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Article* by Lotte Nystrup Lund
Futurista® and Industrial PhD (part of BLOXHUB Circular Built Environment Network)
Royal Danish Academy
Board member of Design Denmark

Now is the time for radically new ways of approaching cities, landscape design and nature As biodiversity declines and ecosystems collapse, design for nature is becoming crucial. Cities striving for positive interaction with the ecosystems to which they belong are heading towards a regenerative future where humans and other living organisms thrive.

For centuries, humans have explored and developed the Earth. We have been fascinated by nature as the adventurous wilderness and as a landscape to shape and enjoy. One might say that nature most often has been perceived as an object of design. Today, people are increasingly aware that the Earth is not just a skin, suitable for human-centred design, but a living organism, interacting with us in complex and fragile ways that cannot be controlled or predicted. This realisation bringing us to the fact that humanking lives inside a closed cosmos, with nowhere else to go, calls for new approaches to cities, landscape design and nature.

Multi-species cities
Danish designers, architects and planners are recognized for their ability to create great cities. Denmark is known for its safe, beautiful and healthy cities, characterized by lush parks, fresh air and friendly infrastructure providing urban flows for everyone. In Copenhagen, residents can jump in the harbour to take a swim, while Biohuts nearby function as hotels and nurseries for fish. These green and blue cityscapes have been realized through visionary thinking, creative professionalism and design for social and environmental sustainability, empowered by a willingness to work across disciplines. This has also led to a range of Danish climate innovations targeting the built environment. One example is the Climate Tile for sidewalks and urban spaces, collecting rainwater and directing it to plants for nutrition while creating educational adventures for citizens. We have now reached a point where the ability to transform our (urban)future through interdisciplinarity and unleashed imagination is essential. Cities of tomorrow are designed not just for humans but for a diversity of species.

New aesthetics
The UN has proclaimed that transforming humankind’s relationship with nature is the key to a sustainable future. Planning for resilient and biodiverse urban spaces is an opportunity to design for synergy: to strengthen relations between human and nature; to create multi-species habitats, which might act as stepping stones for the spread of species; to establish measures targeting the microclimate, e.g. collection of rainwater or carbon uptake by plants. Urban nature can raise the well-being and eco-literacy of citizens, increasing our ability to understand the natural systems on which all living organisms depend. In Denmark, there is a strong tradition of involving citizens in urban development. Engaging co-creation is highly needed in the design of a multi-species city, as it calls for a radically new view on (urban)nature, rethinking both the aesthetics and functionalities of nature in and beyond urban areas.

Multi-species society
over time Habitats works in various ways with the transformation to a multi-species society. Their approach to urban development that encourages biodiversity is detailed in two cases.

Contributor: Habitats ApS
In collaboration with Better Energy & Pelican Self Storage

In an area in front of a Pelican storage centre in Copenhagen, Habitats were asked to design a “wild urban garden”, which is a paradox in itself: gardens are typically tame and the opposite of wild nature. To overcome this, they created a place that looks wild yet designed and welcomes visitors to socialise, interact with nature and forage the edible plants.

In the solar panel park in Blangslev, they collaborated with Better Energy about incorporating as much biodiversity as possible in a 75 HA infrastructure site. Not an easy task in a landscape farmed for centuries. They took departure in the few remaining areas of nature and enhanced them, making adjustments to the soil and forest to create the best possible conditions for a wide variety of life to strive.

Both projects are newly established and over time a combination of natural dynamics and human interaction will shape the places and their biodiversity. This underlines an approach to design for a multispecies society where design is only the first part of a project: the social and natural aspects are the second.

Strengthening biodiversity and local microclimate
Al Fay Park in Abu Dhabi is a paradigm shift in how to design and implement nature-based solutions and biodiversity in the dense megacities of the Middle East.

Contributor: SLA

Al Fay Park is designed by the Danish nature-based design studio, SLA, and is the Middle East’s first urban biodiversity park. The 27,5000 m² park is the first of its kind to focus on strengthening the region’s biodiversity, while using the new planting and wildlife to enhance the local microclimate as well as the public social realm.

Al Fay Park is specifically designed to provide both biological, environmental and social benefits to the city. The special planting and soil design radically reduces the park’s irrigation by 40% compared to conventional parks. The native vegetation is designed to attract bees, pollinators, birds and animals, providing a lively atmosphere and a guarantee of birdsong – all while providing a lush and green frame for revitalised public life.

The nature-based microclimate design reduces the park’s temperature, air pollution, sand infiltration and traffic noise, providing the best possible social ecosystem for play, sports and leisure, and making Al Fay Park both socially and climatically “the coolest place in town.”

Reusing oyster shells to secure higher biodiversity
With fish nurseries made out of leftover oyster shells, By & Havn is improving the biodiversity of the harbours of Copenhagen.

Contributor: By & Havn
In collaboration with WWF, COVED & Ecocean

The harbour environments of Copenhagen are among the best in the world. To help secure this, By & Havn has partnered with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to install 50 Biohuts. These work as fish nurseries, homes, pantries and shelter for the fry of more than 25 species, so that they can hide from larger predators in the most vulnerable part of their lifecycle.

The installation of Biohuts is part of a perennial agreement between By & Havn and WWF to improve fish habitats and increase biodiversity. By enhancing fish stocks and creating a better harbour environment, the Biohuts provide an immediate effect in terms of increased biodiversity and, over time, more fish, which also benefit the many anglers utilising the harbour’s 42-kilometre long quayside.

The project is a great example of how investing in nature benefits the fish population and biodiversity through a circular initiative. The Biohuts consists of a steel cage filled with leftover oyster shells gathered from oyster farms in Marseille, France. With the Biohut project, the shells are collected, disinfected and reused for new a purpose instead of being thrown out.

*Article from Designing the irresistible circular society whitepaper by Creative Denmark, BLOXHUB, Danish Architecture Center and Danish Design Centre.