Climate change is happening faster than projected and this means that cities need to react sooner than anticipated. We’ve seen efforts in New York that will create barriers against rising sea levels and other cities have done similar infrastructure improvements. Copenhagen has taken the next logical step: converting an existing neighbourhood into one ready for climate change.
The redesigned chunk of the city use vegetation and reigned streetscapes for a future-proof city.
They went for the green option. “Adding sewers is insanely costly, so a green-and-blue [vegetation and water] approach is more economical,” notes Esben Alslund-Lanthén, an analyst at the Copenhagen-based sustainability think tank Sustainia. There was just one challenge: No city has ever tried climate-change-adapting a whole neighborhood using just plants and water. “It’s a huge amount of water that we’ll have to redirect when the next cloudburst hits,” says Flemming Rafn Thomsen of Tredje Natur, the Danish architecture firm chosen for the project. “We looked at St. Kjeld and thought, ‘That’s a lot of asphalt with no function. We can use some of that space for water.’” On top of having little function, the asphalt gave St. Kjeld, a somewhat rundown working-class neighborhood, an even more depressing feel.
The answer, Rafn Thomsen and the city decided, was to tear up the neighborhood’s squares and replace their asphalt covering with what’s essentially a hilly, grassy carpet interspersed with walking paths. Should a storm, flood or rising sea levels hit the Danish capital again, the bucolic mini-parks will turn into water basins, the hills essentially functioning as the sides of a bowl. Thanks to a new pipe system, the squares will even be able to collect water from surrounding buildings’ roofs. Surrounding streets will, for their part, be turned into “cloudburst boulevards.” Under ordinary circumstances, they’ll just be ordinary streets with raised sidewalks, but during floods and megastorms, they’ll become canals, channeling rainwater away from the squares to the harbor. Millions of gallons of water will be dispatched back to the harbor on such aboveground waterways, St. Kjeld becoming a temporary Venice.
Just when you think there couldn’t be more reasons to live in and build walkable communities another one pops up. We already know that walkable communities are safer, more environmentally healthy, and better for everyone’s health. We can now add to that
list that walkable places are good for keeping of mental issues that occur later in life!
The work builds on Watts’ long attention and study of health behaviors, prevention strategies, and bio-behavioral processes associated with cognitive decline and dementia as the University of Kansas (KU). “I’ve always been interested in why people choose to engage in healthy behaviors or not,” Amber Watts said. “I had been very focused around issues of the individual until I met and started working with architects who study how the physical world around us influences our choices. I found that fascinating, and I wanted to incorporate that into my work about health behaviors.”
This is supportive information for green city planners and city infrastructure layouts. More green planning in neighborhoods so that people will be able to make healthful choices is something we are lacking in much of the US. Good ambiance, sidewalks, and mixing of uses in a neighborhood can go a long way.
Dead malls are a problem in too many communities and these malls are occupying large tracts of land that can be used better. Suburbs in North America have to confront the obvious change in front of them and some communities are doing a good thing by making the malls livable for people instead of just for cars.
The redesign will be in line with many new urbanism projects. There will be shops, cafes and offices connected by walkways. Storefronts will be on the first floor and residential units will occupy the top floors. There will also be a mix of cottages, multi family homes, and condos in the neighborhood as to add variety. Parking will still be present but will be hidden behind the retrofitted mall, away from the storefronts.
Greenest City is a charity that grows organic food and helps educate the leaders of tomorrow in Parkdale, a community within Toronto. I’ve been to their HOPE garden and I have to say that it is very impressive and everything they’re growing looks delicious.
A Toronto blog took a close look at the organization:
Yonge Street’s videographer Rose Bianchini went to Parkdale to see what Greenest City is up to in that neigbourhood. Working in urban argriculture, “Greenest City is an award-winning charitable organization that grows local organic food, youth leaders and healthy, sustainable communities with a focus on Toronto’s Parkdale-High Park neighbourhood.”