

What a beautiful fountain, with the silver dolphin and the naked boy!.

A Greek of Constantinople made it, who came travelling hither in the days of my father, the Caliph El Madhi (may earth be gentle to his body and Paradise refreshing to his soul!). He showed this fountain to my father, who was exceptionally pleased, and asked the Greek if he could make more as fine. “A hundred,” replied the delighted infidel. Whereupon my father cried, “Impale the pig.” Which having been done, this fountain remains the loveliest in the world.

The fountain delighted David Wynne’s clients and, I guess, it pleases most visitors to Tower Bridge in London. My advice to those who commission public art is: beware of abstract art. They should think in terms of cultural strata. However much the the organizer of a disco may adore Karlheinz Stockhausen, it would not be a popular choice for the playlist.

John Evelyn's garden at Sayes Court and the Convoys Wharf Urban Landscape Master Plan

John Evelyn's garden superimposed on plans of the Convoys Wharf site in the seventeenth century, the nineteenth century and, one hopes not, the twentyfirst century

Steen Eiler Rasmussen concluded the second edition of his brilliant book London: the Unique City with these prophetic words: ‘Thus the foolish mistakes of other countries are imported everywhere, and at the end of a few years all cities will be equally ugly and equally devoid of individuality. This is the bitter END’. So what would he think of the Hutchison Whampoa Master Plan for Convoys Wharf? He would detest it, utterly. The architects are Aedas, who claim that ‘ We provide international expertise with innate knowledge and understanding of local cultures’. Evidently, this expertise does not extend to the local culture of Deptford – unless they think it is the same as the culture of London/England/Europe or the World. The planning consultants, let it be recorded, is by bptw . Their website promises ‘responsible architecture executed with imagination’. Maybe the firm can do this. Maybe the client’s brief made it impossible at Convoys Wharf. Or maybe what the project required was a firm of Urban Landscape Designers, rather than a firm which sees its main business as architecture. The architecture makes one yearn for the imaginative approach one sees in Dubai. The spatial pattern resembles that of the Ferrier Estate in Kidbrooke, the planting design is what Chris Baines calls ‘a green desert with lollipops’. I am not an admirer of the scheme – and I much regret that John Evelyn’s design for Sayes Court has been cast into what Leon Trotsky called ‘the dustbin of history’. It is a quotation which gives us a lead into the origins of the Convoys Wharf design. In days gone by it might have graced a Parisian banlieue (like Sarcelles), a suburb of East Berlin – or even Moscow itself. With specific regard to the Sayes Court Garden, we should remember that (1) Evelyn, beyond doubt, was the greatest English garden theorist of the seventeenth century (2) Evelyn played a key role in introducing Baroque ideas on garden design to London (3) the Convoys Wharf site would never have come into public ownership were it not for the generosity of John Evelyn (4) Sayes Court was very nearly the first property to be saved by the National Trust.
THEREFORE the Convoys Wharf site demands a context-sensitive urban landscape design.
Wikipamia shows the present condition of the Convoys Wharf site and the Sayes Court Estate. Also see the Convoys Wharf Planning Application Documents.

This drawing purports to show 'Landscape, Townscape and Visual Amenity' . Phooey

Edinburgh as an urban landscape design with some brilliant greenways

Following upon the discussion of Copenhagen’s Greenfinger Plan, here are two photographs of my hometown. They show examples of ‘urban landscapes’. BUT BUT BUT I do not regard the buildings as ‘urban’ bits and the green bits as ‘landscape’. I regard the scenic composition of buildings+landform+vegetation+paving+water (ie the Five Compositional Elements) as urban landscape compositions. Another reason for calling these examples Urban Landscapes is that they are beautiful. The below photograph of part of what was once of the most important early baroque-influenced gardens in England (Sayes Court, in Deptford) now lacks beauty and I would rather call it an ‘urban wasteland’ than an ‘urban landscape’. Sayes Court was nearly the first place to be saved from demolition by the National Trust. Things didn’t quite work out! Should any elements of the historic design be restored when Convoy’s Wharf is re-developed? The current design looks a bit Dubai-on-Thames but with duller architecture. The developers are Hutchinson Whampoa and the architects are bptw working with Aedas Architecture.

Did they make a mistake with Copenhagen's Green Finger landscape plan?

Should Copenhagen's Five Fingers be green or grey?

