Greening our cities: Fashion or necessity?
Urban gardening, city farming or green facades and roofs: Nature is on its way back into our cities! And with good reason, by the sound of it…
“Green” has long since ceased to be just a fringe movement. In fact it is now a mainstream trend, and even our inner cities are —quite literally— becoming greener. For one plants help to improve air quality and the microclimate, and for another there´s a revival of interest in the natural environment among urbanites themselves: they are all busy digging, planting and harvesting, right in the middle of our cities. And they are not just doing it in their own private spaces, be it gardens, or balconies—increasingly they are exercising their green fingers in public spaces, too, on roofs and facades.
Some city authorities are actively encouraging this trend. The town of Andernach on the Rhine, for example, is planting its public spaces with vegetables that people can harvest free of charge. But plans for Beirut go much further: if extensive roof-planting proposals by Studio Invisible are implemented, the city will soon boast a “Wonder Forest” and be transformed into an urban oasis.
Aesthetic factors also play a role of course. The leading light in green-facade design, Patrick Blanc, for example, developed a patent in 1988 for a system for extensive planting of buildings, even in densely built-up areas. His “vertical gardens”, which do not use soil, are now enhancing facades all around the globe.
Worldwide there are some exciting developments in this field. The challenge for urban gardens, however, is to make them economically productive, i.e. to deliver a quantitatively relevant benefit, by supplying the local citizens with food.
In parallel with this, greenery is also making wider inroads into buildings, as part of the sustainability imperative. Greening cities brings a wide range of benefits in terms of cooling, improved air quality and a more diverse environment, not to mention the psychological benefits to the people living and working there.
Creating a sustainable, green and therefore healthy urban environment is a key challenge to society today. Urban planners and those who decide on which measures are to be implemented have many more factors to take into account now than in the past. They need to be more flexible and practically oriented in their approach. – Eiko Leitsch, Vice President of BGL, Germany´s association of landscape gardeners. www.gartentechnik.de
Over to you:
How important is it for the future of our cities to have more urban greening?
Give us your comments!