How Urban Landscape Design Can Save a City


Urban landscape design firms improve cities in a lot of ways. By making the city more visually appealing, they contribute to the quality of life for all residents. Urban landscape design is more than decoration, though. It should organize important details like seating, signage, transportation hubs, and related items. Landscape design in the city is all about integration.

Many of the details can seem trivial, but they must knit together to achieve a harmonious effect. Landscape architects strive to achieve coherence from many disparate elements. Working in cities is especially challenging for a landscape designer, because you have to work within the confines of the existing structures.

Fixing a Whole City

Infrastructure projects that include extensive urban landscape design are now getting more ambitious. They're increasingly relying on landscape architects to help deal with fundamental problems that cities face on a regular basis. These include things like crime, flooding, droughts, and wildfires. This brings additional challenges and opportunities to urban design firms.

No Longer At War With Nature

Mitigating the effects of extreme weather events is often at the top of the list for new urban projects. The old approach of planting a few trees and relying on the Army Corps of Engineers is passing out of favor. Few cities are planned from their founding. They mostly grow up quickly, with little thought given to overall design. That's why so many cities are lacking in green space. It disappeared under a shell of concrete and pavement before effective landscape design could be brought to bear.

Cities now understand that too much hardscaping can have a negative effect on things like stormwater runoff. They're also more likely to cause problems like heat islands. Areas that look inhospitable discourage visitors, which can lead to higher crime. All of these problems can be mitigated with smart landscape designs. Cities are increasingly relying on overall design plans instead of a piecemeal approach. That means urban design firms can make systemic improvements instead of simply working in the tiny spaces between large problems.

Greenspace Helps in a Heatwave

Pavement absorbs a lot of sunlight, and it stores heat. In cities, this can lead to an attenuation of dangerous heatwaves. With global temperatures rising, cities are increasingly looking for ways to keep their citizens cooler. More greenspace can really help.

Parks integrate trees, canopies, and other structures that provide shade. That keeps surface temperatures lower. Vegetation also releases moisture and oxygen into the air, and helps to clean pollutants. Landscape architects have long worked to create microclimates near destination points like fountains and copses of trees. Pockets of vegetation help, but a systematic approach to increasing plants and water features can have a measurable effect on the climate in the city as a whole.

Stormwater Management

Many cities deal with stormwater entirely with hard surfaces and drainage systems. Pavement is pitched to drains, and the drains take the runoff elsewhere. What happens when elsewhere is full? This is a common problem when a city sees weather events like hurricanes. If the storm drains are overwhelmed, the city fills up with water like a fishbowl.

Adding greenspace helps with stormwater management by absorbing some of the water before passing it off as drainage. Water doesn't pass over grass the way it does over pavement, for instance. Vegetation also holds the soil in place with a web of roots that keep dangerous erosion to a minimum.

Managing Droughts

Some cities dream of flooding problems. Rising temperatures put pressure on cities who have limited water supplies. Droughts can cause several interconnecting problems for landscape designers. When temperatures soar, water gets scarcer, plants go dormant or die, and the temperature goes even higher because of the lack of greenery to offset it.

Urban landscape design that features drought-resistant plants is increasingly important in the south and west. By featuring interesting plantings that are able to withstand long periods without water, landscape designers allow cities to save water while keeping the surroundings looking beautiful year-round.

Urban Landscape Design Is More Important Than Ever

The entire globe is seeing a return to the cities. As cities become more crowded, the need for shared greenspace and other public amenities grows ever more acute. Luckily for city dwellers, local and federal governments are taking smart urban landscape design into account when planning for future growth. They're fixing past mistakes to make cities safer and more pleasant than ever. Smart landscape design is right in the heart of it.


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