Conclusions from IFLA Europe webinar ‘Healing Landscapes’ held on 23 June 2022

Conclusions from IFLA Europe webinar ‘Healing Landscapes’ held on 23 June 2022

On Thursday, 23 June 2022, IFLA Europe organised the ‘Healing Landscapes’ webinar, addressing the broader definition of this concept and its positive effect on people’ s mind, soul, and body.

The main objective of this event was to gather the Landscape Architects’ community for a debate regarding the key role played by this profession for human well being as well as its potential to address climate change mitigation, biodiversity, and a balanced relationship between man and nature for a sustainable and inclusive future.

With this occasion, IFLA Europe hosted online over 200 participants in zoom meeting and over 900 persons watching live on Facebook coming from all over Europe and other continents!

The event was opened by Dr. Katerina Gkoltsiou, IFLA Europe President and member of PHALA Greece with a presentation regarding the landscape architect’s approach and IFLA Europe’s contribution to the development of healing landscapes. Starting from the definition given by the World Health Organisation, which states that the human health is a complete physical, psychological and social well-being, Mrs. Gkoltsiou highlighted the way landscape is connecting people and place, while being strongly influenced by political, socio-economic and legislative context. The presentation also touched upon changes made in our lives by the Covid-19 pandemic and the need of our communities to return to nature. Dr. Katerina Gkoltsiou pleaded for a true synergy between public health professionals and Landscape Architects, having as a base the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Among the landscape architect means to contribute in developing healthy landscapes, there were mentioned different aspects such as: bringing nature into the city, connecting city and nature, emphasising senses stimulation through design, mediating nature and culture juxtaposition, and supporting coexistence and harmony between human creativity and natural process. The intervention embedded many good practice examples and sources for an in-depth look at the subject.

Dr. Dario Piselli, Expert - Environment, Human Health and Well-being, European Environment Agency (EEA), talked about green space as a key element for well-being. He brought the discussion to a brother scale by introducing the concept of green infrastructure as a network of natural and semi-natural areas delivering ecosystem service. He also addressed the issue of green space accessibility and the impact of biodiversity on human health, especially for vulnerable groups such as: children, the eldertly, low socioeconomic status groups and migrant / asylum seekers. Mr. Piselli highlighted the green spaces role in the context of climate change adaptation and the work through which EEA aims to identify the knowledge gap in this field as policy advisor organisation for European institutions in Brussels. The presentation revolved as well around Copernicus Urban Atlas database regarding European green spaces, urban tree cover, protected areas and impact of Invasive Alien Species. Dr. Dario Piselli emphasised the importance of combating green space gentrification and green space deprivation and offered concrete examples of projects and initiatives. In this respect, he also mentioned the need for ensuring green space provision and quality trough policies with multilevel implementation (such as: EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, EU Adaptation Strategy, EU Green Infrastructure Strategy, Green City Accord) and, also, trough guidance provided by international and European organisation for ensuring adequate access to green spaces (such as: World Health Organisation recommendation for access to 0.5-1.0 ha green space within 300 m or IUCN Urban Alliance 3-30-300 rule - see at least 3 trees, at least 30% of tree cover in every neighbourhood, access to nearest park or green space within 300 m).

Further, Dr. Colleen Mercer Clarke, IFLA World Chair of Professional Practice and Policy, Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, pointed out in her presentation the relation between healing nature and healing ourselves. Thus, she also highlighted the work that Landscape Architects do at multiple scales, from biome to habitats, through the perspective of nature. Mrs. Mercer Clarke spoked about the need for ecosystem-based approaches to planning and design for climate adaptation of the green space, blue space and green infrastructure, and about using nature based solutions as main tools in Landscape Architects’ activities. Regarding the Landscape Architects’ mission Dr. Colleen Mercer Clarke proposed several main directions, respectively: to promote the value of nature at all scales and in all places, to protect and restore the nature we have, to integrate the development with the natural environment and, not least, to engage human access to nature. Numerous examples of projects were provided in this respect, as well as links for various resources, further illustrating the concepts proposed within this intervention.

