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News & opinion

1 OCT 2018

Little wonders

Creating great public spaces that respond to the people who use them is one of the key challenges for the built environment sector. We take a look at some simple success stories.

New York’s floating forest

The South Bronx is one of the largest food deserts in the US, which means that communities have limited access to fresh produce. So, in 2016 artist Mary Mattingly launched Swale – an advocacy project for public land in the city to be given over to food growing.

A floating 5,000 ft2 (465 m2) barge was planted with fruit trees and vegetable crops that are forageable by the public. In its first year, almost 60,000 New Yorkers set foot on Swale as it made its way along the waterways between the Bronx, Brooklyn and Governors Island.

London’s parklet

London’s streets account for around 80% of the city’s total public space. In July 2017, Arup and local business group the Fitzrovia Partnership piloted FitzPark, converting a delivery bay on Windmill Street into an urban green space with seating and planters.

Arup dubbed the temporary space a “parklet”, and the firm believes this type of installation offers a low-cost way to test public space designs with users and encourage investment via proof of concept. FitzPark was monitored throughout summer 2017 and studies were carried out to measure people’s movement, dwell time and activity – the results of which are pending publication.

Paris is blooming

In 2016, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo launched an initiative to green 247 acres (100 ha) of the city. Parisculteurs allows residents to apply for permits to vegetate plots on the city’s streets, walls and roofs. Permits last for three years and come with starter kits of seeds and soil.

Applicants must sign a charter that commits them to using indigenous and bee-friendly plants, and to maintaining the plots. The programme will deliver 74 acres (30 ha) of public gardens, 200 re-vegetation projects and the planting of 20,000 trees. By April 2018, 74 companies and public institutions had signed up to partner with the city government on the initiative.