Brno Journal: Designers save Brutalist building in Czech Republic.

by Ron Bernthal

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Exterior view of waiting room at redesigned Zvonařka Central Bus Terminal in Brno, Czech Republic (all photos by alex shoots buildings/
Courtesy of Chybík + Krištof Architects & Urban Designers)

In May, 2021, the Czech Republic-based Chybík + Krištof Architects and Urban Designers announced the completion of the redesigned Zvonarka Central Bus Terminal in Brno, Czech Republic.

Self-initiated in 2011, this redesign and restoration project saw the architects actively engage in preserving the existing Brutalist structure and its original architectural identity, reflecting Chybík + Krištof’s
commitment to perpetuating architectural heritage. Stressing the station’s central role in the city and region’s sociocultural fabric, the firm addresses the urgency to rethink the use of a decaying transportation hub and public space.

Placing transparency, and access, at the root of their design, the designers
have transformed the bus terminal into a functional entity adapted to current social needs.

The new redesign of the 107,639 square-foot terminal, which was originally built in the late 1980’s in the concrete Brutalist style common under Soviet rule, is now an inviting and colorful building while preserving much of its historic architecture.

Exterior view of original bus terminal

This Brutalist style, which first began in the 1950’s/60’s, was especially popular in the architecture of Eastern Europe from the mid-1960s to the late 1980’s. In Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia, Brutalism was presented as an attempt to create not only a “national” movement, but also as a “modern socialist” architectural style. Such prefabricated socialist era buildings, especially those in the former Czechoslovakia, are called panelaky. The Zvonařka Central Bus Terminal in Brno was probably one of the last panelaky style buldings constructed in Eastern Europe before the fall of communism in 1989.

For most residents and city officials of Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, it was thought that the bleak-looking and obsolete bus terminal, used by more than 17,000 people every day, did not make a very good visual impression on travelers to the city, and definitely was not a comfortable place to wait for buses.

Architects from the local Chybík + Krištof studio co-initiated the modernization and describe the design project’s results as “aesthetically unifying the space and at the same time increasing its functionality and clarity.”

“Demolitions are a global issue,” said co-founding architect Michal Krištof. “Our role as architects is to engage in these conversations and demonstrate that we no longer operate from a blank page. We need to consider and also work from existing architecture, and gradually shift the conversation from creation to transformation.”

All bus platforms are now connected by a new barrier-free sidewalk, and a new information system with easily readable screens facilitate passenger orientation. The steel structure of the roof was given a new coat of paint, and the entire space is optically enhanced by new lighting, the intensity of which is adjusted automatically to ambient daylight, which not only and saves electricity costs, but is beneficial to the passengers as well.

An elevator to the roof has been added, where bus passengers can now use the 53 parking spaces to leave their cars if they wish. Before the redesign, only buses were parked on the roof. However, the capacity for a hundred parked buses on the roof was maintained. There are now also bike racks in the terminal area.

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“The design and implementation of the reconstruction deserves great recognition,” said Brno Mayor Vaňková. “The building has not lost any of its authenticity, while gaining a modern face. Speaking for the city, I can promise additional modifications to the public space in the immediate vicinity of the Zvonařka terminal.”

“We shaped the building to guide passengers inside. In addition, its distinctive red roof freely transitions into the public area of ​​the station. It was from the position of the hall that a new numbering of platforms also resulted, the first one is now right next to it,” said architect Ondřej Chybík.

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Shanghai Journal: Mainland China’s first SITES Gold project converts former airport runway into sustainable urban park

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Shanghai’s Xuhui Runway Park (image Insaw Photography)

by Ron Bernthal

Xuhui Runway Park is an innovative urban revitalization project that breathes new life into a unique piece of Shanghai’s history. Designed by the global design firm Sasaki, and located in the Xuhui Riverfront Area, the park is located in a former industrial zone, on the bank of the Huangpu River that has become quite trendy.

Aerial view at night showing neighborhood street for cars on left, and Xuhui Runway Park on right side (image Insaw Photography)

The 36-acre site was once a runway for Longhua Airport, and was opened in the 1930’s with a semi-circular Art Deco terminal. It served as the city’s main airport until the 1950’s when Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport opened, and Longhua became a small, underused civilian airport, eventuall;y closing in 2011. The footprint of the former airport’s 6,000 foot-long, 262 foot-wide concrete runway became the inspiration for the new linear park, and several cement segments of the original runway were incorporated into Xuhui Runway Park when it opened in 2020.

With the recent redevelopment of the Xuhui Riverfront Area into a more modern, mixed-use district, the historic runway is now embracing its new life. Master planned as a public street and linear park side-by-side, the new Runway Park still serves as a runway, not for aircraft, but for a slice of Shanghai’s modern life, offering a recreational space for nearby communities, as well as an oasis to escape the high-density redevelopment nearby.

Aerial view showing street for cars on left, and Xuhui Runway Park right side. (image Insaw Photography)

To reflect the site’s previous history, the design mimics the motion of a runway, creating various linear spaces for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians by organizing the park and street into one interconnected sequence at a runway scale. While the spaces are linear in form, various spatial experiences are created by applying different materials, scales, topography, and programs. The ascending and descending movement, with overlooks created for pedestrians and cyclists, resembles somewhat the experience of being on an airplane, which connects visitors to the past while also providing varied viewpoints of the site.

The layout of Yunjin Road contributes to a compact urban district by limiting the number of vehicular travel lanes and promoting public transit over personal cars. Designated bike lanes are integrated into the street section, facilitating the “last one kilometer” commute between the transit station and individual destinations. Additionally, six rows of deciduous trees are planted along the sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and road median, creating a comfortable microclimate, seasonal effects, and a human-scaled “boulevard.”

Young boys say hello (Nǐ hǎo) in nearby neighborhod (image Ron Bernthal)

A sunken garden is carved between the park’s subway station and neighboring development parcels, improving the walking experience to and from the transit station while enriching the spatial composition of the park. Additional commercial frontage is placed along the garden perimeters, helping activate the garden while bringing more revenue to the park to support its operation and maintenance costs.