Copenhagen’s Finger plan (left) is appealing: easy to remember and attractive for the way it gives prominence to greenspace in the planning of a capital city. But, for the way it has been used (centre) it should be called the Grey Finger Plan. The idea was to run out high-speed railway lines from central Copenhagen and use them as urbanisation spines, with the space between the fingers retained as greenspace. In a real Green Finger Plan the fingers themselves would be green, as on the right-hand diagram. Here are some suggestions for how it could have worked:

  1. build the railways with earth embankments as environmental noise barriers – probably with space for an express roadway in the same corridor
  2. use the fingers as green infrastructure corridors for the urbanisation – growing the fingers as the urbanisation spreads
  3. also use the fingers as utility corridors for: cycleways, habitat space, recreation space, a city forest, urban water runoff management, urban agriculture etc
  4. extend ‘ribs’ of cycleway from rail stations into the urban areas between the green fingers
  5. consider building above the railways and roads at some future date, to accommodate shops, offices and other commercial uses

The Danish name is the København 5 Fingerplanen but is described as the Green Finger Plan in the European Landscape Convention and other places. ‘Storkøbenhavn’ means ‘Metropolitan Copenhagen’.

Londoners want to move from the City to the West Country

As this man walked past me I heard him bark into his mobile phone ‘I could pay the mortgate on a 5-bedroom farm in Devon for what I’m paying to rent in London’ (the photograph was taken outside the Temple Church, made famous by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, in the Inns of Court). Joel Garreau, in Edge City: Life on the New Frontier, 1991, suggested that the South of England from Dover to Bristol is effectively one large Edge City. That city is pushing into the West Country, with steep increases in property prices. The internet allows skilled residents to particpate in the knowledge economy while enjoying a peaceful landscape. This was, of course, Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City dream. Is the country made more or less sustainable when knowledge workers move out of London?

With broadband, the Devon countryside can become TOWN-COUNTRY

9/11 Memorial Landscape Architecture

9/11 World Trade Center Memorial Landscape Architecture

9/11 World Trade Center Memorial Landscape Architecture

The 9/11 Memorial to the victims of the World Trade Center attack opens today, 11th September 2011. The memorial was conceived by the 42-year-old Israeli-born architect Michael Arad, with help from co-architect, Gary Handel, and landscape architect Peter Walker. The first pool opens on the 10th anniversary of the attack. When completed, it will be a tree-covered plaza with two giant pools marking the footprints of the Twin Towers. Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, was on the jury which chose the design. It is difficult to find similarities between the 9/11 attack and Vietnam events but there are undoubted similarities between the memorials. Both are sunken spaces, unlike most traditional memorials. Londoners may compare them to the Merchant Seaman’s Memorial on Tower Hill below), designed by Edward Maufe, which is also sunken and has names carved on black granite. Which of the three groups of people is best memorialised by a sunk space? The Vietnam memorial was criticised for making the fallen soldiers anti-heroes, associated with an unjust war. This cannot be the intention for the 9/11 Memorial.
Since the minimalist squares of the 9/11 memorial are Platonic Forms, they seem closer to God than to Man. Plato’s forms were the universal perfect shapes which must exist before any particular forms can exist on earth. Does their use in a sunk space indicate that the victims of the 9/11 atrocity are destined for a perfect world? Or are they symbols that Death, Revenge and Destruction may also be Platonic Forms which shape the world? If the squares were simply the outlines of the Twin Towers they could be historical traces, like the outline of the old fortress on the Place de la Bastille in Paris. Repetition of the square motif with the pools makes them Platonic forms in my eyes.
Judging only from the photographs, I think the 9/11 Memorial is very beautiful and very moving. Its sustainability credentials are also admirable. But should it be a memorial to human folly, not to the essential eternal wonder of the creation. The pile of rubble on the right-hand photograph would have been a good aid to remembering the tragedy. If it was too dangerous and too big then it could have been 3D-scanned and cast it in steel salvaged from the ruins, at a reduced scale.
There are always other ways of looking at memorials. The 9/11 attack was a disaster from every point of view, injuring both the cause of the attackers and the cause of the attacked. My view is that the Americans should have behaved like a Christian nation and, with the greatest heroism, turned the other cheek. This would have made an immense contribution to the Christian virtues of purity, forbearance, ethical conduct and the rule of law. So I recommend the following interpretation of the 9/11 Memorial: it is a symbol of the lofty idealism for which everyone admires America at its best. It tells us how the nation should have responded to the 9/11 attack. A peaceful response might have dealt a crushing blow to terrorism everywhere, showing that sacrifice purifies the victim and vilifies the perpetrators. This would remind us that the War on Terror was a misconceived and badly executed blunder. So the deep truth in the 9/11 Memorial would be ‘Forgive us, O Lord, for we knew not what were about to do’.

The precedent for sunken memorials with names carved on polished stone walls

Housing landscape architecture and planning

Would you rather live in the top row or the bottom row?

