Topos 83


Plants and Design

Designing with plants is an obvious activity for gardeners and landscape architects. Plants as building materials for all occasions are sometimes appreciative and straightforward companions of architecture. At times, however, they may also be prima donnas that require an extreme amount of attention if they are to show off their charms or even their capacity to function. And yet, most of the time this capriciousness is not the fault of the plant but of the unfavourable circumstances in which it grows. The adverse conditions of urban environments force designers to summon up all their skills if they are to bring an idea to fruition, to accurately use plants according to their habitus and character. This is the actual theme of this issue, in which we present masterful examples of plant usage.

World Trade Center Memorial
Hundreds of Swamp White Oaks dominate the space around the two voids in Lower Manhattan, where the towers of the World Trade Center stand. The plaza of the 9/11 Memorial is built upon a huge green roof.
Author: Alex Ulam

Hyllie Square: A plaza of Beech Trees
The central square in the newly-built Hyllie district of Malmö, Sweden, features a beech grove planted in a granite field. The grove brings a human scale into the enormous dimensions of the drawing board suburb.
Author: Anders Kling

Forest, Garden, and Pleasure Ground for the New Century
The design of the National Arboretum in Canberra, taking place after a period of devastating fires, reacts to anticipated challenges of diminishing biodiversity and accelerating climate change. The creation of new, highly diverse forests in a landscape that is to be both pragmatic and poetic is already underway.
Author: Gini Lee

Built landscape for the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas
The park at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas is a miniature of the Texan landscape, with a focus on showing natural systems working together.
Author: Catherine Gavin

Stanislavsky Creates New Method
The transformation of the Stanislavsky factory in Moscow provides a series of interlinked small squares, gardens, and routes. The scheme not only ties the complex site together but offers attractive, permeable public space within the Russian capital.
Author: Jay Merrick

A Vertical Forest in Milan
Two high-rise buildings in Milan are being constructed with trees growing on their facades. This vertical forest is designed to improve the urban climate.
Author: Melanie Müller-Boscaro

Deep Collaboration between Design and Land
Sunnylands Center and Gardens in California features drought-tolerant plants and desert habitat restoration, emblematic of the surrounding landscape.
Author: Rachel Berney

Mezyad Desert Park
Mezyad Desert Park project in Abu Dhabi employs a gentle approach to landscape design. The landscape must sustain itself in time and allow its own ecology to take over. The aim is to restore the ecological health of a vast desert site degraded by human use, and allow visitors to experience a magnificent landscape.
Author: Jennifer Mui

Hidden Art from the Lily Pond
Photo essay by Ottomar Lang

Trends in Planting Design
Moving away from merely aesthetic collections of plants, new designs increasingly focus on creating artificial ecosystems. These offer long-term stability as well as reduced maintenance and require high levels of expert knowledge of native and non-native plant species.
Author: Noël Kingsbury

Design and planting strategy in the Olympic Park, London
Large-scale and visually-dramatic designed plantings were the dominant and most visually-prominent element in the London 2012 Olympic Park. The planting strategy is based on the consideration that the green space had to achieve biodiversity outcomes. At the same time, it is a clear statement about the future of parks and planting design.
Authors: James Hitchmough, Nigel Dunnett

The Necessity of Constraints
Two showcase projects in Texas illustrate how limitations regarding plant use can help liberate designers in creating new connections between built forms and nature.
Author: Frederick Steiner

Nature in the City Reloaded
In the north of Zurich, Switzerland, a roof garden was established on top of a new commercial building. It integrates the site’s history and the dynamics of plant communities in a playful way. Maintenance and management will determine this wild and romantic garden’s future.
Author: Claudia Moll

Folly Forest in Winnipeg
With little effort, the tarmac surface at a school yard in Winnipeg, Canada has been transformed into a place where the entire neighbourhood can meet. Trees, grasses, and flowers now grow in the perforated tarmac.
Author: Dietmar Straub

Garden in Progress
The old and overgrown garden at the Museum for International Art in Aachen, Germany, is in the process of being transformed by gardening interventions and a mise-en-scene of nature. This is having an impact on people’s relationship to this once forgotten environment.
Author: Brigitte Franzen

Grafting the Australian Landscape into an Urban Framework
Throughout the past two centuries in Australia, the local vegetation has been slowly integrated into the urban realm. But beyond vegetation, urban development must become structurally embedded into existing landscape conditions and environmental systems. Landscape architects must play a large role in initiating a more thorough integration of the indigenous landscape into the public urban realm.
Authors: Bonnie Grant, Sarah Hicks

From Planning to Planting. Afforestation in Ca Mau, Vietnam
Design investigations into future land management in the Ca Mau peninsula develop various scenarios to react to the pressing challenges of environmental pollution, population growth, and climate change. Afforestation and the creation of new waterscapes play a key role.
Authors: Bruno De Meulder, Kelly Shannon