Artikel door Yixin Han
This year a new design competition for landscape architects emerged, springing from a collaboration between Streetlife, a street furniture manufacturing company from the Netherlands, and Landezine, the leading platform for landscape architecture worldwide. The competition encourages students and young professionals in the field of landscape architecture and related professions to present their work in front of an experienced and qualified jury, and gives them an opportunity to gain some recognition in the professional realm of landscape architecture. I, too, had the chance to attend the award ceremony and see the 12 most outstanding teams and the projects they had been working on the past few months.
‘Rebirth, A Food’s Tale’ by the winning team from Brussels
The theme of the competition was ‘Lost site’, and called for development and proposal of a redesign of an open public space. Each team interpreted the term ‘lost’ very loosely and creatively, resulting in a palette of insights and a variety of projects. It ranged from hidden urban spots, to disoriented communities, and places lacking a solid coherence and character. One team even suggested that the busiest plaza of Berlin was the most lost corner of the city, not for people, but for plants and other species that require biodiversity. Three projects that were introduced during the award ceremony stood out to me in particular, as they were engaging with the local community in refreshing and thought-provoking ways, and were great representations of the kinds of projects that came forward during the presentations.
‘Gas to Green’, Type B (Community Green Station), The Hague
Gas to Green
The first project was named ‘Gas to Green’, by a Dutch team from the Hague who have received a special mention from the jury. The team has looked into the network of gas stations that will soon become a network of deserted urban areas in the transition to a more sustainable future. In the Netherlands, there are currently over 4000 petrol stations, and they can be found everywhere: in neighbourhood areas, along highways and in central parts of the city. The team suggests that this network provides us with an opportunity to design a landmark that can accelerate the transition to sustainable urbanism by means of urban farming and providing a platform for social encounters. Based on the existing types of gas stations, the team has proposed two types of ‘Green’ stations. The first one is the ‘Drive-Through Green Station’ for future electric cars. It synthesizes a vehicle-oriented automatic greenhouse with local vegetable production and a drive-though for online order pickup. Costumers can drive slowly through the greenhouse and scan the products with a barcode, or wait for their pick-up at the waiting zone. The second type of Green station is a Community Green station. This type of Green station is located in the residential areas of the city and integrates vegetable production with an organic shop for daily sales. There is also a shared kitchen and herb garden were local residents are welcome to rest and have a drink. This ‘Gas to Green’ proposal has certainly caught my attention, since it prompts us to stretch our limits when redesigning parts of the urban fabric that will soon be lost due to innovations and other social development.
‘A Garden for the Forgotten’, Utrecht, The Netherlands
A Garden for the Forgotten
‘A Garden for the Forgotten’ is the name of the project from a team from Utrecht, who based their redesign on the ruins of the historic brick factory ‘De Liesbosch’. The factory has maintained its large-scale brick production for centuries with its favourable position along the Rhine river. As the pressure on housing in the Netherlands and in the urban area of Utrecht is stringent in recent years, it is likely that the place will soon become a residential area, where new local people need a place for recreation. The ruins of De Liesbosch provides an ideal place for combining community events and habitat shaping for recreation and biodiversity. One interesting concept of the design is to transform the ruins into a garden designed as a palimpsest, where different layers of the history of the site can be ‘read’. The spontaneous vegetation will remind people of the marsh landscape in the prehistoric settlement period, the community garden refers to the agricultural period, and the brickwork in the planter refers to the industrial area and the history of the factory. A pergola-like structure gives an impression of the mass of the factory in the industrial period, and the pavement exposes the foundations of the smoke channel and drying rooms. The factory thus becomes an expression of the historical identity of the place, with the local community as its foundation. Besides the integrated concepts of this project, I was also captivated by the aesthetically pleasing visualisations and the detailed planting scheme.
‘(not so) lost site’, Brno, Czech Republic
(not so) lost site
The third and last project that has intrigued me was a project called ‘(not so) lost site’ by a team from Brno, Czech Republic. The location was the last piece of wilderness in the urban fabric, where valuable fruit trees and decorative plants were preserved. The site has a history of a factory and a garden colony, and today it is the pivotal point of several local communities, such as skaters, scouts, unhoused people and local people passing by. The essence of the place was found in the static and dynamic layers of the site, according to the team. To get a sense of the dynamic nature and involve the local community, the team came up with the concept of ‘pocket jungles’, capsules consisting of seeds, fertilizers and soil that spread with the movement of people around the city. This will bring the soil and the plants from the wilderness into the urban areas, just as the brick factory on the site has once produced the bricks on which the city is build. The design proposal has left me mesmerized by the contribution that small capsules of seeds can bring to the ever-changing face of the city, and the power of individuals in shaping the ephemeral state and the colors of the city.
Besides these three outstanding projects, there were many more that surprised the audience, me included, with their innovative approach and out-of-the-box thinking. It has been truly inspiring to attend the award ceremony of this young and expanding competition, and of course, as a beginning landscape architecture student, I hope to be on that stage as well someday.