Would you rather live in the top row houses or the lower row houses? The top row gives you central heating, indoor toilets and no rising damp, no earwigs and few spiders. The lower row gives you peace, beauty, calm and sustainability.
The obvious thought is ‘Why can’t I have both?’ Well, perhaps you can, and modernising the lower row would probably be easier than de-modernising the top row. I think something went terribly wrong with the system which lays out new housing estates in the UK. The architecture is mundane but liveable. The external landscape is ghastly: too much roadspace, too much wasted land, too much impermeability, too many planning regulations, too much ugliness, too much engineering, too little sustainability, too little landscape architecture, mouldy little strips of ‘garden’. We need a housing revolution. The vested interests which control the system should be treated better than middle eastern dictators, but overthrown. Though not innocent, I do not see the motor car as the villain of the piece.
Images of British housing estates courtesy of : lydiashiningbrightly dkohara jimmy_macdonald

Cabbages, flowers and other vegetables in a cottage garden

What should be done with the Gadaffi Golden Fist Crushing American Jet Statue from his Tripoli compound?

What should be done with the Gadaffi Golden Fist American Jet Statue

What should be done with the Gadaffi Golden Fist American Jet Sculpture?

Delighted to see the approaching end of the Gadaffi regime, and having offered an urban landscape idea yesterday, I am wondering how garden designers could help today. One idea is to invite suggestions for what to do with Gadaffi’s respond Golden Fist Crushing American Jet Statue (the Bab al-Azizyah Tripoli compound, where it stands, was stormed a few hous ago). The thinking behind my suggestion is (1) it was a pity that so many statues of Marx and Lenin were destroyed when the Soviet Union fell (2) I like the way London handled a similar problem, by putting a statue of Charles I at one end of Whitehall and a statue of the man who secured the removal of his head (Oliver Cromwell) at the other end of Whitehall (3) history’s monsters should be reviled but not forgotten.
So my suggestion is to place Gadaffi’s Golden Fist American Jet Statue in a garden, to show it is harmless, and to treat it as a rejected toy viewed by frightened children. They would be adult-size plastic scultpures, to symbolise the fact that dictators are plastic-ey overgrown kids. Other ideas welcome.

Garden image courtesy susan402

Make it extraordinary

What makes the setting of a town extraordinary? What makes a development extraordinary? What makes a garden extraordinary?

Is it the subtlety of colour? Is it the unexpected? Strong formal qualities? A sense of fun? Or a location to die for?

Or the delight of the whimsical? Or recognition of the familiar?

Just what is the X-factor that makes a design extraordinary?

Re-naming Green Martyrs' Square in Tripoli



As a ‘green’ who loathes tyrants, few political events give me more pleasure than seeing one of them preparing to bite the dust, as today. But should Tripoli’s ‘Green Square’ be renamed ‘Martyrs’ Square’ as they propose? Some of the considerations are:

  • It received its present name because ‘green is the colour of Islam’
  • But ‘green’ is now closely associated with ‘green politics’
  • A ‘Martyr’ was originally a witness
  • But the word was taken over by Christianity to mean someone dies for their religion
  • These days one can be a martyr to pretty much anything

So my suggestion is to call it the Green Martyrs’ Square and associate it with (1) the coming together of two Abrahamic faiths: Islam and Christianity, which effected the revolution (2) the political aspect of the green movement (eg wide community involvement in decision making) (3) Libya’s future as a generator of green energy from solar power, when the oil runs out. The present Green Square has been used by both the parties which are struggling for power in Libya today; debate is esssential and it is better done by ‘jaw jaw’ than ‘war war’; there is a need for governmental cities, national and local, to have urban squares dedicated to public debate. See previous discussion of Parliament Square and Tiananmen Square. Debates are sometimes uncomfortable but a society without debate is on one, or more, of the roads to ruin.

Healing hurts: past

The big picture of the London Riots is very disturbing. The burnt out shell of the 140 year old Reeves furniture store is symbolic of the losses London has suffered. “It is now likely that the damage which was ‘worse than the blitz’ would force the ravaged building to be demolished and rebuilt.” How to explain the mindless and pointless destruction and the reckless endangering of life supposedly by a twentyone year old?

So is it social division, or a bizarre new form of recreation to relieve ennui, the result of political correctness, a new phenomenon of virtual gangs or some other cause?

More importantly, how should London rebuilt to heal hurts past and with a renewed confidence as the Olympic city? And what lessons does the experiences in London hold for the sustainable urban design and planning of other complex global cities?

Contemplative places: watching and listening

Contemplation has been defined as thoughtful or long consideration or observation. In the East, Christian contemplation has been associated with spiritual transformation. “The process of changing from the old man of sin into the new born child of God and into our true nature as good and divine is called theosis.” The process has often been described by the metaphor of a ladder, with the acquisition of the state of hesychia or peace of the soul being the summit where the person is said to reach ‘Heaven on Earth’.

Perhaps the purpose of a public contemplative space might be to give visitor glimpses of ‘Heaven on Earth’? What might such a space look and sound like?

Natural spaces are most often associated with a sense of restfulness and peace. Water can create a sense of calm, while beauty can promote a sense of wonder.