On the topic of this year’s competition theme ‘Futurescapes – re-thinking the urban landscape’ we were impressed and inspired by a range of varied approaches and ideas. Some projects were inspired by water treatment, urban living, reclamation of derelict land, green infrastructure or flood protection. Others reflected on the effects of global warming, geometry, heritage, renewable energy and bird rehabilitation, to name a few. It was clear that the idea of ‘Futurescapes’ holds many different meanings for individuals and there were varied interpretations of what this topic personally means to them. The urban theme gave a more directed focus to not just natural landscapes but urban infrastructure. We noticed therefore that a lot of entries were about the redevelopment of our cities. Our changing urban environment and development is a crucial current topic to address. As the population swells, urban areas are growing rapidly which leads to more concentrated issues. It is crucial that we, as landscape architects, address this as good design and problem solving can dramatically improve living quality.

2017 Students and Young Professionals’ Competition winners:

Category A: Conceptual ideas and projects

Winner: Marco Nelli with project CLIMATE CHANGE AND URBAN RESILIENCE / A new park along the final part of the Aniene River in Rome

About the project: The park project, which is the subject of Marco’s master thesis, investigates the environmental risks mitigation and climate changes adaptation. In particular, it refers to danger situations both in urban and extra urban areas, due to the problems connected to flood risk and extreme weather events.

“The area I have considered is the Natural Reserve of Aniene Valley and the stretch of the river that crosses the city of Rome, between the GRA and its confluence with the Tiber River. This is a notoriously area prone to repeated and increasingly frequent flooding.

The project purpose is to develop a capable system to provide the whole area a better place to live in, in order to make possible the use of the resource water, without neglecting safety in case of extreme natural events. That’s why the recovery of ecological quality and the upgrading of urban, extra-urban and rural areas near the river, represent useful planning opportunities to create new spaces, capable to provide both renewed recreational and regenerated ecosystem functions.

Looking at the area in its entirety, almost 650ha of park, a specific project action has been associated with each problem encountered in each single homogeneous area. Each of these ones refers to a general action field such as water, vegetation, paths, anthropic. The application of these design actions guarantees the possibility of implementing an integrated and functional project that readily responds to the struggle goals to climate changes.

The solution found, to achieve sustainability and resilience objectives,is to plan and implement a Blue-Green Infrastructure. This strategy can make the connection with the river and the city through the park, interacting with communities, ecology and hydrology. Moreover, this solution can bring significant benefits to the entire environmental system: reducing maintenance costs, creating new habitats, catching and cleaning rainwater, improving soil conditions, improving air quality, promoting new lifestyles.

Retarding and retention basins, carefully studied and calibrated, have been inserted inside the park to generate controlled flooding in order to reduce hydraulic risk in the most susceptible areas. At the same time, the morphologies and ground movements created to implement these strategies, are design elements to accommodate diversified functions
such as recreational or ecological stepping stones.

Three path typologies innervate the whole park by linking every function, whether recreational or ecological, encouraging the guest into new and diversified feelings. The Main Paths guarantee the fruition of the park in any condition, both standard and flooded. Dissemination and Connection Paths relate the main park attractions, but they are unreliable during extreme weather events. Finally, the Discovery Paths, which cross the most sensitive flood controlled areas, are designed to connect people to the natural environment. Along with the journey and the area fruition, panoramic points, pedestrian crossings and floodplain platforms have been included.

At macrosystem level, vegetation plays an important role in the ecosystemic equilibrium of BGI and in the stability of the natural flora and fauna sub-systems. The necessary measures to achieve this balance are the conservation and maintenance of the existing ecological heritage, the improvement of the river corridor, and the improvement of the river and environmental ecological network. The key criterion in choosing this was the hydraulic risk. That has resulted in the selection of suitable species for both erosion and runoff of riverbanks control as well as flow rate control. This allows proper water management not only in case of the river flooding, but also the flows in the most critical areas and sensible to the problem. Another element taken into account in choice of species is the one of the urban forestry works. In this sense, the measures taken are aimed at carbon sequestration, pollution mitigation and biodiversity conservation.

Particular criticalities have been identified in the great meander that the river forms near Nomentano Bridge. Moreover, due to its proximity to a strongly urbanized residential environment, this area is a project priority. The pursued aims are the defence from hydraulic risk, the reconnection between city and river, the restoration of the river ecosystems and the predisposition of a widespread use system.

Attentive design choices have led to a well-articulated structure, but as a whole it is synergistic and functional; offering a wide range of potential points of interest, taking full advantage of the site potentialities and its ecological environment characteristics. The anthropic element becomes part of the park, no more as an undesirable component, but as an integral part of it, while the river, is no longer a danger, but a functional element of interest and discovery.

The design proposal aims to put into effects the teachings for an innovative and sustainable park design that turns out to be resilient to climate changes. The particular design solutions introduced are also intended to reconcile the relationship between river and city, where the winning idea has been to consider natural events no more problematic but as an opportunity for new experience sources.

Category B: Realised Projects

Winner: Urska Skerl with project People?

About the project: Project is addressing the problem of empty buildings while there is a high demand on living spaces. While buildings and spaces are unkempt, the nature creeps in and forms new living habitats. Where are people? In asylums, “bestial” nature in pockets of succession. “We” are not allowed to enter, “they” are not allowed to exit. Space is a political issue, speaking of borders, private lots, fences. Nature doesn’t care about administrative space, landscape is a continuum. I have made installations of “people” in three different types of empty spaces – first is in a former rice factory surrounded by a beautiful garden that was used by workers to socialize; second is at least a decade old construction pit, that gets filled with rainwater and together with sedges create a city-swamp on a below-ground-level; third is a high-standard residential and retail complex that is empty due to lack of financial investors.I take these monuments as mirrors of society, where we are and why aren’t we there yet. Each country, city, has similar, fenced-off spaces and forgotten pockets. Did somebody ask Buddleia davidii?

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