“Rethinking the Urban Landscape” – Exhibition at the Building Centre
Making the case for ‘Green Infrastructure’
March 24th 2015
The Building Centre in Central London recently hosted an exhibition on “Rethinking the Urban Landscape,” curated by the Building Centre and the Landscape Institute. The exhibition presented the arguments for investing in ‘Green Infrastructure’ in the early stages of urban and regeneration planning. On its website, the Building Centre says that the exhibition set out to show “that with long-term landscape planning cities can become healthier, safer and happier places to be – from reduced risk of flooding, to countering the ‘invisible killer’ of bad air quality, to weaving more enjoyable and inspiring environments throughout the urban fabric.”
The exhibition featured a number of projects from across the globe, including the Derbyshire Street Pocket Park in Bethnal Green, a regeneration project in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. The street, previously used for fly-tipping and as a location for antisocial behaviour, was remodelled and rebuilt as a “pocket park” with funding from the Mayor of London’s ‘pocket park’ initiative and Tower Hamlets Borough Council. The features include a sustainable urban drainage system (SuDS), a cycle lane, a rain garden, new seating, and bespoke planters donated by Thames Water that capture rainwater from the roof of an arts centre. The Building Centre says the Bethnal Green project is now seen “as an exemplar street-greening scheme and is the model for other projects across the borough.”
The Building Centre cites the Bethnal Green project as a good example of how best to manage rainwater. “Managing water is a rising challenge,” it says. “From being an asset it can become a devastating problem when storm waters all try to get through the drain at once. Understanding sustainable drainage as well as designing with water will bring about a revolution in how we plan our cities… Through the creation of ponds, wetlands, swales and basins, which mimic natural drainage, we can better manage water.”
The Centre says that the rainwater storage capacity for the Derbyshire Street pocket park has been calculated at 12 cubic metres and if similar sustainable drainage schemes were applied to all of the built environment in London this would achieve over 10 million cubic metres of storage. “That’s about ten times the capacity of the Thames Tideway Tunnel,” it says, “which is the infrastructure development that is about to be built to deal with flood water.”
The exhibition was accompanied by a series of supporting events and discussions, such as “How should we promote policies on green infrastructure in a time of austerity?” Each event asked a question that addressed future learning and thinking for the design profession. The speakers included landscape architects, policy makers, community activists and industry leaders.
The Building Centre exists to promote innovation in the built environment. First established in 1931, the organisation is now a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing education, information and inspiration to all sectors of the built environment as well as the general public. It works with many leading organisations, individuals and companies connected with environmental issues and building, and organises a number of exhibitions and events throughout the year. The Building Centre is located on South Crescent, Store Street, Central London, and is open to all involved in architecture, construction, and the built environment. For more information see the Building Centre website.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons shows the construction of a swale. Sustainable drainage systems use a variety of techniques, one of which is artificial swales or bioswales. Swales are designed to manage rainwater run-off by spreading it along an elevation contour line and facilitating its infiltration into the soil.