Monthly Archives: October 2009

NIMBY Urbanism and Landscape Urbanism

Hundertwasser's design for Spa Blumeau increases the urban area while allowing a vegetated landscape to develop

Hundertwasser's design for Spa Blumeau increases the urban area while allowing a vegetated landscape to develop

The most popular urban design policy is NIMBY Not In My Back Yard: lets keep on building but lets do it somewhere else. This may change when we all come to see the Earth as our Back Yard. Meanwhile, how can we make urbanization more popular? There are about three times as many humans on earth today as on the day I was born. If this trend continues, as is projected, we need a lot of space for urban sprawl or we need to intensify the use of each square meter which is already urbanized. How can either policy be popular? My suggestion is asking landscape architects to study plots of land and  find ways of simultaneously (1) creating more indoor space (2) creating more greenspace which is both useful and accessible to the public. This can be done in lots of ways and one of the best examples comes from the work of the Austrian artist-designer Friedensreich Hundertwasser. At Spa Blumeau, illustrated above, he took some tired farmland and made a popular spa with, I guess, more wildlife and vegetation than before the development took place.

See the Landscape Urbanism Blog and Wiki on Landscape Urbanism Landscape Urbanism is a theory of urbanism which argues that landscape, rather than architecture, is more capable of organizing the city and enhancing the urban experience.

Urban forestry and landscape architecture

    In addition to being beautiful, the trees and gravel in the Place des Vosges are good for microclimate, wildlife and hydrology.

In addition to being beautiful, the trees and gravel in the Place des Vosges are good for microclimate, wildlife and hydrology.

All good foresters know that tree planting must serve multiple objectives: beauty, timber production, habitat creation, water management, public recreation, carbon cycle re-balancing etc. Urban landscape architects, on the whole, are less enlightened. Too often, they think of tree planting as decorative activity akin to the placement of public art in cities. Urban foresters should broaden their horizons, as rural foresters claim to have done.

Image of Place des Vosges courtesy of cripics

Acoustic noise barriers and sustainable landscape architecture

Would residents and drivers rather have the acoustic noise or the visual noise?

Would residents and drivers rather have the acoustic noise or the visual noise?

Flickr has a good slection of photographs of noise barriers – but not many of them are structures one would want to have at the foot of one’s garden, except perhaps for the purpose of reducing noise nuisance. The Wiki entry on noise barriers states simply that: “A noise barrier (also called a soundwall, sound berm, sound barrier, or acoustical barrier) is an exterior structure designed to protect sensitive land uses from noise pollution.”  It’s not enough. Noise barriers should also contribute to other objectives and help make ‘new landscapes for our new lives’ (Nan Fairbrother) which are beautiful, sustainable, microclimat, ecological etc. If sustainable landscape architecture is to have the glorious future it deserves, the results must be beautiful as well as useful. For more information on the landscape treatment of noise barriers see:  Environmental Noise Barriers by  Benz Kotzen Colin English.

Image of  North Laurel – MD216 approaching Leishear Rd courtesy of  thisisboss.

SUDS LID WSUD Urban Drainage Systems and landscape architecture

The bioretention facility at LID feature at Harrison Crossing Shopping Center in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

The bioretention facility at LID feature at Harrison Crossing Shopping Center in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

SUDS Sustainable Urban Drainage is a UK term, equivalent to  LID Low Impact Development is the US  and WSUD Water Sensitive Urban Design in Australia.

SUDS, LID, WSUD have come a long way since I first came across the idea, about 20 years ago (see Chapter 9 River engineering, channelization and floods). But it is a pity that it remains dominated by engineering concepts. Of course the  engineering is important, but the idea also has poetic and visual aspects which are rarely explored, except by Herbert Dreiseitl’s Waterscapes practice. Have a look at the Flickr groups on Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems and SUDS. The designs are very worthy but, except for the traditional ‘craft’ examples, they lack design inspiration. Most of the ideas hover between wartime economy furniture and a boy scout aesthetic. Then look at the CIRIA website’s treatment of SUDS. Only a whiff of wildlife saves the ugly concrete detailing from prison architecture. The illustrations from America’s Low Impact Development Center are better without coming anywhere near the Dreiseitl standard. If sustainable landscape architecture is to have the glorious future it deserves, it must be beautiful as well as useful.

(Image of The bioretention facility at LID feature at Harrison Crossing Shopping Center in Spotsylvania County, Virginia courtesy fredericksburg)