Go­ing Greener

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Across the globe, the num­ber of ma­jor projects meld­ing built forms with nat­u­ral el­e­ments is grow­ing ev­ery year. Be­sides the eco­log­i­cal ben­e­fits, land­scape ar­chi­tect Tim Water­man writes, the trend’s most ex­cit­ing as­pect is the de­gree to which ar­chi­tects and land­scape ar­chi­tects must co-op­er­ate. His ad­vice for col­leagues: Get set to break out of your si­los

A green roof used to make head­lines. Now it’s an ex­pec­ta­tion

On a visit re­cently to the new Musée de la Ro­man­ité in Nîmes, France, I was sur­prised to find a roof gar­den with ex­pan­sive views of the city and the an­cient Ro­man arena next door. I had read about the mu­seum – con­ceived by ar­chi­tect El­iz­a­beth de Portzam­parc and land­scape ar­chi­tect Régis Guig­nard – but I some­how hadn’t reg­is­tered that the build­ing in­cor­po­rated a green roof. Just a decade or so ago, the head­lines about such a build­ing would have crowed about its green cre­den­tials. These days, how­ever, a green roof seems to be an ex­pec­ta­tion, no longer wor­thy of men­tion, at least not much of one. No news is good news. If green roofs and liv­ing walls are busi­ness as usual, it means that fruit­ful col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween ar­chi­tects and land­scape ar­chi­tects are be­com­ing ev­ery­day oc­cur­rences. “Nowa­days, in sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries, the sky­lines of cities are no longer per­ceived as grey lines, but as green lines,” says Dim­i­tra Theochari, who is both a land­scape ar­chi­tect and an ar­chi­tect in the Ger­man of­fice of Ram­boll Stu­dio Drei­seitl, an in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary prac­tice that adopts a holis­tic ap­proach to sit­ing build­ings. The up­shot? It now takes heroic feats to get a green-clad build­ing no­ticed – a chal­lenge that ar­chi­tects world­wide seem more than keen to take up. The most iconic example of green build­ing is, of course, Ste­fano Bo­eri’s Bosco Ver­ti­cale in Milan, as star­tling in re­al­ity as it is in pho­to­graphs. The land­scape de­sign for the project, by Emanuela Bo­rio and Laura Gatti, is im­por­tant not just for its ar­rest­ing look; it has also ad­vanced the hor­ti­cul­tural tech­nol­ogy avail­able for veg­e­tated build­ings be­cause the con­cept asks so much of the plants. How ex­actly does a tower func­tion as a plant habi­tat? For green­ery, it’s akin to be­ing on the face or top of a cliff: The ex­po­sure to wind and sun and the sparse­ness of avail­able soil and water are di­rectly anal­o­gous. There’s a rea­son you don’t find many plants – par­tic­u­larly large ones – atop cliffs, how­ever. To sus­tain its green­ery, Bosco Ver­ti­cale re­quires an ad­vanced ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem, and the plants at the higher lev­els have their roots wired into the build­ings’ fab­ric to pre­vent them from be­ing blown away. The un­like­li­ness of lush plant­ings in such a set­ting is part of the build­ing’s vis­ual ap­peal. And the tech­nol­ogy is ex­pen­sive, which ac­counts for an­other as­pect of the ap­peal: the lux­ury of it all. While a great deal of en­thu­si­as­tic ink has been ex­pended on the Milan land­mark, the fact re­mains that such build­ings are largely pos­si­ble only for high-end clients. A visit to the site also raises other ques­tions. Those plants on their pri­vate bal­conies are said to scrub the air, but the com­plex sits above un­der­ground park­ing for the res­i­dents’ pol­lut­ing Maser­atis. The tow­ers also throw a nearby pub­lic park into deep shade and meet the ground with hos­tile mir­rored-glass walls. By com­par­i­son, the work­ing-class block next door – as yet un­gen­tri­fied – is cooled by much less costly yet equally ef­fec­tive tech­nol­ogy: thick ma­sonry walls and a con­vivial court­yard. Still, Bosco Ver­ti­cale has un­ques­tion­ably spurred a bur­geon­ing in­ter­est in and un­der­stand­ing of land­scape among ar­chi­tects, which is al­low­ing con­ver­sa­tions to move be­yond mere dis­cus­sions of how to dis­trib­ute the pars­ley around the pig. Tech­nolo­gies that make good con­nec­tions be­tween land­scape pro­cesses and build­ing sys­tems are be­ing de­vel­oped and per­fected. From “liv­ing ma­chines” that in­te­grate land­scape sys­tems into build­ing in­te­ri­ors for pur­poses such as sewage treat­ment to ground-source heat pumps re­quir­ing the ex­ten­sion of build­ing sys­tems into land­scapes, a so­phis­ti­cated in­ter­de­pen­dence is evolv­ing. At the Univer­sity of Green­wich in London, where I teach land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture in the de­part­ment of ar­chi­tec­ture and land­scape, a build­ing de­signed for our fac­ulty by Ir­ish ar­chi­tects Heneghan Peng and Bri­tish land­scape ar­chi­tects Allen Scott (with sig­nif­i­cant in­put from the de­part­ment), in­cludes ex­ten­sive green roofs that in­cor­po­rate ponds, ex­per­i­men­tal agri­cul­ture, an al­gae biore­ac­tor, hy­dro­pon­ics and aqua­cul­ture. The de­part­ment takes great pride in an open­ness be­tween land­scape and ar­chi­tec­ture, with the build­ing serv­ing as an em­blem of this unity. As with Bosco Ver­ti­cale, the sym­bol­ism of the green-fringed build­ing is uniquely pow­er­ful, mak­ing a state­ment about its uses and users. One example in which func­tion and sym­bol­ism are es­pe­cially well mar­ried is the de­sign for a tree-masted gov­ern­ment build­ing in the Czech city of Hradec Králové. The project, a col­lab­o­ra­tion by CHKAU, K4, Ivo Stolek, Jan Stolek, To­mas Babka and breathe.earth.col­lec­tive, in­volves a seam­less in­ter­pen­e­tra­tion of for­est and build­ing, which is ap­pro­pri­ate given the client: The fa­cil­ity serves as the flag­ship for the Czech Forestry Ser­vice.

