Category Wild Urban Woodlands

Summary of the important characteristics of integrated design principles

The design examples described here show a new readiness to experiment with the dynamics of vegetation. The designers look for strategies for inte­grating, working with and manipulating the development processes of plants. Their goal is not only to protect nature, but to enrich it through eco­logical understanding. At the same time, they create space for self­organized processes and they respect the inherent dynamics of the vegeta­tion.

The relationship between humans and plants is understood as an interac­tive process. To some extent, the specific methods of design and manage­ment resemble the work of directors. They don’t assume a static picture, but rather a never-ending series of changing images.

The designers break away from conventional ideas about "beautiful na­ture" and experi...


A lot of woodland, but not only woodland

Reforestation measures, planting for nature conservation, as well as spon­taneous processes of succession in declining regions such as the Ruhrge- biet are leading to increasing forestation of developed areas. Even if the increase of wild woodlands in urban-industrial areas is unquestionably valuable, they do not have to be protected at any cost, their natural devel­opment needs not stay free of designing intervention. On the contrary, the denseness and closed-ness of spontaneous woodlands require design inter­ventions in the places where the woodlands meet developed areas in order to open up the space, create lines of sight, and allow public use.

In addition to semi-natural cultivation, the development of artificial vi­sions of the woodland, especially along the borders of developed ar...


A mosaic of different dynamics: the Natur-Park Schoneberger Sudgelande

In the near future, ongoing succession would have led to the complete re­forestation of the Schoneberger Sudgelande (Fig. 8). Instead, the decision was made to maintain the rich diversity of form through maintenance and development measures. In certain areas, a few “ruderal woodlands” are to be given over entirely to succession to represent “urban wilderness”.

With various maintenance interventions, the planners of the group Oko – Con and Planland have created different stages of succession in neighbor­ing parts of the site (see also Kowarik and Langer 2005). Phases of succes­sion that normally would be experienced over the course of time, can be experienced here as one moves from one space to another. A path leads the visitor through the heterogeneous spaces of the nature park...


Strategies of the “green guerrilla”: the Schipol airport

On the expansion site of the Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, the landscape architects of the planning firm West 8 have planted 800,000 birches (Fig. 7). They chose the plants based on ecological expert opinion from the state forestry institute because birches are particularly suitable for the greening of airport grounds. None of the birds of prey that disturb the workings of airports can nest in their soft twigs. Birches, as r-strategists, belong to the group of fast-growing pioneer species with good dispersion potential in growing sites without much established vegetation. In the initial phases of establishment, a large number of individuals are dispersed that are reduced in later phases through various means such as competition or disease...


A landscape for the future: the Thomsen plant in Guyancourt

In a very similar way, Desvigne & Dalnoky have created a concept for the Thomsen plant in Guyancourt near Paris. The project required them to prepare an inhospitable landscape for the construction of a factory and a parking lot for a thousand cars in a very short time at minimal cost. Facto­ries generally have a limited life span, no more than decades – the span of time a garden needs to fully ripen. The landscape architects envision that the vegetation around the buildings will have developed fully by the time the buildings are ready to be torn down. “Our desire is to plan all stages of development and to allow them to be experienced during the lifespan of the industrial complex and beyond” (Desvigne and Dalnoky 1994: 22).

For the first stage of the factory site, drainage ditches are...


More a manifesto than a plan: the grounds of the Millennium Dome

The French landscape architects Desvigne & Dalnoky make use of a simi­lar method in their concept for the Greenwich Peninsula Park. They con­sider the permanence and the transformability of the landscape to be solid principles from which to react to the imponderability of the urban devel­opment. In this way, the concept for the London park seems more a mani­festo than a classic design plan (Arnold 1998).

According to the project requirements, the planning for the outside spaces was to operate along two time lines: in the short-term, for the open spaces associated with the millennium celebrations and in the long-term, for the development of a new part of the city. A landscape was planned around the Millennium Dome that would develop in phases...


Using design to work with processes: Oerliker Park

In their design for Oerliker Park, the planning group Zulauf, Seippel, Schweingruber, Hubacher & Haerle uses the ability of spaces to adapt to changing needs as their central idea. The park is intended to be realized in phases in order to accommodate the growth of "Central Zurich North", a new part of the city.

Because future parameters are uncertain, the planners designed an all­purpose framework – a kind of green building – that can be filled over time.

The designers took up the theme of change, and young ashes were planted in a dense grid, interspersed with fields of cherry, sweetgum and pawlonia trees. These will gradually grow into a bright “hall of trees”...


Idealization of natural images as an inhibition of creative design

Until now, the dynamic properties of plants have played a relatively sub­ordinate role in the designs of landscape architecture. Toleration of dy­namic processes in the history of gardens was usually linked with an image of intact and undisturbed nature. This idealized vision made it difficult for the designer to use the dynamics of plants creatively and to playfully inte­grate plants into designs. Process-oriented design seemed to be bound a priori to a semi-natural aesthetic and therefore allowed no designed inter­ventions that could be recognized as manmade (Grosse-Bachle 2003: 116) Only a sufficiently open vision of nature makes creative handling of the dynamics of plants possible.

Current examples of contemporary landscape architecture show that a new willingness exists to be free...


Space for dynamic processes

The prerequisite and, at the same time, goal of designing with dynamic processes is a sensitivity to and a respect for the beauty of that which arises spontaneously (Von-Selbst-Entstanden). A well-informed and care­ful shaping of spaces to allow the self-development of vegetation is re­quired. At the same time, a helping of courage and a playful openness is necessary because in this regard landscape architects put themselves at the helm of evolution. This is a task that must be combined with knowledge and responsibility lest one mutate into a "green Frankenstein."

Landscape architects who design with vegetation find themselves in the role of "protectors of creation" as well as in the role of "creator" itself...


A plant is not a stone

A prerequisite for innovative design with plants is the rediscovery of their specific qualities. With unprejudiced perception, free from preconceived ideas, one is in a position to recognize the exceptional and to pursue new avenues of development. A comparison of materials makes clear that plants differ from other media less through their outward form and far more through their exceptional potential for adaptation and their ability to direct themselves. Plants are both the active opponents as well as the pas­sive medium of the landscape architect. This double nature confronts the designer with an unsolvable contradiction that can be seen as both a prob­lem and an opportunity.

Landscape architects who wish to design with plants must deal with many different facets because of plants’ comp...