Replanting projects turn global cities into lush green spaces

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From lettuce grown on the New York skyline to thick corridors of trees occupying once desolate Colombian roadsides, green initiatives are taking over in cities around the world.

At a time when the coronavirus lockdowns have increased the need for nature in urban areas, AFP has collected images and footage of projects that optimize precious city space.

Since the early 21st century, replanting initiatives have sprung up as urban development goals have shifted and global warming alarms have increased.

And they have had an impact.

In nine cities around the world, planting on walls and roofs allows temperatures to be lowered by 3.6 to 11.3 degrees Celsius during the hottest month in so-called street canyons – flanked by high-rise buildings on both sides – at the hottest time of the day. according to a report by the French agency for ecological transition.

Green spaces have also been shown to improve health and well-being, including by reducing stress, anxiety and depression, improving attention and focus, improving physical health and managing post-traumatic stress disorder, said Stephanie Merchant of the health department of Bath University.

“However, what matters is where they are made in relation to the needs of the local communities,” she added.

Singapore’s otherworldly garden

Inside the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. © Roslan Rahman, AFP

The imposing “forest” of giant man-made trees made of reinforced concrete and steel, lushly covered with genuine flora and fauna, is a Singapore landmark.

Towering 25 to 50 meters above the city-state’s new business district, the 18 solar-powered supertrees illuminate the night sky and their canopies look like flying saucers.

Expansive glass greenhouses also showcase exotic plants from five continents, as well as plants from tropical highlands up to 2,000 feet above sea level, complete with an artificial mountain and indoor waterfall.

The Gardens by the Bay project, voted World Building of the Year in 2012, says the idea was to create “a city within a garden.”

But pointing to the construction and maintenance costs, Philippe Simay, a philosopher on cities and architecture, called it a “Disneyization” of nature. “Why make trees out of concrete when you can have real ones?” he asked.

It’s a great public relations effort, says Claire Doussard, a planning and development teacher and researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, highlighting the “technical know-how” and raising public awareness about the threat of climate change. .

Farmers on a roof in New York

People visit the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farming company and sustainability center during an open house in Brooklyn, New York City. © Ed Jones, AFP

With buildings all around, the Statue of Liberty in the distance, and lots of traffic below, the rooftop Brooklyn Grange farm grows more than 45 tons of organic produce a year.

It was launched about a decade ago by friends living in New York who wanted “a small sustainable farm that worked like a business,” said co-founder Gwen Schantz.

The farm now spans three roofs totaling over 22,000 square feet and grows a wide variety of vegetables.

But it should limit the soil depth to about 12 inches (30 centimeters) and “irrigate the soil a little more often, because it dries out very quickly,” Schantz said.

From life in the vertical forest of Milan…

The architectural complex called Vertical forest (Bosco Verticale) designed by Studio Boeri in the modern Porta Nuova district of Milan. © Miguel Medina, AFP

By decorating two high-rise apartment buildings from top to bottom in more than 20,000 trees and plants, Italian architect Stefano Boeri said he wanted to make trees “an essential part of architecture” and create something that “could help reduce the pollution” .

The Bosco Verticale (vertical forest) in the heart of Milan sees cherry, apple and olive trees flowing over balconies next to beech and larch, selected and positioned for their resistance to wind and preference for sunlight or humidity. The award-winning project opened in 2014.

…to vertical farming in Copenhagen

Plants grown at the vertical nursery ‘Nordic Harvest’ in Taastrup, a suburb west of Copenhagen. © Thibault Savary, AFP

Bathed in purple light, produce such as lettuce, herbs and kale grow in tiered racks from floor to ceiling in a huge warehouse in an industrial zone in Copenhagen.

Tiny robots deliver trays of seeds from aisle to aisle at the vertical farm, which was opened in December by Danish start-up Nordic Harvest.

The produce is harvested 15 times a year, despite never having seen soil or daylight – 20,000 specialized LED lights keep it lit around the clock.

Nordic Harvest founder and CEO Anders Riemann emphasizes the benefits of growing produce close to the consumer, freeing up farmland that can be turned back into forest.

The massive planting of trees in Riyadh

Workers plant trees next to a highway in the Saudi capital Riyadh. © Fayez Nureldine, AFP

Today, all the greenery in Riyadh is almost lost between the multi-lane highways and giant interchanges, but within nine years the city aims to add 7.5 million trees.

The reforestation is part of an $11 billion green initiative that also includes the construction of 3,000 parks in the Saudi capital.

It will need one million cubic meters of water daily, which will be recycled water from an irrigation network, says the Riyadh Green website.

But according to project leader Abdelaziz al Moqbel, it will help lower the normal temperature by one or two degrees Celsius and improve the quality of life with less air pollution and dust.

The ‘green corridors’ of Medellín

People walk on a bridge in a green corridor in the Poblado neighborhood of Medellin, Colombia. © Joaquin Sarmienta, AFP

Colombia’s second-largest city has won critical acclaim and awards for its “green corridors,” an interconnected network that has transformed urban arteries once unnatural and littered with garbage where drug addicts congregated.

Now the 30 tree- and flower-filled corridors connect to Medellin’s existing green spaces, such as parks and gardens.

The overall effect has lowered the temperature by two degrees Celsius and helped purify the air, according to a video from the city authority.

Bees and birds have returned, residents have been involved and jobs have been created in the yard, it added.

Chengdu’s apartment buildings turned jungle

Condominiums with balconies covered in plants in a residential area in Chengdu, China’s southwestern Sichuan province. © STR, AFP

The promised residents of a Chinese megacity live in a vertical forest, with lush plants and greenery on their balconies.

“The air is good when you wake up in the morning, and the green trees are good for us elderly,” said Lin Dengying, who lives in one of the eight towers that make up the Qiyi City Forest Garden in Chengdu, which is located in Chengdu. 2018 was opened.

Some parts look like a tree house in a tropical forest, while others seem overrun with their own vegetation, as if a jungle invades and bursts from the terraces.

In September, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported that only about 10 families had moved into the more than 800 apartments due to what some residents said was a mosquito infestation.

( Jowharwith AFP)