Putting spiritual back into our cityscape

Can plants bring harmony to our fast-urbanising world? The designers in 30:30 Landscape Architecture think so
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Cutty Sark Gardens by Martin Knuijt, from 30:30 Landscape Architecture
Cutty Sark Gardens by Martin Knuijt, from 30:30 Landscape Architecture

30:30 Landscape Architecture is a particularly timely collection and wonderful showcase for a still-emerging medium. The book invites 30 internationally renowned landscape architects to showcase their own work, as well as projects by 30 of the best of a new generation of forward-looking and innovative designers. Part large-scale horticulture, part green-fingered urban planning, 30:30 Landscape Architecture is, in some senses, a field report into the uses of plants in cities.

Indeed, with over half the world’s population living in urban environments – a figure that is expected to increase to 70% by 2050 – landscape architecture could not be more relevant. No one understands this better than the Utrecht based Martin Knuijt. He believes that city planning has suffered from decades of dreary functionalism. He sees the job of the landscape architect to “transform cities into urban landscapes in harmony with natural resources, providing space for spiritual reflection.”

 

Cutty Sark Gardens by Martin Knuijt, from 30:30 Landscape Architecture
Cutty Sark Gardens by Martin Knuijt, from 30:30 Landscape Architecture

Among the best examples of his recent work is Cutty Sark Gardens (2009), in Greenwich, London. So familiar are these gardens to residents of the capital city that it is easy to take for granted the way in which, discreetly and stealthily, they have improved the quality of both the visitor and living experience in the area.

Adjacent to the famous 19th century clipper ship (now a museum) and the foot tunnel that leads under the Thames, there is a wonderful clarity and ease of access about his deceptively simple design, which is particularly evident in the aerial photography in this volume.

 

Cutty Sark Gardens by Martin Knuijt, from 30:30 Landscape Architecture
Cutty Sark Gardens by Martin Knuijt, from 30:30 Landscape Architecture

A raised plaza, water feature and low-level gardens arranged in tidy stripes all add to a general air of space and calm enhanced by the great river onto which they border. Just yards away, out of shot, is the hectic bustle of a one-way traffic system, from which these gardens provide immediate respite upon entering them. 

Spaces like these are a true gift from art to the urban environment, a global phenomenon for which more and more of us will have good reason to be grateful and perhaps even learn to seek out and fully appreciate.

We hope you've enjoyed this brief insight into our new book. You can pre-order your copy of 30:30 Landscape Architecture here, and find out more about the title here.


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