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GI and resilience

By Ruth Slavid
Imaginative entries to the Design for Life competition demonstrate how we can make the areas we live in both more enjoyable and more resilient to climate change.

Hungarian landscape architect Dora Papp has won the Design for Life competition with her entry ‘A good base for a smart city’, designed for the neighbourhood of Jósaváros in Nyíregyháza, Hungary.

The competition, organised by Groundwork London and Hammersmith & Fulham Council, in association with the National Housing Federation and the Landscape Institute, invited ideas about how green infrastructure (GI) could be retrofitted in a neighbourhood to make it more resilient to climate change.

Dora Papp’s innovative design is an exciting plan to regroup existing green spaces into new green chains that would run along the inside of the estate. The flat roofs of apartment blocks, shops, garages and community centre will be opened up and converted into green roofs growing food and for recreational use. The green roofs would provide social, economic and environmental benefits with residents only having to step out their door to begin gardening and to connect with nature. Along with green roofs, beehives will be installed with bug hotels, ensuring biodiversity. Natural green walls would be established on walls without windows.

This is particularly important, Dora explained, because the estate, built in the 1970s, becomes intolerably hot in the summer temperatures of Hungary’s continental climate. Although in theory there are plenty of green spaces, they tend to be of neglected grass with compacted soil beneath paths and cycle routes. Dora’s proposal would improve the environment and the temperatures, as well as increasing the ability to store storm water.

LI President Noel Farrer, who was one of the judges, said, ‘The winner’s design solves the ubiquitous challenge around the world of blocks in medium to high density layouts where people’s relationship to the ground has been lost. It reconnects them through the re-imagining of land and water and is a fresh, bold and all encompassing project that tackles the challenges of climate change and biodiversity head on. This is a project that will invite people to enjoy the landscape and strengthen community involvement.’

There were also two runners-up in the competition. ‘SuDS for play areas’, by Iain Glover of Plan Projects and Luke Greysmith Associates, looks in particular at Tylney House in Whitechapel, east London. It focuses on introducing SuDS systems to the residential housing estates of London which often have high potential in terms of useable space but are lacking in the correct infrastructure to adapt to more sustainable systems. Adapting these spaces with sustainable drainage systems would introduce multifunctional uses and purposes to the spaces.

Accommodating play within the sustainable drainage system would create a visual and interactive story about the journey of water. It would also be a cost-effective way to retrofit play areas across the city, introducing wildlife and biodiversity to spaces which are all too often sterile, un-inspiring hard-surfaced areas. Matt Parsonage, also a Design for Life judge and head of neighbourhood investment at Affinity Sutton, called the proposal, ‘an innovative playful scheme, integrating water into a play site with audacity. Children will get enormous enjoyment and education about water and the scheme will bring people together as a force for good.’

‘The Height Weavers community green space’ by Liz Ackerley of Poppyhead Consultancy tackles a series of disconnected spaces, bordering residential properties. The plan is for green spaces to be linked together to form multifunctional green infrastructure for use across the area. The community will help in the design of green walls; rain gardens and green roofs, all of which will incorporate recycled materials such as scaffolding poles, reclaimed wood and materials derived from the existing space.

Steve Cole, a Design for Life judge and policy leader at the National Housing Federation, said, ‘This project takes a thorough, place-specific big picture approach, which renders complex issues presented by the housing estates in a simple and effective manner. We have no doubt it would become a place that would be well loved. It is all about making spaces through sensitive and considerate integration, balancing place making and environmental sensitivity; it puts people at the heart of the vision.’

Two entries were commended: ‘Off G.R.I.D.’ by Laura Barrett and Nicole Rebeck, and ‘Enlightening the splash’ by Kamila Lejman, Veronika Kunclova and Katarzyna Starzycka.

Design for Life judges
Christine Walker
– environmental services manager, Halton Housing Trust
Mathew Frith – director of conservation, London Wildlife Trust
Matthew Parsonage – head of neighbourhood investment, Affinity Sutton
Noel Farrer – President, Landscape Institute
Sarah Reece-Mills – head of partnerships and programmes, Groundwork UK
Steve Cole – policy leader, National Housing Federation
Sue Forsyth – IMPROVE project manager, Peabody

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