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. The landscape architects made use of these natural survival strategies of the pioneer species, and for six years, without a particular design, they planted every conceivable bit of land: medians, cable routes, inner courtyards of the parking lots. “We were a kind of green guerilla and people fought against us everywhere where the trees were supposedly bothersome” (Geuze quoted in Weilacher 1996: 236). An underplanting of clover was planned to improve the growth of the trees.

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Fig. 7. The Schipol airport planting plan: strategies of the "green guerrilla"

For Adrian Geuze of West 8, designing landscapes always includes or­ganizing processes. It isn’t sufficient to undertake a few designed interven­tions — all individual components must be a part of a whole concept, a strategy. A concept for long-term development of the landscape takes time. Twenty years might pass from the beginning of the process until all the in­dividual steps have unfolded completely.

This method of working allows Adrian Geuze to design through a dia­logue with nature: Through the interplay between action and reaction, be­tween design and natural process, Geuze attempts to influence the laws of nature through playful means. He firmly believes in the success of evolu­tion, in the "survival of nature".

"I would like to bring people back in touch with their contemporary landscape. I don’t want to create new illusions that reinforce the precon­ception that our landscape is ruined, that our society is bad, that we destroy the landscape, that we manipulate the entire planet, that we will soon be dead, we must protect ourselves, and enshrine our landscape. I don’t care for this pessimism" (Geuze quoted in Weilacher 1996: 234).

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Fig. 8. Natur-Park Schoneberger SQdgelande: A path connects the pieces together