Diverse programs are planned in various park spaces, open to all ages and groups and mostly free of charge. Active lifestyles can be found in multiple forms of runways, such as the bike and pedestrian runways through the park, a runway playground, a runway fountain, and the multipurpose lawn with a capacity for holding 3,500 people events, or five soccer games, in five-on-a-side size fields. Cultural events and performances can be accommodated at the sunken garden with a maximum of 900 spectators, and various restaurant and public service facilities scattered throughout the park are designed to allow for small social gatherings like office parties, serving the nearby businesses.

Young girl walks along pathway lined with plants (image Insaw Photography)

Quiet conversations and reflection can take place at multiple gardens, riverfront overlooks, and the birdwatching grove, which offers peaceful spaces away from from the busy urban life nearby. Multiple water features inspired by the aviation industry are distributed throughout the park, including the Runway Fountain, the Silver Wings Fountain, and the Children’s Interactive Fountain. The water supply for the Runway Fountain comes completely from treated stormwater on site.

Park water feature at dusk (image Insaw Photography)

Abundant wildlife habitats are integrated with the landscape, with 100% of plant species native to the Yangtze River Delta. The birdwatching grove, butterfly garden, fragrance garden, and various other garden types define the land, while the wetland edge, bioengineered riparian edge, and a floating wetland module make up the marine forms. A total of 82 plant species, including 2,227 trees, are planted on site, with Trident Maple as the character tree species along the preserved runway to complement its unique history. Over 68% of the hard surfaces are shaded by deciduous trees, providing outdoor comfort while reducing the heat island effect at the site.

Seasonal effect of the rain garden (image Inlaw Photography / Sasaki )

The park integrates portions of the original runway concrete where feasible to prolong the site’s memory. The design team identified a row of 12-feet wide structurally-sound runway panels to serve as the main pedestrian path of the park, with its original aviation direction markings preserved. Near the north end, big portions of the original runway concrete are integrated into the birdwatching grove to form intricate resting spaces. In areas where the existing concrete was damaged beyond repair, new concrete pavement panels were formed to serve the park’s uses today. The demolished concrete pieces are reused in a randomized paving pattern next to the main pedestrian path for people to rest on and seek shelter from the sun. Preservation and reuse of the runway concrete on site has not only saved construction costs but also reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing of new concrete. Concrete was also selected as a primary material for other elements of the project. All new pavements and site furniture are made of architectural concrete, with variations accentuated at key spots. The profile of the site furniture is designed to recall the elements of aircraft.

Several parts of the original airport runay were incorporated into the new park (image Insaw Photography)

The aerodynamic and industrial nature of the site is also referenced in the use of light poles that recall the form of airplane wings. In-ground lights outline the former runway concrete panels and serve as a visual connection to the park’s aviation history. All site lighting is LED sourced, greatly reducing annual electricity costs compared with metal-halide lighting.

View of park showing subtle levels, concrete and bamboo sitting area, and designed lighting poles (image Sasaki)

The stormwater from the park and Yunjin Road is managed along the street through the 1.5 acre rain garden on the north portion of the site and the two acre constructed wetland to the south. The roadside rain garden system is the first of its kind in Shanghai. After treatment at the rain garden and the forebay, the stormwater meets the quality requirements for recreational water, according to the Surface Water Quality Standard of China. A portion of the treated runoff is collected in an underground cistern for park operation and maintenance use when necessary, sufficient for irrigating almost five acres of planted areas, and providing a full water supply for the Runway Fountain in the park.

Runway of water (image Insaw Photography)

Most construction materials were sourced locally, and are environmentally friendly. For example, fused bamboo lumber was used as a sustainable substitute of tropical hardwood on benches, boardwalks, and riverfront overlooks, due to its fast-growing nature, comparable strength, and longevity in outdoors environments.

The West Bund neighborhood, a former industrial zone, has seen many upscale developments in the past decade, including the financial headquarters of CCTV Yangtze Delta, the deluxe Hotel Wanda Reign on the Bund, Shanghai’s first 7-star hotel, and the West Bund AI Center Tower. Partly because of the new Xuhui Runway Park project, and other neighborhood improvements, the property value of the neighborhood increased over 80% from 2015 to 2019.

This site traces the record of urban development in Shanghai. Its strong sustainable initiatives have earned it the first SITES Gold certification in Mainland China and the SITE 2019 Green Building Market Leader Award by USGBC’s Massachusetts Chapter. SITES is a sustainability-focused framework that ushers landscape architects, engineers and others toward practices that protect ecosystems and enhance the mosaic of benefits they continuously provide our communities, such as climate regulation, carbon storage and flood mitigation.

Saskari’s unique design has also earned it Boston Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award, DFA Design for Asia Awards, IFLA AAPME 2020 Awards, The PLAN Awards, Fast Co. Innovation by Design Awards, and MIPIM Asia Awards.

Melbourne Journal: Australia’s largest gallery will add to this city’s vibrant arts district.

Bird’s eye view of the Melbourne’s South Bank Arts District, showing locaton of proposed NGV Contemporary gallery (artist impression HASSELL + SO-IL)

by Ron Bernthal

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) announced in late 2020 that The Ian Potter Foundation has pledged AUD$20 million (USD$15 million) towards the building of Australia’s largest contemporary art gallery, the NGV Contemporary.

Proposed NGV Contemporary exterior view with umbrella’s on outside patio (rendering courtesy Government of Victoria)

The funding is part of a AUD$1.4 billion (USD$1 billion) project to revitalize Melbourne’s Southbank Arts district, including work on the existing NGV International gallery, the Arts Centre Melbourne, the district’s new public gardens, and the proposed NGV Contemporary.

To be located on Southbank Boulevard, the NGV Contemporary will be a landmark, purpose-built gallery of architectural significance dedicated to displaying important local, national and international contemporary art and design in the heart of the Melbourne’s South Bank Arts District. Once completed in 2025, the NGV Contemporary gallery will span more than 322,000 square-feet, making it the largest facility of its kind in Australia.

View of proposed gardens adjacent to NGV Contemporary in artist rendering. (rendering HASSELL + SO-IL)

The NGV Contemporary gallery will elevate Melbourne’s reputation as a thriving and dynamic destination for art and design within Australia and the South Pacific region, and provide visitors with an unprecedented opportunity to experience the breadth of the NGV’s collection of contemporary art and design, along with a year-round program of major contemporary exhibitions of international significance.

