Bringing buildings and plants into close contact, creating a fine weave between nature and architecture… This is a constant preoccupation at Ash Sakula, where our own doorstep is overflowing with containers-full of flowering plants.
We enjoy planting trees very close to new structures, using them to shade windows and provide beautiful views out. We like to cover walls with the right vines, self-climbing ones that don’t need ugly support structures and which create a sustainable micro-climate around the building keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. We like to plant roofs with a rich variety of plants and, ideally, turn them into accessible roof terraces. All this makes our buildings and homes more beautiful, and makes the city more beautiful too.
Greening provides a habitat for other species too: a recent study of eleven rooftops in Basel found that 172 varieties of beetle were happily living there. Green infrastructure creates stepping stones across built-up areas that allows bees and other insects into the city to pollinate our plants and attracts bird life to seed it. Green, brown and living roofs slow water run off and reduce flood risk. Urban vegetation can even modify climates enough to reduce the urban heat island effect and lower temperatures by as much as seven degrees.
Within our purview of green culture, the spaces between and above buildings can be made productive if captured for intensive gardening and horticulture. As well as producing fresh food that can keep people healthy, gardens are a social meeting space. Tending plants brings people together to collaborate and chat. The process can be therapeutic and even life-changing, helping with recovery from trauma or illness or enabling asylum-seekers to literally put down roots.
To work, these processes require attention to the detailed design of spaces, to patterns of sunlight, tree cover, depth of soil and availability of water. Social space must be made convivial and appealing, located to catch the rays of sun at a particular moment of the day or open up a special view. Each potential heat island can be a microclimate for extraordinary plants and a small paradise for the neighbourhood.
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