A study of people flow and possible seating at Houghton Street, London
Designing urban spaces is a complex challenge. Use of space is perhaps the biggest aspect to understand; how is the space used, how does the owner/authority want to use it and are the two compatible? Building plazas on the North sides of tall buildings can result in people eating the sandwiches on the sunny south facing street. We have to try and understand the psychology of people before we designate and design. I also believe that most urban landscapes are too dominated by hard materials; it is easier and more predictable in terms of long-term performance to pave a street rather than plant it. Hard surfaces, however, do little to satisfy our biophilic needs and add to environmental loading such as stormwater runoff.
We need to think more about enriching the experience of people and at the same time providing “eco-system services” such as mitigating air pollution, reducing Urban Heat Island effect and providing Water Sensitive Urban Design. All these things can make cities a vibrant and Nature-rich place to be. In urban areas, horizontal space can be scarce, which is exactly why I have spent the last nine years designing vertical landscapes.
Concept design to enhance the library plaza at the LSE London
Over half of the world's population now live in urban environments and this will rise to 70-80% by 2050 (with a population of around 9Bn). If follows that less people will have access to the countryside, let alone areas of wilderness. It is critical therefore to bring Nature into the cities and urban conglomeration, not as an afterthought, but as an integral part of all future planning and design.
Modern naturalistic planting design aims to change the way we look after our urban plantings by shifting from maintenance to management policies. This means individual plants get less attention and are managed on a wider scale. Some perennial plantings for instance, can be maintained with an annual mowing. To do this, we have to design our plants as integrated communities of compatible plants.
Please contact me to discuss your sustainable landscape needs.