“NGV Contemporary will definitely have a transformative impact on our city,” said Charles Goode AC, Director, NGV. “Projects like this ensure that Melbourne will always be a place of vibrancy and a source of cultural pride for our community. The Ian Potter Foundation is proud to support the development of NGV Contemporary and we hope to encourage further commitments of support from a variety of philanthropic, corporate and community members who share our passion for a culturally rich and diverse arts sector.”

The new NGV Contemporary will strengthen the NGV’s reputation for promoting local and international design at its major pre-existing galleries, the NGV International on St Kilda Road, and The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square.

Ian Potter Centre, NGV International, Federation Square (photo © Kersh Kreative)

The NGV Contemporary will be connected to the wider Melbourne Arts District through an expansive 193,000 square-feet of elevated public gardens, with horticulture and planting design experts James Hitchmough and Nigel Dunnett (UK). NGV Contemporary will sit as the cornerstone of a multi-billion dollar state government plan to redevelop the arts district.

The design competition, exclusively for Australian architects with a principal project design studio in Melbourne, will run across the year in four stages: a two-part expression of interest round, then a two-part design round for eight finalists. The successful design team and preferred design will be considered by the government and announced in late 2021.

The masterplan transformation of the arts district has been fast-tracked due to its importance in reviving interstate tourism within Australia, and has been modeled after New York’s elevated Highline. The new NGV Contemporary will connect to the Southbank Arts District and St Kilda Road through an expansive 193,000 square-feet of an elevated public gardens.

View of public gardens, with NGV Contemporary in background.
(rendering HASSELL + SO-IL)

When completed, the NGV Contemporary will showcase contemporary art, design, fashion and architecture of local, national and international significance. Larger gallery spaces will accommodate a variety of the NGV’s exhibition program including Triennial, the architecture commission, large-scale contemporary and art commissions, fashion exhibitions, and major exhibitions of the world’s top artists and designers.

“Having Australia’s largest contemporary gallery designed by Australians is a tremendous outcome,” said Tim Leslie, Victoria state manager of The Australian Institute of Architects. “Procuring local architectural talent, which Australia has in abundance, will have a vast multiplier effect on the benefits this landmark project will deliver, concentrating them locally where they are needed most.”

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews describes the Southbank and arts redevelopment as a “once-in- a- generation” project that will attract visitors from across the country and the world. “It’s a game-changer for our city that will cement Melbourne as the cultural capital of Australia,” Andrews said. The Arts Centre Melbourne and NGV International combined to attract more than six million visitors each year.

Night view of NGV International (photo courtesy NGV Photographic Services)

“As we recover from this pandemic, it makes sense that we play to our strengths,” said Danny Pearson, Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries. “And our creative industries are the heart and soul of Victoria, and a major driver of our economy and jobs. These projects will make sure more Victorians can enjoy all the things that make life great, and all the things we’ve missed so much.”

Fort Wayne Journal:

Contractors are now buzzing around the old General Electric campus along Broadway, signalling the start of the long-awaited Electric Works project.

In about a year and a half, the transformation of the abandoned GE property should be complete.

Interior building demolition and utility work are among the tasks occupying the time of construction workers early in the process.

Up to 2,000 construction workers will be earning paychecks restoring eight older buildings that will be turned into a thriving commercial and entertainment center.

There will be offices, retail shops, an indoor farmer’s market and food hall, a bowling alley, and space set aside for Fort Wayne Community Schools to educate students.

Do it Best Corporation will locate its world headquarters inside one of the buildings, serving as the anchor tenant for Electric Works.

We’re told 63 percent of the overall space is now pre-leased.

But the developers say very few retail tenants so far have signed on the dotted line.

“We’ve spent very, very little time focusing on any of these retail elements as we’ve been told by the market and by site selectors those are the users that really start to get excited and make those decisions when they’re 12 months out from moving in. So we’re shifting our focus to that element of the retail,” said Kevan Biggs with RTM Ventures, which is developing the property.

“In Building 19 here, we’ll actually be taking all of the windows out to start with, so that the facade work can get done because new sills have to be installed. Once those start popping in, it’ll really make a huge difference in what this looks like,” said Steve Whiteley, the construction site superintendent.

Phase one should be complete in the summer to early fall of 2022.

There will be no apartments in that phase, but plans call for residential living options in phase two, which if built, will occur on the east side of Broadway.

The price tag for phase one will approach $300 million.

Rennes Journal: Downtown revitalization project transforms historic French city.

Passengers in Rennes train station (image EuroRennes)

by Ron Bernthal

The Saint-Michel quarter has always been a transient place. Rennes’s history goes back more than 2,000 years, at a time when it was a small Gallic village named Condate. Together with Vannes and Nantes, Rennes was one of the major cities of the ancient Duchy of Brittany. In the Middle Ages, a chapel and priory were built over the ruins of the castle of the Counts of Rennes in the 12th century, on the site of the former Prison Saint-Michel, near the ramparts, and now located next to the present-day Place Rallier du Baty, a quaint district of Rennes with beautiful wood framed houses and cafes.

Guidee Street, Rennes (image © Franck Hamon)

The site, on a hilltop overlooking the city, is dedicated to Saint Michael and the Rennes street and neighborhood (called Saint-Michel since the 15th-century), is in the city center, about a 12 minute bike ride north of Gare de Rennes, where the Beaumont EuroRennes project is creating a buzz in the region, and is one of Europe’s most vibrant, urban regeneration projects.

In conjunction with Rennes Métropole and Territoires Publics, Espaces Ferroviaires (a subsidiary of SNCF) launched a competition in 2017 for the design and development of the area’s Beaumont Block, a former industrial area near the main Rennes train station. In 2018, the competition jury selected the architectural firm of Atelier Kempe Thill (Rotterdam), associated with Atelier 56S (Rennes) and Dots Paysagiste (Paris), to design the new project.

In Rennes, July 2017 was marked by the arrival of the high-speed LGV train, making it possible to reach Paris in just 1:25 hours.  Combined with the acceleration of the train station’s modernization, the entire site saw a real turning point in the transformation of the district and its surrounding environment.

Gare de Rennes (image credit EuroRennes)

Beginning in 2016 this urban landscape in the middle of Rennes began to be transformed, little by little, reflecting the dynamism of the EuroRennes development operation as a whole.

The brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec designed an exhibit along the River Vilaine in Rennes (image © Franck Hamon)

The EuroRennes district, with the new station, often called the “Gateway to Brittany,” has now become a place where the modern city of Rennes and the historic city of Rennes connect. Built around several building projects, including the Cité Internationale Paul Ricoeur (opened in 2016); the Congress Center (2018); the commissioning of the TGV high-speed line (2017); and the addition of the new Metro Line B (2022), Beaumont district’s transformation is influencing other new regeneration projects throughout the Rennes metropolitan area.

Cité Internationale Paul Ricœur/Hérault Arnod Architectes (photo Andre Morin)

The Beaumont EuroRennes project site complex is located along the train tracks next to the Gare de Rennes, and covers almost 270,000 square-feet of building space. The project will include 240 housing units (rental, home ownership and managed residences), nearly 10,000 square-feet of retail space, and 129,000 square-feet of offices. The Beaumont Block is often defined as a “showcase” sector for the station hub, characterized a mixed-use character, including offices, residential housing, retail shops and services.

Beaumont EuroRennes residential housing (Image courtesy © Atelier Kempe Thill)

The Beaumont EuroRennes zone is under the scope of the adjacent development zone of 143 acres surrounding the Rennes train station, and will soon be a place for residential l ife and culture, as well as a thriving business district. This area is in the heart of the city, and is expected to reflect the coming changes throughout the district that will, in the coming years, extend the city center to the south, strengthening commercial and cultural activity within its area, and transforming the train station into a true Multimodal Exchange Hub in the heart of the city.

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TGV high-speed train at Rennes Station (photo Copyright © 2004 David Monniaux)

The soon to be opened Metro Line B is the impetus for a large number of Rennes real estate projects which have sprouted along the route of the new Metro line. The Beaumont EuroRennes city center projects allow for ongong redevelopment of new housing and the restoration of historic and traditional structures, with the Jacobins Convention Center as its modern heart. The opening of Rennes Metro Line B, the city’s second driverless, rubber-tire metro line will take place in early 2022.

The new Metro Line B is expected to complete in early 2022. (Rennes Metropolitan Automatic Metro System)

A large part of the city’s revitalization is the Général de Gaulle esplanade, which has become an essential location in the life of the city. Beaumont EuroRennes is helping to create an enlarged and diversified city center, and a short distance away, in the eastern part of the city, the Baud-Chardonnet district is setting out to embellish the attractive banks of the river Vilaine.

The Café du Port is one of many outdoor cafes in Rennes (photo © Destination Rennes / Julien Mignot)

The station district will become, in the coming years, a district in which to live, work and play. The first housing units emerged in 2017, in the Free French and Saint-Hélier sectors. In terms of neighborhood life, the establishment of the Cinéma L’Arvor, shops, restaurants and terraces has helped liven up the neighborhood throughout the day and evenings.
The north square, redeveloped and enlarged, will promote pedestrian travel, allowing easy access to the north and south of the station.

EuroRennes (image © courtesy Stephane Chalmeau)

Creating new links between north and south of the railways, EuroRennes stretches the city center towards the south to create a lively and versatile district, rich in housing, shops and offices. It is in this context that a new office venue is developing. As close as possible to public transport (TER, TGV, coaches, buses, bicycles, taxis, etc.) EuroRennes is positioned as the gateway to Brittany. Between 120 and 170 companies will eventually occupy work sites here for a total of 7,000 jobs.

Beaumont EuroRennes/ARQA Beaumont EuroRennes (Images by Vinkvisuals)

The building called Urban Quartz was designed by the architects of Hamonic + Masson, associated with the architecture firm a / LTA. The program is structured around three office buildings linked together by walkways, giving onto outdoor gardens, as well as commercial spaces. Urban Quartz is now fully occupied.

Reflecting on the shape of crystals, Hamonic + Masson & Associés designed the Urban Quartz office towers to meet the growing demand for flexible workspaces in Rennes. (image courtesy Takuji Shimmura)
Train passes below the Urban Quartz building (image ©Arnaud Loubry / Rennes Ville et Métropole)

Three chiselled buildings will soon emerge from the railway landscape and revive the skyline. The sharp edges of these structures create a break between each structure, like a canyon where urban space infiltrates down into the heart of the block to reveal a panoramic view of a wild garden.

Image of three buildings near Gare de Rennes with trains in foreground (Courtesy © Atelier Kempe Thill)

Nairobi Journal: City government strives to unclog daily traffic jams.

by Ron Bernthal

One of the consequences of the rapid urbanization in African cities is the increase of urban traffic. People who relocate to Nairobi, or arrive as leisure and business visitors, are met with some of the most brutal traffic jams on the continent. Part of the problem is due to outdated and poorly maintained roads: potholes, crumbling asphalt, and, ironically, road construction projects, can make many streets and majort highways almost unusable.

Traffic in Nairobi is also made worse by the number of cars on the road, which has grown exponentially since Uber and other ride-sharing apps became part of Nairobi’s urban culture, like in dozens of other heavily populated cities. With close to 15% of Nairobi’s population of 4.7 million residents spending an average of four hours in traffic to commute to work, the gridlock is unsustainable.

Traffic in Nairobi (photo Din Haitao/Xinhua/Landov)

The traffic problem in Nairobi, especially during morning and evening commutes, is even more striking compared to those in other high-density urban areas. A six mile commute in Seoul takes 21 minutes. In New York, a commuter can cover the same distance in 32 minutes, and in London in 40. In Nairobi, a commute of six miles takes 1 hour and 18 minutes, nearly double the London figure. In recent years Nairobi has been ranked within the top five most traffic congested cities in the world.

To be fair, over the past decades the Nairobi city government has made many efforts to combat the city’s traffic problems, especially during the rough morning and evening commutes from the hundreds of surburban communities. These include car-free days, periodic bans on buses (matatus) and cars in the city center, and the construction of bicycle routes and pedestrian paths.

View of Nairobi streetscape (photo Tom Kemp on flickr)

In addition to the extraordinary number vehicles on city streets, other causes of traffic jams include include the ubiquitous double parked cars, illegal bus stops, and many thousands personal cars being used as public service vehicles.

In recent years the Nairobi County Government periodically banned boda boda (motorcycle) drivers who accept paying riders from operating within the city’s Central Business District. While buses, cars and taxis can sit in gridlock for hours, boda bodas can weave between lanes and travel more easily on narrow or unpaved roads, sometimes endangering their passengers and other vehicles. Despite the on-again-off again bans, boda boda drivers continue to operate within the city center.

