1

More specifically, the European Commission describes NBSs as: “solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience”.

2

Journeyman Pictures, «How a Brazilian City Has Revolutionized Urban Planning», (October 2007) Minute 8.33.

3

John R. McNeil Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World. W.W. Norton and Company (2001).

4

Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho: «Del átomo al paisaje_Urbanismo y Arqutiectura en la acción contra el cambio climático» accessible in the Fundación Arquia blog (October 2017)

6

J.A. Rico, «Del río Seco a oasis para aves en el Campello», accessible at Diario Información (July 2017)

Building with Nature

Emerald Necklace, Frederick Law Olmsted. Wikipedia. Original plan of the necklace from 1894

Frederick Law Olmsted would be surprised to know that his Black Bay Fens project, the origin of Boston’s famous Emerald Necklace in the 19th century, would today be a Horizon 2020 project and an example of a Nature-based Solution (NBS).  An NBS is a restorative urban or land development action designed and implemented using natural materials, processes and strategies to ensure the subsequent enjoyment of a site. It goes beyond merely cosmetic “green” measures1. Olmsted’s system for managing the marshland that affected the city of Boston resulted in one of the earliest examples of a green belt (in this case, an emerald necklace), as opposed to just another drainage system.

When we talk of an NBS, we’re really talking about a blue-green infrastructure, an example of landscaping, a work of landscape architecture. I’m aware that differences do exist between these terms, but certain elements from each one of them are present in projects like Olmsted’s Boston plan, in the decisions made regarding the floodable parks of Curitiba, with their grazing sheep2, and in all the similar situations I’m sure you can think of. And although by now they are all very familiar, their study and dissemination reveal that there is, in fact, something new under the sun3. One small, but important, aspect is the transition from a reactive attitude to the proactive, regenerative strategies Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho talked about in the blog a few months ago4.

As always, I’m halfway through the post and I’m already running out of space to say everything I wanted to say. So, three quick things to finish with:

We should beware of suddenly converting something we’re familiar with into a “discipline”: of turning these NBSs into a set of rules and parameters that lack the poetry, the intuition and, above all, the common sense present in all the examples mentioned above. Numbers are important, but they’re not the project itself (that’s what I always tell my students after explaining a sustainability indicator system).

We must remember that these solutions are more appropriate not only because the image they give is nicer than that of a concrete conduit (that would just take us back to the idea of superficial greenery), but also because of all the beneficial social, economic and cultural “side-effects” they generate. Proactive solutions like these become recreational spaces, meeting places, focal points of local economic activation and recovery zones for species, crafts and traditions.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing of all is that plenty of examples can be found of how this symbiosis between infrastructures and Nature can result in the emergence of protected natural areas, sometimes planned, managed and controlled5 and sometimes almost fortuitous6.

Notas de página
1

More specifically, the European Commission describes NBSs as: “solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience”.

2

Journeyman Pictures, «How a Brazilian City Has Revolutionized Urban Planning», (October 2007) Minute 8.33.

3

John R. McNeil Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World. W.W. Norton and Company (2001).

4

Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho: «Del átomo al paisaje_Urbanismo y Arqutiectura en la acción contra el cambio climático» accessible in the Fundación Arquia blog (October 2017)

6

J.A. Rico, «Del río Seco a oasis para aves en el Campello», accessible at Diario Información (July 2017)

Autor:
Arquitecto, doctor, profesor en la Universidad de Alicante y ganador de 4 primeros premios en EUROPAN. Apasionado de la ciudad y los fenómenos urbanos, trabaja, investiga y reflexiona sobre un futuro sostenible desde el Mediterráneo.

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