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Temporary landscapes

Landscape, unlike building, evolves but when is a landscape temporary?

As an intermediate or transitional phase in the development of a site, landscape can provide something quick and relatively cheap to fill vacant space. A huge diversity of design response may apply bringing a dynamic change to the character of a vacant urban site.

A derelict site can act as a hole in the urban realm, a negative space like a missing tooth. Landscape and art are a means of energising our urban public space through many different forms be it art installations, growing spaces, pop-up cafés or shops, festivals, markets or theatre spaces. Increasing the social dynamic of our outdoor space by placing interventions in them which act as a catalyst for interaction between strangers.

Short term schemes are a chance to enhance environmentally sparse townscape. These can be cheap and quick solutions e.g. wildflower planting, and derelict or vacant land is particularly well suited to these habitats with poor soils generating biologically diverse habitats quickly colonised by plants and insects.

Temporary landscapes provide the possibility of experimenting with a site and testing out what activities or layouts are most popular or appropriate for the space. They are also an interesting insight into human appropriation - an alternate means of urban planning, often a bottom-up approach, drawing community participation into the project through a process-oriented methodology.

Often with tiny budgets, temporary projects rely heavily on enthusiasm from a dedicated team. The key to success is using mainly what is already available, making the most of reused and recycled materials which in turn creates a very site-specific and unique space.

The temporary nature of these spaces also has potential to be considered as experimental – a way to get people to think and learn about their surroundings and the potential interaction with the landscape making them inherently more dynamic. Temporary growing spaces allow people to discover more about organic food production, biodiversity and climate protection. Using local urban space in this way helps provide an immediacy to solutions about climate change and presents opportunities to learn about healthy eating, sustainable living and a future-oriented urban lifestyle.

Urban space is in constant flux through the process of building, decay and rebuilding, layer upon layer of architecture is remodelled as the needs of the population change. Are these temporary landscapes then the new future to urban design, reclaimed by local people they rely less on council funds for maintenance and evolve based on changing needs?


Reference Projects

Christchurch NZ was an example of how large-scale city destruction resulted in over 200 temporary landscape projects spontaneously evolving. Activities that used to take place inside spilled out into the city’s public space, creating a vibrant and active new dynamic to local neighbourhoods. These temporary landscapes provided the opportunity of injecting fun and colour into a city left in ruins after a major earthquake. It remains to be seen whether this new style and character of development will be stitched into the more permanent fabric of the city.

Berlin Prinzessinnenngarten was a vacant plot for over half a century comprising just rubble and concrete. Since 2005 it has been transformed by members of the community, activists and growers who helped to clear the space making way for hundreds of organic, transportable, container grown plants. Now the food growing space has evolved to include a cafe, a plant nursery, over 20 self sown tree and a hut for education. This enterprising project has transformed the stagnant corner of a busy roundabout into amazingly cool oasis - a vibrant, socially dynamic hub that is educational as well as ecologically and financially sustainable.

Pressure from Berlin city government to remove the project for development of the site (which was always on the cards) has resulted in major local controversy as to whether the garden is more beneficial to the community than the proposed development. An example of temporary space evolving with potential for long term use.

Jane Fowles

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Jane Fowles

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