Boda Boda parked on Nairobi street (photo Lambert Coleman)

The Kenyan government has set aside 200 million Kenyan Shillings (about US$ 1 billion) toward reducing traffic congestion in the Nairobi area. The money was allocated to create a a new Rapid Bus Transport System, new railway trucks, bypasses and highways. These projects are aimed at reducing traffic congestion in Nairobi by half.

Especially notable is that the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority is planning to create exclusive lanes for scheduled commuter transport in order to reduce travel time to and from the Central Business District (CBD) of Nairobi.

In an attempt to ease this gridlock, the government has begun to embrace the city’s matatus, Kenya’s privately owned bus lines, by funding and building a dedicated transit hub for these colourful vehicles close to the CBD. The newly completed Green Park Terminal has the capacity to handle 350 buses, while also controlling their movement by assigning routes and boarding times.

The new Green Park Bus Terminal in Nairobi is expected to open completely in mid-2021.

It’s a significant move for a somewhat informal service that has long filled gaps in a transport market where public investment was negligible. The new approach is a reminder that when private options step up, there’s a chance for public organizations to step in and support them too. For Nairobi, such an arrangement could be a win-win for the city, its commuters, and for visitors as well.

Construction of the Green Park Terminal in Nairobi, Kenya is currently 98% complete, only final touches are currently ongoing. Green Park is among six other bus terminals that are currently being constructed by NMS that will officially be pick up and drop off points once matatus are barred from the CBD. Once complete, Green Park will host matatus plying the Ngong road route.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila Odinga inspect Nairobi’s new Green Park Bus Terminal in April, 2021. (film still credit The Star newspaper)

Norway’s spectacular treetop cabins.

TreeHouse Dome (Photo Kristine Elvemo)

by Ron Bernthal

For travelers to Norway who wish to enjoy a quiet and unique experience in the Norwegian countryside, renting a treetop cabin in any of the several regions that offer them offers a memorable, off-the-beaten-path journey that is easily accessible. Visitors are able to choose between gorgeous designer cabins and rambling buildings, all situated in good hiking and skiing terrain, often by a fishing lake where you can go canoeing or swimming in summer, and the views are always breathtaking. 

The nature experiences by the cabins is often intense, with possible sightings of moose, deer, beaver and grouse, in addition to the many birds that share the outside with you. Here the silence is only broken by the wind in the treetops and the night sky, filled with stars, is overwhelmingly beautiful.

Listed below are some of the treetop cabins that are located in various regions of Norway. Some of them have become quite popular, while others have just opened up over the last couple of years, or will open for the first time in summer 2021.

TreeHouse Dome (Photo Kristine Elvemo)

The Treehouse Dome in Rakkestad is just a 90 minute drive southwest of Oslo, at Rakkestad, in the deep forest. The unique construction of The Treehouse Dome differs from many other similar cabins, as the sleeping room is situated on a loft with ceiling windows allowing guests to gaze at the stars before falling asleep. The house includes bathroom, kitchen and a living room with fireplace.

Kråkeslottet, Trehyttene-i-Gjerstad (Photo Adam Read VisitSørlandet)

Trehyttene are treetop cabins locarted in Gjerstad in Southern Norway, between Oslo and Kristiansand. They offer three different tree houses: Kråkeslottet (“the crow castle”), Gjøkeredet (“the cuckoo’s nest”) and Flåklypa. The surrounding area is great for family activities like fishing, hiking, swimming, with a climbing park nearby.

Woodnest Treehouse (Photo Thor Hveem)
Woodnest Treehouse (Photo Sindre Ellingsen)

Woodnest Treehouse in Odda, Hardangerfjord (Fjord Norway) combines the adventure of Norwegian nature without having to forgo luxury and comfort. Woodnest is a luxury tree house experience, where each tree house offers a heated floor, wi-fi, a small kitchenette, bathroom, bedroom, and a stunning view over the Hardangerfjord.

A Treetop cabin for rent in Namsos, Himmelhøy (Photo Olav Breen/Kystriksveien Reiseliv)

Himmelhøy is located in Namdalen, Trøndelag. (which means “sky high” in Norwegian), is located just north of Namsos. The cabins have room for up to seven visitors, offering two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and a large porch. Included in the cabin rental are canoes, rowing boats and fishing rights in the nearby river. 

Hawk’s Nest, one of the five cabins for rental at Tretopphytter Oslofjord (Photo https://tretopphytter-oslofjord.no/en/vare-hytter)

Tretopphytter Oslofjord offers five cabins, all located more than 300-feet above sea level with a spectacular view over the fjord. Each fully furnished cabin can accommodate from seven to ten people, and are situated just one hour south of Oslo, in the county of Vestfold.

Engeset Treetop Cabins Sandane, Nordfjord (Photo Engeset Treetop Cabins)

Engeset Tree Houses is a new and unique accommodation situated in Sandane in Nordfjord. The cabins are organically built and integrated into nature, as they move with the wind and birds build their nests in bird-crates on the decking. The cabins have spectacular views of the fjord and are excellent starting points for both winter and summer activities.


PAN Treetop Cabins (photo Fredrik Bye)

The award winning PAN Treetop Cabins are located in Finnskogen, a two-hour drive from Oslo. The cabins can accommodate up to six people and are built about 24-feet above ground. Guests can enjoy many activities in the area, such as yoga, biking, fishing, hiking, bird watching, and even wolf safaris.


Hardanger Fjordtun (photo Paul S. Amundsen/www.fjordnorway.com)

At Hardanger Fjordtun, in the region called Fjord Norway, guests can choose between a romantic stay in a treetop cabin or a stay in a funky panoramic cabin with space for families or groups of friends. These architect-designed wooden cabins offer great sleeping and living quarters with large glass surfaces to let the nature in.


Å Auge Treetop House (Photo aacamp.no)

Å Auge Treetop House in Tinn, Telemark offers an excellent experience in the Norwegian forest. Å auge means “River Eye” in Norwegian, and although its location is easily accessed, the treetop house is still hidden away and 100% off the grid. In addition to the treetop house, Å Camp offers glamping, hammocks, bush baths and activities in the Norwegian wilderness.

