Six Talks on Designing Cities to Include Greenspace

Cities benefit tremendously from the incorporation of greenspace, a connection to nature that is an arena to cultivate community.

As cities grow in population and size, architects are tasked with fitting green into existing urban centers, taking their own creative spin. From repurposing a wrought iron train platform into a celebrated park—the iconic High Line—to creating spaces that seamlessly blend into nature, or bringing food production into city centers to thwart climate change and capitalism, these six spatial designers infuse more parks, agricultural areas, nature, and greenspace to reshape the urban environment.

Hiroki Matsuura on Prioritizing People in the Shared Landscape

Hiroki Matsuura of the Rotterdam based MADMA urbanism + landscape aims to add human scale into previously barren urban environments through fluid, contemporary design that pronounces the natural within the metropolis. His philosophy is to green everything before adding in the permanent elements of concrete and metal. With nature as a guide, Matsuura believes we can acknowledge the patterns where pedestrian traffic will be greatest, and ultimately use that paradigm to decide where new structures can be built. MADMA’s design of a shared space in Machelen, Belgium creates through the lens of greening the environment. After analyzing the utility of the site and the highest trafficked areas, Matsuura then adds pathways for people, coloring in the canvas of the open space.

Yosuke Hayano Architecture's Emotional Connection to Nature

Yosuke Hayano, principal partner of MAD architects, aims to visually describe the specific feeling that nature evokes through his designs. Hayano curates an environment where the visitor is immersed in the greenspace. Using light, reflection, and reverence of vegetation, Hayano’s projects are meant to create tranquil spaces even in the most populated centers. Hayano hopes that as you leave his buildings you do not remember the designer, but the feeling roused as nature and architecture merged. From this emotion, Hayano says we can change how people interact with their built environment. Including greenspaces in cities is his way of hearing the hidden voice of society that ultimately must be heard to create sustainably functional designs that better our cities.

Chris Precht on Connecting Architecture and Agriculture

Architecture is built upon fictional stories—to appease gods, function for economic success, or for the exploits of royalty. Chris Precht, founder of Studio Precht, wants to connect the stories of agriculture and architecture for the betterment of the planet, which he claims have been dissonant for too long. Drawing on the daring attitude cultivated by his father, Precht leads the architectural community into a new territory where connecting rural processes to urban life contributes to the prosperity of the city. Precht presumes as urban centers begin to grow, we must be able to incorporate foodscapes into our cities. Currently, our city centers are defined by banks and money, devoid of the resources humans need to live. His philosophy is to create cities defined by wellness, breaking from the capitalist mold urban centers are entrenched in, allowing agricultural processes to supplant harmful ones.

"[We] create different city centers, city centers that are not defined by banks and corporations but rather by health and vitality."
Chris Precht

Beyond incorporating greenspace into buildings, Precht uses sustainable materials that are durable, abundant, and can be reused once the lifespan of the building ends. Precht, along with his partner Fei Precht have used bamboo as a material in their designs that withstands the environment and harmonizes with the native landscape. By using natural materials, Precht is able to connect users with the reality of nature, reminding us that we are very much a part of it. So often, brutal architecture is devoid of the natural, but Precht’s approach reshapes the stories we tell ourselves about design so that nature is appropriately at the forefront.

Sou Fujimoto on Reinventing the Relationship Between Nature and Architecture

By elevating the greenspaces present in cities, Sou Fujimoto intensifies the beauty of the natural. The Japanese architect and founder of Sou Fujimoto Architects, locates his design philosophy as “melting into nature,” allowing the natural environment to breathe through his designs. He outlines a series of projects that respond to the nature around them, elevating greenspaces with the unique forms that arise from Fujimoto’s organic inspirations. One structure that perfectly encapsulates Fujimoto’s ideology is the 2013 Serpentine Pavilion built with thin steel pipes painted white that constitute the structure of a cafe area in the middle of a London park. The structure allows light to shatter in through the piping meaning any spot within the structure is illuminated by the nature outside.

Designing the New York High Line as a Shared Landscape with James Corner | reSITE Small Talks

James Corner says, “if you love nature, you need to love the city.” The acclaimed landscape architect and founder of James Corner Field Operations who has created beautiful shared greenspaces in global cities realizes our answer to population growth is creatively adapting our cities. Preserving nature occurs when we do not encroach on its borders, thwarting urban sprawl and carbon emissions. By investing in our urban landscapes, livability increases along with the health of the people within it. His most acclaimed design, the New York High Line, a park constructed over an elevated railway, has become an iconic example of adaptive reuse of a shared space succeeding in enmeshing itself into the environment. The celebrated park serves as a reminder that design is a dialogue between designers and the community to create functional spaces.

"If you love nature, you need to love the city."
James Corner

Corner demonstrates greenspace can be found anywhere through inventive designs. Most cities have plentiful empty, or underutilized space that can be employed to create green sanctuaries. These spaces offer opportunities for architects, city planners, and governments to collaborate on urban regeneration efforts that will make an impact. Prioritizing the importance of community input, Corner is dedicated to creating landscapes that allow for positive interaction in urban spaces as we contend with population growth and densification. At the heart of his practice is the intention of curating a design to blend with its unique environment, requiring an understanding of a space’s fabric and ultimately enhancing the shared landscape for all.

Landscape is Everything Around You with Kathryn Gustafson | reSITE Small Talks

Landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson recognizes landscape as everything around you. When you step out onto the street of a city you are within the landscape regardless of the space being a park or garden. But Gustafson, of London based Gustafson Porter + Bowman, understands the city as a sum of its parts, and those cities that can create a home in the outdoors for busy people are better for it. By allowing nature into our blocks of apartments and skyscrapers, the public can find a connection in the outdoors inside the metropolis. Above all, when greenspaces give way for cyclists and alternative transport, carbon emissions brought on by cars reduce, creating overall healthier environments.

Gustafson pinpoints that healthy cities make strides to reduce car traffic, support public transport, and fund public spaces. With abundant greenspaces present in cities, people can find a bit of nature without going rural and ultimately elevate their respective urban environments. Gustafson distinguishes healthy liveable cities from those craving curated outdoor environments through the reduction of car dependent communities.

Each of these speakers is designing with the reality of population growth in mind. From reuse of spaces that have become derelict public areas, to the incorporation of food systems into our urban communities, each designer is committed to creating greenspaces with people in mind, responding to the unique environment each installation inhabits. Essential to the betterment of our shared spaces, these 6 talks on the cross section of greenspace and architecture inspire a spark of appreciation for the nature in our lives.

Creating new parks is not the full extent of landscape architecture, many of these designers focus their work on reinventing already green areas. As buildings begin to adapt to our changing city scapes, so too do greenspaces, whose functionality as communal space is integral to the landscape. For urban growth to be sustainable, greenspace must exist. That is the job of each of these designers. From their pioneering ideas, we can draw inspiration for greenspaces in smaller cities, and come to appreciate the fundamental role nature plays in our urban planning.

In urban centers, parks, gardens, waterfronts, and organic spaces are ever important places of solace in the midst of the dense city. Livability is essential to the character of the city and greenspaces exist as the restful bodies inside the neighborhoods that never sleep. Ultimately, humans are nature, and our detachment from that reality is harmful. Naturally, nobody can thrive in concrete jungles, we need open, green, organic spaces, to breathe, to thrive, to be alive.

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