The sym­bol­ism of the green­fringed build­ing is pow­er­ful

Such projects aren’t lim­ited to Europe. In Seoul, David Chip­per­field’s 30-storey head­quar­ters for Amorepa­cific, South Korea’s big­gest beauty com­pany, in­cor­po­rates leafy copses into open atria high above the street. In Sin­ga­pore, a re­cent project by In­gen­hoven Ar­chi­tects and Gustafson Porter + Bow­man – the lush mixed-use Ma­rina One com­plex – is equally am­bi­tious. Fea­tur­ing curvi­lin­ear ter­races step­ping up from a nat­u­rally ven­ti­lated cen­tral court­yard, Ma­rina One pro­vides an ul­tra-con­tem­po­rary take on the zig­gu­rat hang­ing gar­den. It also serves as a haven in Sin­ga­pore’s steamy cli­mate and is a suit­able ad­di­tion to a city that al­ready boasts an­other great land­scape/ar­chi­tec­ture col­lab­o­ra­tion, Gar­dens by the Bay. In North Amer­ica, mean­while, two of the most im­por­tant green build­ing projects of re­cent years are the Bul­litt Cen­ter in Seat­tle (com­pleted in 2013 by Berger Part­ner­ship and Miller Hull Part­ner­ship) and the Cen­ter for Sus­tain­able Land­scapes in Pitts­burgh (a 2013 project by An­dro­pogon and the De­sign Al­liance Ar­chi­tects). Each of these build­ings in­cor­po­rates rain gar­dens, grey­wa­ter sys­tems and a range of ad­vanced green tech­nolo­gies. In the fu­ture, the level of green tech in­cor­po­rated into the Bul­litt Cen­ter and the Cen­ter for Sus­tain­able Land­scapes should be stan­dard for ev­ery new build­ing. Eco­log­i­cal ar­gu­ments will likely make this change im­per­a­tive, but the re­ally in­ter­est­ing prob­lems posed by such projects – plus the chance to dis­cover new forms of work out­side our tra­di­tional roles (and com­fort zones) – are al­ready prov­ing at­trac­tive to ar­chi­tects and land­scape ar­chi­tects alike. In terms of green roofs alone, says Theochari, “there are so many ex­am­ples … of uses for peo­ple, ty­polo­gies of land­scape, eco­log­i­cal ef­fect, their role in the water cy­cle. Roofs can store water, can in­crease evap­o­ra­tion or evap­o­tran­spi­ra­tion, can pro­vide key habi­tat ar­eas and can cre­ate healthy patches for the growth of pol­li­na­tors, the de­cline of which is one of the big­gest eco­log­i­cal threats of our time.” Not long ago, Theochari’s stu­dio helped de­velop an award-win­ning stormwa­ter-man­age­ment strat­egy for Den­mark’s cap­i­tal called the Copen­hagen Cloud­burst For­mula, which pro­vides an in­te­grated frame­work for reg­u­lat­ing stormwa­ter in the city and is no­table for how well it vis­ually com­mu­ni­cates an oth­er­wise com­plex process. The lat­ter fea­ture is es­pe­cially valu­able for fos­ter­ing an un­der­stand­ing of such sys­tems among lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, na­tional pol­i­cy­mak­ers and, per­haps most im­por­tant, the area’s pop­u­la­tion. It’s also a re­minder that retrofitting cities and build­ings will be as im­por­tant to the fu­ture health of cities as cre­at­ing whole new land­scapes. Back at the Musée de la Ro­man­ité in Nîmes, where the city’s Ro­man his­tory is evoked in a di­aphanous fa­cade that de Portzam­parc says was in­spired by a toga’s drap­ery, it isn’t the drama or el­e­gance of the build­ing that makes the big­gest im­pres­sion – at least not to me. As strik­ing as the high­con­cept ex­te­rior is, it’s the rich in­ter­ac­tion of build­ing and land­scape – de Portzam­parc’s work with Régis Guig­nard, on the green roof and other links to the mu­seum’s sur­round­ings – that seems more mean­ing­ful. Even if it doesn’t make head­lines.

At David Chip­per­field’s head­quar­ters for South Korean beauty gi­ant Amorepa­cific, the green­ery doesn’t end at ground level: Ver­dant copses were also in­cor­po­rated into the build­ing many storeys up. Photo by NosheCover photo of MAIO’S 22 Dwellings Hous­ing Block in Barcelona by José He­via

LEFT: Ex­tend­ing ra­di­ally from a cen­tral atrium into five dis­tinct blocks, the de­sign for the Czech Forestry Ser­vice’s flag­ship em­pha­sizes a sym­bio­sis be­tween the build­ing and the sur­round­ing woods.

LEFT AND BE­LOW: High above Seoul, the open-air al­coves punc­tur­ing David Chip­per­field’s 30-storey head­quar­ters for a lead­ing beauty com­pany shel­ter ver­dant copses.

LEFT: Ringed by cat­walks and cov­ered ter­races, Ma­rina One’s 37,000square-me­tre Green Heart fea­tures nearly 400 plant va­ri­eties and as many as 700 trees. Its self­sus­tain­ing mi­cro­cli­mate pro­vides re­lief from Sin­ga­pore’s heat.

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