Fosstopp in Valdres (Photo Fosstopp)


The owners of Fosstopp, the luxury treetop cabins at Vassfaret in Valdres (two hours from Oslo), are local enthusiasts who are passionate about the development of the local area. These genuine treetop cabins are surrounded by the forest, a waterfall, and mountains. Fosstopp has three unique wooden cabins with high standards and practical design, situated 25-feet above ground and attached to pine trees.

Trekronå Treetop Cabins (Illustration credit Architect Manuela Hardy)


Trekronå’s new cabins in Ogna will open in summer 2021 in the Stavanger region, near one of the most beautiful beaches on the west coast Norway.
These three cabins are on steel legs in the middle of a small pine forest next to a golf course. Nearby you can find Holmasanden beach, which is a great place to enjoy sunny days of swimming and surfing as well as hikes all year round.

For information on visiting Norway, go to Visit Norway.

New York City Journal: Lincoln Center’s renovation of David Geffen Hall to finish sooner than expected.

by Ron Bernthal

New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the New York
Philharmonic announced in spring, 2021, that the acceleration of the comprehensive renovation of David Geffen Hall, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects │
Partners, is now scheduled to re-open to the public in Fall 2022, almost two years earlier than previously expected.

Designed originally by Max Abromovitz in 1962, the hall has gone under multiple renovations over the decades. These efforts have attempted to address the unresolved acoustical challenges.

The reimagination project reconceives the entire facility within its existing historic shell to create a more welcoming and intimate audience experience featuring state-of-the-art acoustics and technical capabilities. With a new concert hall as the building’s centerpiece, all public spaces are also being reconceptualized to provide greater opportunities for people to gather and more intuitive circulation throughout its public and back-of-house facilities.

David Geffen Hall (photo credit Diamond Schmitt Architects)

“The goal of accelerating this project is to invest in New York City at a time when we all have a part to play in its recovery,” said Katherine Farley, Chair of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “I want to pay tribute to the many people who have supported bringing this effort forward. In doing so, we are creating not just one of the world’s best cultural venues, but a space that welcomes our broader community.”

Peter W. May, Board Co-Chairman of the New York Philharmonic, was also enthusiastic about the symbolism of the re-opening of this popular venue. “Supporting the arts takes on a new, deeper meaning at this moment in history. It has been a long road to securing an advanced, cutting-edge home for the New York Philharmonic; New York’s hometown orchestra
deserves the best. With its new design incorporating true warmth and beauty, this Hall will serve generations to come.”

The acceleration of the Geffen Hall project will support New York City’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic by creating jobs
and additional business opportunities. In the near future, the renovation work will provide immediate and a significant economic support, generating more than $600 million in project-related economic activity through construction into Fall 2022. This includes an estimated 6,000 jobs throughout New York City and in New York State, of which 3,000 are construction jobs.

David Geffen Hall, view behind the orchestra (Photo credit Diamond Schmitt Architects)

In addition, there will be a minimum 30 percent construction participation by minority and women-owned businesses, 40 percent workforce inclusion from underrepresented communities, and a workforce development program established with area officials and community members to create additional full-time job opportunities for local residents.
As of April, 2021, $500 million, or over 90%, of the $550 million project budget has been raised, the vast majority from private sources.

The New York Philharmonic will perform a 2021–22 season, full details will be announced in June, 2021. To accommodate the continuous construction timeline, the Orchestra will perform in several New York City locations, which will be announced with the full schedule in June.

The design team for the Geffen Hall renovation consists of Diamond Schmitt Architects on the theatre; Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects │ Partners on all of the public spaces; acoustician Paul Scarbrough of Akustiks; and theater designer Joshua Dachs of Fisher Dachs Associates.

Diamond Schmitt’s design for the new theater introduces a “single-room” concept, eliminating the proscenium and moving the stage forward by 25 feet, with audience seating wrapped around it, bringing all seats closer to the performers and providing acoustical and visual intimacy. The new
theater is designed to support a wide range of performance initiatives. Natural wood and curvilinear forms create an immersive experience that transforms the room into a contemporary, sculpted design. Seating capacity will be reduced by 500 seats to 2,200, and a steeper rake (incline) will be added to the orchestra level, significantly improving acoustics and sightlines.

David Geffen Hall interior view (photo credit Diamond Schmitt Architects)

It will also have improved accessibility for guests, staff, and artists with disabilities. The new David Geffen Hall will also have state-of-the-art HVAC systems, filtration and air purifying systems, antimicrobial technology integrated into select surfaces, and a number of additional improvements developed using recommendations from a variety of sources including
the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), and ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and AirConditioning Engineers).

David Geffen Hall’s main lobby will double in size and open up on three sides to connect with the campus, and a new Welcome Center on Broadway will offer a portal to Lincoln Center for the public. At the core of the new lobby will be a media streaming wall, which will show concerts and
events for free in real time as well as other digital material. The reconfigured and reenergized Grand Promenade will create one of the largest gathering spaces at a performance facility in New
York City, with ability to welcome more than 1,000 people for an event.

David Geffen Hall (Photo credit Diamond Schmitt Architects)

A dynamic new addition is The Sidewalk Studio, visible from the street on the corner of 65th Street and Broadway, which will be a home for educational, artistic, and community activities — a window into the performers and ideas that live on campus. The Lightwall will wrap around three sides of the interior top of the building, creating space for dynamic mood and architectural lighting. Eleven thousand square feet of much-needed office space will be located behind the Lightwall. The entire North Façade of the building will be reimagined as a “canvas” on which to commission site-specific works, honoring Lincoln Center’s long tradition in the visual arts. All of this will be accomplished while respecting the original and iconic Max Abramovitz building exterior.

David Geffen Hall Media Wall (photo credit Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects Partners)

During performances, there will be expanded intermission seating and bar/food service, including enhanced access to the terrace and new promontories overlooking the main level. A dynamic new addition is The Sidewalk Studio, visible from the street on the corner of 65th Street
and Broadway, which will be a home for educational, artistic, and community activities.


Bern Journal: Swiss Alpine Museum’s unique North Korean mountains exhibit.

Bus shelter in Pyongyang, North Korea (film still © Katharina Schelling/Swiss Alpine Museum)

by Ron Bernthal

Two years ago a film team from the Swiss Alpine Museum, in Bern, Switzerland, toured the mountainous Korean peninsula during the brief thaw in relations between the two Koreas (2018/19). The micro-stories captured on film and in photographs are part of the exhibition called “Let’s Talk about Mountains,” which will be shown at the Swiss Alpine Museum until July 3, 2022.

