The idea of designing with nature is now central to urban critical thought. Research is increasingly finding support for the significant impacts green and blue infrastructure can have on our social and environmental well-being and how we interact in, and with spaces. But, despite a growing evidence base, urban greening is still considered a luxury and often the first thing to be value-engineered. Fret not though, for the wind of change is whispering ever louder.
The GLA, due to the new Mayors priority to clean London’s air and improve the health and well-being of Londoners, is recognising the benefits of creating more walkable and green environments evidenced by the new Healthy Streets Agenda. Even institutions like the NHS and Sport England are turning to urban design as a strategy for improving the health of the population. We know that how we design places influences peoples lifestyle choices and urban greening can play a lead role in changing our streets and spaces. Perhaps, what is needed is for institutions and organisations to be better connected to collaborate on these issues, and share responsibility for the implementation and maintenance of schemes. This is where Urban Design London (UDL) play a useful role.
Urban Design London having recently celebrated 15 years, is a non-profit organisation that provides training and support for London’s Boroughs and the GLA family. Holding events that aim to bring forward and challenge best practice so that we can learn from each other and constantly raise the bar for design and policy-making. Madeleine Lundholm states “At our events, there has been a noticeable growth in interest in, and acceptance of, the role green and blue infrastructure can play from our members. Our presenters are also increasingly talking about the benefits that soft landscaping can bring in areas such as storm-water management, public realm improvements, and public health”.
“In addition to our events we hold topic-specific network meetings. This year we hosted the Low Emission & Air Quality network to support people working in this growing area. We also launched our new Young Practitioners Network where it is clear to see that greening and environmental health are high on the agenda for our members, boding well for the future of nature in, and the liveability of, our cities”.
In the end, embracing nature in the city is just common sense and we are slowly recognising that returning to our roots is a very practical thing to do, for many reasons. We will all be healthier for it.
GreenBlue Urban will be presenting at the UDL event on 22nd November “How to clean London’s Air”