The transformation of the Østerbro district of Copenhagen’s city centre has been going on since the 1970s. Building blocks with predominantly stony inner courts characterized this part of Copenhagen. Denmark’s capital has 500 of such blocks. Together with the residents, some of these have gradually been turned into green urban spaces over the last decades. In recent years, a new challenge presented itself. In addition to greening, the water management of the district has become an important theme. The heavy rainfalls of the last years have placed enormous pressure on the drainage system, for which a solution must be found. The Skt. Kjelds neighbourhood is central to this solution. Measures include the greening of squares with spots that can buffer stormwater, and facilities in public space for controlled drainage, such as cycle lanes that also serve as rainwater outlets. Where possible, the stormwater measures are combined with greening. The neighbourhood is a testing ground for projects in the field of climate change adaptation, and new insights into what does and does not work can also be applied in other parts of Copenhagen.
In Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, a group of residents took over a remote part of public space. Along with friends, activists and neighbours, Nomadisch Grün cleaned up a wasteland and laid out the Prinzessinnengärten (Princess gardens) with a flexible and temporary setup for the cultivation of vegetables, fruits and flowers. Composed of separate, transportable containers and barrels, this is a good example of mobile gardening. This movement finds unused, vacant lots, such as empty parking lots, construction sites and roofs, and puts these into use for shorter or longer periods of time by turning them into urban farming sites or green meeting places. Local food is produced in the Princess gardens, but more importantly, a local community has evolved around it, which has brought more cohesion to the neighbourhood. The gardens furthermore contribute to a better local microclimate and a richer ecosystem. Even if, in principle, it is only temporary, insects, birds and small mammals such as bats benefit from the great diversity of flowering and fruit-bearing plants.
Design: Edouard Francois, Paris, 2012 (photo: David Boreau)
Gardens and collective green spaces with the aim to create new, strong ecosystems are characteristic elements in the architecture of Édouard François. Therefore, François starts each project by studying the quality of the soil and the possibilities it offers for local plant and animal species. In his projects, there is also place for new species the wind brings in. To provide the proper ecological basis for the residential block Eden Bio, consisting of a hundred dwellings and artists’ studios, the soil of the construction site was replaced with a layer of earth typical for this part of Paris. Native plants can easily grow their roots in it and a self-sustaining ecosystem can evolve in which new species can also find a place. Window boxes were placed at the front for a ‘home sweet home’ feeling. The planted screen and the red roof tiles preserve the unity. Over time, the vines and plants in front of the houses will increasingly camouflage the buildings. The collective garden is laid out as a meeting place for the residents. Green architecture is not only the goal, but also a means to strengthen the identity of the neighbourhood.