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Chonsam Agricultural Cooperative interview with field worker (film still ©Katharina Schelling/Swiss Alpine Museum)

“It was the most laborious and difficult project we’ve ever tackled, but it
was worth it,” said Swiss Alpine Museum director and curator Beat Hächler, along with Gian Suhner, a noted filmmaker and director from Chur, Switzerland and Berlin, after looking back at their unique adventure in North Korea, which is regarded as one of the most inaccessible countries in the world.

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Exhibit interviewee Lee Jin-ok on 9,000-foot Paektu Mountain, North Korea. Mt. Paektu belongs to the coldest zone in North Korea and the weather is prone to sudden changes. The wind on the mountain top is often strong and cold, so warm clothes are needed in all seasons. (film still © Katharina Schelling/Swiss Alpine Museum)

Totalitarian dictatorship, human rights abuses, food crises, and aggressive military posturing are just some of the things that come to mind when most westerners hear the words “North Korea”. But most people really have no idea about what life is really like for the 25.5 million North Koreans who live there, or what they think about the world.

Work brigade on the 9,000-foot summit of Paektu Mountain (film still ©Katharina Schelling/ Swiss Alpine Museum)

“The fact that we in the West have such a glaring lack of knowledge about
this country is partly our own fault, and partly due to the isolation that has
been imposed on North Korea,” said Rüdiger Frank, a distinguished North
Korea expert and co-author of the magazine accompanying the exhibition.
“Creative approaches are needed if we want to take a closer look. This
attempt by the Alpine Museum to look at the theme of mountains is one
such approach.”North Korea is three times the size of Switzerland and 80 percent of its territory consists of hills and mountains. A landscape like this shapes the people there as much as it does in Switzerland; mountains are part of their identity, culture, and economy.

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Back view of bus shelter in Pyongyang (filmstill © Katharina Schelling/Swiss Alpine Museum)

Mountains have multiple layers of meaning, which allows them to open
doors in conversations and reveal just as many layers. “We went there
in order to ask questions and to listen, without making snap judgements,”
said Beat Hächler, of the Swiss Alpine Museum. This attitude enabled them to realize that alongside all the differences, there were also similarities, and alongside all the unsettling aspects, there was also beauty, adds Rüdiger Frank. “This teaches us a great deal about North Korea, but also about ourselves.”

Ms O Su-Yon, a middle school interviewee, in her classroom in Pyongyang, North Korea. (film still © Katharina Schelling/Swiss Alpine Museum)

You wouldn’t think that North Korea and Switzerland have much in common but in fact they share a love of mountaineering. That’s why a Swiss film crew travelled to several mountain ranges in North Korea, from Kumgangsan at the South Korean border to Paektu, which crosses the Chinese border and is the highest peak in northeast China.

The Masikryong Ski Resort, showing interviewee Kim Jong-won in front of the ski lifts. The ski resort is at the summit of the 4,461-foot Taehwa Peak, about 12 miles outside Wonsan City in Kangwon Province, North Korea. (film still © Katharina Schelling/Swiss Alpine Museum)

The goal was to capture a different version of life in a mostly unknown society and the results are now n display at the Swiss Alpine Museum in Bern. “We saw hiking groups in shorts, sometimes quite loud and cheerful,” said Beat Hächler. “It had almost an Italian touch.” The museum exhibition displays 40 individual conversations, offering a glimpse into the life of North Korean teachers, ski instructors and other people living around the mountain ranges. “The plan is to invite the South and North Korean embassy delegations to the exhibition, separately, of course, but at a time of renewed tension it might yet offer an opportunity for connection across the Korean peninsula,” added Hächler .

Women soldiers at Camp Paektu Mountain. The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, was born here in 1942 in one of the secret camps in the regon. Tens of thousands of North Koreans visit the mountain for political education tours each year during the summer months, when the snow has melted enough for it to be accessible. (film still ©Katharina Schelling/ Swiss Alpine Museum)

“The pace of the film’s visuals and interviews is slow. This gives the audience the opportunity to engage with individual encounters and discoveries,” says Gian Suhner, who shot over forty hours of film with his team (cinematographer Katharina Schelling and Denis Elmaci on sound), and then worked with Beat Hächler to condense it down to the “exhibition trail”.

Camerman takes photo of North Korean work brigade on summit of Paektu Mountain. (film still ©Katharina Schelling/Swiss Alpine Museum

The journey went from the metropolis of Pyongyang, with its three million inhabitants, to Paektu, the “sacred mountain of the revolution”, and from there on to the Kumgang mountain range near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, before concluding at Hallasan, a mountain on the border.

Summit of Paektu Mountain (photo © Gian Suhner/ Swiss Alpine Museum)

The interviews and large-scale projections open our eyes to the country’s
schools, leisure activities, art, and tourism. The film team was able to acquire virtually all its planned footage, invariably accompanied by two
guides from the state cultural committee, who organized the daily itinerary
and translated everything from Korean to English.

Swiss Alpine Museum, Bern, Switzerland

“The images in the film don’t add their own comment, but of course we’re
looking for people to go into greater depth and engage in active debate,”
says Beat Hächler. In the Alpine Museum’s final exhibition room, visitors can leave their comments and questions, and these will be regularly published and discussed with experts. A 200-page illustrated magazine (in German) provides contextual information for visitors to read before, during, or after the exhibition. And for everyone six to 100-years old there is an audio track on which the travellers talk about their additional experiences that you don’t get to see on the film.

South Korean tourists visit the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region. A special administrative region of North Korea, it was established in 2002 to handle South Korean tourist traffic to Mount Kumgang. It was one of the symbols of the South Korean Sunshine Policy. The main aim of the policy was to soften North Korea’s attitudes towards the South by encouraging interaction and economic assistance. The national security policy had three basic principles: No armed provocation by the North will be tolerated; The South will not attempt to absorb the North in any way; and The South actively seeks cooperation. The (film still ©Katharina Schelling/Swiss Alpine Museum)

The accompanying program to “Let’s Talk about Mountains” was developed in cooperation with the Kunstmuseum Bern, which is presenting a somewhat companion exhibition called “Border Crossings – North and South Korean Art from the Sigg Collection” – from April 30 to September 5, 2021. During this period, visitors to the “Let’s Talk about Mountains” exhibit at Bern’s Swiss Alpine Museum can obtain a reduced admission ticket for the Korea exhibition at Bern’s Kunstmuseum. The “Let’s Talk about Mountains” exhibit at Swiss Alpine Museum will end on July 3, 2022.


