Cities’ Future – A place that fits. People that fit.
By Jovin Hurry
“The main concern is how to create defined entities that represent both the local population and its culture and a design that incorporates the extraordinary flexibility to adapt to current and future needs simultaneously,” shared Kathryn Gustafson, Director of Gustafson Porter (UK) in the first Keynote at the ‘GreenUrbanScape Asia 2013’ at the Expo Convention Centre in Singapore earlier this month.
In an exclusive interview with Green Business Singapore, the Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architecture and medallist of the French Academy of Architecture expounded on her speech, which was an exploration of the opportunities and methods to define the present and future landscaping of growing cities’ vertical and horizontal inter-urban spaces.
She planted provocative questions in the captivated audience mind, such as “Why are the inter-urban spaces important?”, “What objectives are we trying to meet?” and “What is their defined role in society and their contribution to the ecological balance of the cities’ environment?” These inter-urban spaces play an important role in what is called “a healthy city”. They provide a link between places, people and ecosystems. A healthy city enables the population to have a more natural experience as a release from the city’s hustle and bustle.
On a technical level, in the genus loci of a site, there are three roots of existence: the site, the human culture and the environment. Kathryn stresses that the future challenge is for the future green spaces not only to work technically, but also to emerge from these roots of existence. “These projects should also look, act and feel like the place they are built… We should choose the right plants, create the right habitat and cultivate no mono species.”
“The strategy ahead depends on what the developer is targeting. Each place is different. Not the same approach will do everywhere. The plants are not to be taken as another surface. They are part of a big system.”
Kathryn elaborated on how the greening project should have a significant conceptual content. Given that landscape design is a dynamic process, architects and planners should be looking both to the future and learning from the past. If a true ground plane is absent, they are to look at building a cultural ground.
The opportunity at hand is eventually to build in meaning and place. In this process, additional questions should be asked, e.g. “Where are we?”, “What is the genus loci?”, “What does the project, site and public need?”, “How to build?, “What technology to use? In the same vein, plants should be seen more than just a new piece of technology or a system that just meets a building code for sustainability points.
Kathryn brings over 30 years of distinguished practice. Her award-winning work includes a variety of widely known series of projects in France, and recently acclaimed projects have ranged throughout Europe, North America and the Middle East. Her range and diversity of experience visibly came out in her ease of navigating different topics under the greening umbrella. She spoke of inspiration from tropical forests, to tapping onto the understanding of the different strata for greenscaping.
Our speaker described a modern architecture that plays out to allow light inside a building at opportune times during the day and at night. “This visually draws you to experience the place. We should think on how to make it natural and welcoming.” She looks at getting variety in the landscape, seasonally, to keep people coming back, for new experiences. The people also are to be made aware of how to live in this particular landscape in order to fully appreciate what it has to offer.
To bring in vibrancy in the city, the architects need to know what to change, the right kind of green to make the place liveable. This involves looking at the building and the plants as one piece, and how the residents live and work on multiple vertical layers to how they participate in each other’s community, e.g. growing and sharing food on rooftop gardens.
At the end of the day, it matters to understand where to put what resources for whom in order to build a vibrant and healthy city, a place that fits environmentally and culturally, and an educated lot that knows how to care and maintain this fragile ecosystem in place, sustainably.