Dr. Diana Culescu, IFLA Europe Secretary General and President of AsoP Romania, talked the topic of trees as a significant part of the healing nature. She pleaded for the need for a common ground and for a common understanding of various concepts related to the amenity tree, one of the main representatives of nature within the urban environment. Understanding amenity trees has to go beyond their aesthetic features and their production capabilities. Securing targets (people, buildings, cars and other goods), avoiding nuisances and developing suitable microclimates are important aspects when considering this type of tree. Based of various concrete examples, Mrs. Culescu pointed out that, in the endeavour of creating healing Landscapes, it is of utmost importance to be able to financially quantify the benefit brought by trees, such as: providing protection, improving soils, supporting wildlife, cleaning the air or preventing flooding. Further, Diana Culescu also referred to various activities developed by IFLA Europe on the matter, especially through the Med_net Working Group, activities among which she mentioned the development of a guiding material regarding the management and maintenance of trees in urban environments.

Thomas Marquart, Vestre Sales Manager Germany, spoke about the way Parklets can help us transform our cities. Focusing on the social impact of outdoor furniture, Veste’s vision is to create arrenas for everyday democracy, thus working to develop caring meeting places that can bring together people across age, gender or social, cultural and economical backgrounds. Parklets are public seating platforms that convert curbside parking spaces into community space and represent an important tool in the endeavour of developing social meeting places by allowing to reclaim spaces traditionally reserved for cars and partially pedestrianize streets. This shift in use can bring an important change within the urban fabric seeing that removing as few as 2 or 3 parking spots can open sitting for more than 20 people. Mr. Marquart pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic cut out the access to many traditional venues for human connection and engaged the need for new and more suitable meeting spaces. In this regard, Parklets can provide space for more social meeting places, more bike parking space and more plants within the city, transforming the mono-functional parking space into a poly-functional area that can benefit more people. This transformation is actually a process, which unfolds sometimes over more years, where Parklets are usually introduced as temporary solutions, but evolve into something more permanent. Thomas Marquart provided two examples in order to exemplify the transformation of urban space with the use of Parklets. The first example refers to a pilot project implemented in Bergmannstraße from Berlin, where several Parklets were installed and changed the way people use and perceive public space. Later on, this intervention led to the municipality decision to transform this street into a pedestrian area, embedding play areas and more natural features. The second example came from Oslo, a city that has a very ambitious climate strategy (aiming to cut the city’s greenhouse emissions with 95% by 2030) that also includes a strong reduction of car use in the centre area. The project introduced 35 Parklets on 3 streets in the centre of Oslo as a temporary intervention for a two year period. But, for now, there is no intention to remove the Parklets although the two year deadline passed already. Also, it is important to note that in the long term, the goal of the municipality is to fully transform the 3 streets into pedestrian areas.

During the discussions session the following concept were browsed:
-the need for rising awareness regarding the main topic of on the event at municipality level and for the general public;
-the necessity to find solutions for the limitations generated by the lack of democracy and collective understanding of society on the matter;
-the crucial role of the Landscape Architect profession for NBS implementation and the need for professional to “push” themselves into the conversations that are taking place in this respect’
-the difference between different scales of implantation for Eu environmental policies (EU, level, national level, municipalities and local government level);
-the preoccupation at European level for developing a common ground for assessing from a financial point of view all the benefits of a health living space;
-the need and the feasibility in having regulations for establishing a common ground in this professional field.

IFLA Europe ‘Healing Landscapes’ webinar highlighted the fact that there are several common problems that Landscape Architects face in various parts of the world. The speakers reviewed the ways Landscape Architects can contribute in tackling climate change adaptation and generating human well being and provided insights regarding some of the tools professionals can use in their work, at different scales. The event also pointed out that the topic is greatly influenced by political will and by local governments’ activity. Not least, it emphasised the need for a common ground and for a common understanding of various concepts used both by professionals and their counterparts within the Landscape Architecture domain.

All presentations from speakers are available here:

Dario Piselli, European Environment Agency ‘Green spaces - key to wellbeing’

Katerina Gkoltsiou, IFLA Europe President ‘Healing Landscapes and role of Landscape Architects’

Colleen Mercer Clarke, IFLA World Committee on Professional Practice and Policy Chair

Diana Culescu, IFLA Europe Secretary General ‘Trees as significant part of healing the nature’

Thomas Marquart, VESTRE ‘How parklets can help transform the city’

You can watch the recording

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