Prato Journal: The first “Urban Jungle” in the world proposed for Tuscan city.

by Ron Bernthal

Prato is the capital of the Province of Prato in Tuscany, Italy. Over the centuries, Prato has mainly been famous for its textile industries, with its products being sold to various parts of Italy as well as Europe. Prato has also played an important role in the slow food movement, which is reflected in its wonderful cuisine. The city, with about 200,000 residents, is located just 15 miles from Florence, approximately 30 minutes by car or train.

Prato has many historic buildings dating from the 13th century, and many modern buildings as well, inclduing the Contemporary Arts Center Luigi Pecci (above), which opened in 1988. (photo Ivan Dali)

In March, 2021, the city council of Prato announced that it has approved the three preliminary plans related to the identified areas to the project,  which seek to create the first “Urban Jungle” in the world.

This new project goes beyond simple urban greenification or forestation measures, which are now commonly used. The idea here will be to let greenery completely take over as many building surfaces and interbuilding spaces as possible in specific areas of high density.

This large-scale project will have have two main goals. The first will be the transformation, in terms of functionality, of urban spaces and buildings which had been abandoned or underutilized, such as industrial parks, social housing, etc. The second goal will involve the creation of green hubs that will serve as magnets for neighborhood residents to carry out their leisure, sports, cultural and social lives in their community.

The hoped-for result will be the revitalization of declining and marginalized areas of the city, and their conversion into new centers of sustainability and attractions.  The Urban Jungle project is designed and implemented by several national, local, public and private institutions, including the Municipality of Prato, Stefano Boeri Architects, Pnat (multidisciplinary design company co-founded by Stefano Mancuso), Legambiente Toscana, CNR IBE – Institute for BioEconomy, Estra, greenApes, and Treedom.

The Urban Jungle will, at the beginning, affect three areas of Prato, as an initial experiment. It is well known that plants help reduce atmospheric pollutants, restore the soil and lower temperatures in the so-called heat islands during summer. The Prato Urban Jungle project of the Municipality of Prato will revitalize the most critical neighborhoods of the city from a social, productive and environmental point of view, in a sustainable and inclusive way, by developing areas with a high density of green, the so-called urban jungles, which will be grafted onto the urban landscape by multiplying the natural ability of plants to break down pollutants and return the land to the use of people, transforming the marginal areas into real points of environmental well-being within the city.

The urban jungles will be co-designed with the help of Prato’s residens, through shared urban planning facilitated by the use of digital platforms, which will encourage the community management, increasing inclusion and promoting widespread sustainable development of the urban environment.

The first area will be the Consiag Estra building,  a classic-looking structure which overlooks the busiest public street in the city, with about 50,000 vehicles using the street every day. In this way, the city of Prato obtains a renewed environmental and urban quality, with an attractive capacity for innovative companies that work in the field of sustainability. Consiag–Estra implements corporate welfare through urban forestry interventions, helping to strengthen the ties between the city of Prato and its employees, positioning themselves on the front line of the district and the city.

The proposal for Consiag-Estra includes the construction of an urban forest, available to all citizens, that mitigates the impact of the high-traffic avenue in front of the building; the creation of three types of innovative green facades, which house trees and shrubs around the entire perimeter of the building; and the transformation of the unused roof into a green roof, making it an island of biodiversity, usable by employees as a place for socializing, for small events or physical activity.

Consiag-Estra today (photo provided)
Consiag-Estra, proposed visual plan (rendering © StefanoBoeriArchitetti)

At the EPP Turchia Street location, design plans for the regeneration of Prato’s public building residences include the creation of a large entrance pergola that welcomes the inhabitants and creates a green connection with the greenhouse and the garden; the creation of large green surfaces on the facade with steel cable structures anchored on the perimeter of the three buildings; green sunscreen systems applied to the facades facing south, in order to increase the environmental comfort of the buildings; and the the transformation of the ground floor and the existing car park into a social garden, as a place accessible by the residences’ inhabitants.

EPP Turchia Street today (photo provided)
EPP Turchia Street, proposed visual plan (rendering © StefanoBoeriArchitetti)

The third locaton will be a building on via Giordano in the historic district of the city near the Macrolotto Creative District, another urban redevelopment project nearby.

Building on via Giordano today (photo provided)
Building on via Giordano, after proposed visual plan (rendering © pnat2014)

It is expected that the urban jungle project will bring new and innovative design solutions regarding this project, with stronger commitments by residents to participate in revitalizing their immediate environment using modern new techniques and creative ideas.

Cities like Prato are ideal for human development, and to make urban renewal using plants is the best strategy to support their desired prosperity and a healthier way of life. Plants play a key role in improving the quality of urban space, climate and the environment. Creators of the Urban Jungle project in Prato say “we need to establish the traditional cooperative and symbiotic relationship with nature, including growing additional plants and trees in our cities.”

Unused green space in Prato today (photo provided)
Same greenspace in Prato with residential amenities and new plantings after proposed visual plan (rendering © pnat2014)

According to Pnat, cities must be invaded by trees, because a city with plenty of concrete but few trees is deeply unbalanced. The potentialities of including plants in urban life, in health care systems, in learning structures, in (self)production processes, should be more than just imaged. Pnat believes that “cities should start now, because in our cities of the future, the cohabitation between plants and people will be a main theme.”

The use of leading-edge irrigation and rainwater collection systems and the selection of native plants, with their high CO2 storage capacity, removal of atmospheric pollutants and attraction for pollinating insects, are among the key points of the intervention, to the benefit of an increase in internal comfort in buildings and well-being for the community.

Pnat, a spin-off company of the University of Florence, is an emerging think tank of designers and plant scientists with the aim of conceiving creative solutions based on evidence. Pnat has been awarded by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe the Ideas for Change Award for a coaching trajectory by I3P Politecnico di Torino, and won the first phase of Sme Instruments of Horizon 2020 by European Commission.