Cities are no longer measured only by their population. City is a network of interactions and great human and technological potential. It is no longer a curiosity that urbanization is taking place all around the world. Scientists from various fields agree that cities are the future of mankind. Does that mean that our linkages to nature will vanish in time? Our planet is already over-populated and it is hard to find a land not shaped by a human. Despite the fact, cities are in a desperate need of their integration within the surrounding natural areas and open spaces in terms of increasing their ecological status. Green Infrastructure as a complex network or rather a tool for a sustainable future of our cities may be the solution.
What exactly is the Green Infrastructure (GI):
According to Benedict and McMahon Green Infrastructure “is an interconnected network of green space that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions and provides associated benefits to human populations. GI is the ecological framework needed for environmental, social and economic sustainability and it looks at conservation values and actions in concert with land development, growth management and built infrastructure planning.”
In 2001, BAU (Brearley Architects and Urbanists) and Steve Whitford developed an alternative planning strategy – ‘networks cities’ which utilizes networks of land-use zones to achieve integrated cities through adjacency of land-use zones. As a part of this strategy GI or rather a green networks as they call it were introduced as well:
Organizing a city’s parkland into a network, rather than a series of centralized and disconnected parks, brings numerous advantages. Parts of a network can provide eco-corridors to link natural wilds and enable flora and fauna to migrate through urban areas. (Erickson, 2006) A network park system provides a more equitable distribution of a city’s green areas, bringing it within reach of all people. The strong legibility of networked park systems encourages exploration and use of a city’s green resources. Circulation paths in green networks can encourage cycling and walking rather than motorized road transport. Compared to central parks the network park provides great potential for extensive treatment of storm-water run-off in local natural systems. (J. Brearley, Q. Fang, 2011)
Networked open space strategies can be amplified to a scale that produces a balance between urban and rural environments within the metropolis, making the rural highly accessible. Large-scale green networks (about 1.7km wide) can provide an escape from the intensity and summer heat of the high-density city and allow for local food production to reduce a city´s food carbon footprint as well as provide educational and leisure opportunities.
Organic waste, grey water and black water can be treated locally and by-products used to benefit local agriculture. Energy resource in the form of methane can be extracted from organic waste and used locally. Sustainable urban water drainage systems can be highly efficient with the benefit of local countryside. Such a large green network allows each district to generate a portion of its power requirements utilizing renewable sources: primarily wind, but also geo-thermal, solar PV, solar thermal and biomass. Localizing and exposing such infrastructure can bring awareness of the eco-footprint of the local district and, by extension, the eco-footprint of the individual. (J. Brearley, Q. Fang, 2011)
In addition to green urban networks, I would like to point out a case study or rather a vision of Detroit I came across. It is a project by ´Stoss´ focusing on landscape urbanism. Stoss claims, that landscape urbanism is “an alternative to the perceived limitations of urban design discourse and its nostalgic commitments to density and architectural ensemble as the basic medium of city making. In the context of decreasing physical density, decentralization and sprawl, landscape has been found by many as a medium affording a unique traction on the problematic of the contemporary city.” In addition to that they try to explain benefits of urban landscape. The one I like the most is about Landscapes being productive and multi-functional:“They clean air and water and soil, they make urban environments healthier, they generate resources for food, energy, commerce, and habitat. In this way, they cultivate new kinds of urban landscapes, new kinds of urban experiences, and support a wide range of social interactions and relationships. They help build communities, they can be sites for job training and employment, and can even be economically productive.” (Desimini, 2013)
The project began by understanding the potential productive futures of the city with an iconic diagram articulating the necessary inputs and outputs to serve the public good.
Stoss recognizes the complexity of problems in Detroit and that not only one solution will be needed. Strategies must work across scales and time frames so that landscapes can best address concerns of environment, health and land value. These strategies should support 13 goals to:
– promote healthy lifestyles,
– increase access to healthy foods,
– capture and clean stormwater,
– clean soil, to improve air quality,
– create habitat for wildlife,
– stabilize neighborhoods,
– research and test new ideas,
– reduce maintenance costs,
– put vacant land to productive uses,
– generate energy,
– create jobs and job training opportunities,
– and to promote new kinds of social life.
Behind these goals are a number of bigger ideas about the creation of new urban form for Detroit, ideas driven by the mediums ability to address horizontal expanse, to make connections, to provide services and to evolve biophysically and socio-economically. “Ecology is at the forefront, infrastructure is embedded, environmental justice addressed and cultural perception altered. Detroit becomes a model for a green and blue city, something to emulate rather than shun in a pervasively urbanized globe.” (Desimini, 2013)
To see the original article, please visit: http://scenariojournal.com/article/wild-innovation-stoss-in-detroit/
References:- Desimini, J., 2013. Wild innovation: Stoss in Detroit. Scenario Journal. - Erickson, D., 2006. Metrogreen: Connecting Open Space In North American Cities. Washington DC: Island Press. - J. Brearley, Q. Fang, 2011. Networks cities in China: Sustaining culture, economics and the environment. In: R. A. E. Charlesworth, ed. The EcoEdge: Urgent design challenges in building sustainable cities. s.l.:Routledge.