Why access to green spaces matters

Sir Ted Happold understood the connection between natural and man-made environments. “Structural engineering is primarily concerned with learning from nature about the forces of action, of wind or of people,” he said.  “It’s also to do with the ecology, the characteristics of the available materials and the creative use made of them.”

Understanding the environment surrounding your building is therefore vital to its success. Climate, local resources, geology and topography all matter when planning a structure. Sir Ted also believed in designing building that emulate nature, taking inspiration from waves, sand, plants and clouds.

The idea of designing like nature is probably our best chance of ensuring that what we do is compatible with nature.
Sir Ted Happold, Buro Happold’s founding partner

Green infrastructure also matters. The many roles and functions performed or enhanced by green infrastructure are well known and include climate adaptation and mitigation, reduced disaster risk, carbon storage, and health and wellbeing improvements such as dealing with air pollution.

Equally important are the various co-benefits that green infrastructure brings, such as higher financial returns from commercial or residential property, or transport and mobility investments by enabling access to and enjoyment of green spaces, as well as more efficient energy and water supply/management. Many of these co-benefits, taken together, may have an impact on the viability of housing development in places where populations are growing.

Here are four Buro Happold projects that put nature at their very heart….

Modern living with a rooftop vegetable garden

Angel Gardens, Manchester, UK

Situated in a prime location in central Manchester, Angel Gardens is an iconic addition to the cityscape. Providing 450 apartments and 6,700m2 of mixed use commercial space within the soaring walls of what will be the city’s third tallest building, MODA Living’s flagship development is designed with the needs of its future tenants at its heart.

Angel Gardens is a stylish, mixed use complex that is designed to contribute positively to the city’s urban landscape. Image: Wireframe 3D

A key aspiration for our client was to achieve a vibrant, aesthetically pleasing design that contributes positively to Manchester’s urban landscape. In addition, building a sense of community within Angel Gardens was also a priority, as was ensuring the environmental credentials of the complex.

Creating a sense of community was at the forefront of our minds when devising the outdoor communal spaces at Angel Gardens, as these are central to encouraging residents to mingle. To ensure the main garden appeals to as many people as possible, it will feature multiple zones for different activities including restaurant dining terraces, vegetable gardens, sports areas and barbecue facilities.

The project overlooks the highly sustainable One Angel Square, which sets a new benchmark for commercial office design, achieving a balance of sustainability, operational efficiency, space flexibility and high quality.

A peaceful green hospital retreat

Healing Garden Pavilion, California, USA

The Healing Garden Pavilion is a garden commissioned by a confidential medical centre that features green space, water features and a bespoke art installation. Sitting on top of a concrete parking garage, the garden is designed to add vibrancy and colour to its surroundings, and serve as a peaceful retreat for patients and their visitors outside of the main hospital building.

Buro Happold was enlisted to carry out structural analysis and design for the Healing Pavilion art installation. The 5,900kg installation features two elements; a 4.5 metre high steel lattice sculpture and a steel platform anchored to the existing concrete building. In addition to housing the sculpture, the platform also supports a portion of a water feature and wood walkway. Our team worked with the artist to refine and realise their concept for the form.

Our engineering experts carried out computational analysis to define the geometry of the art installation, which consists of nearly 3,000 pieces, and to ensure it would pass the necessary approval process. Following this we advised the use of mild steel tube for the lattice structure, which is then doubly curved to add strength.

Image: istockphoto.com

Floating nature in New York

The High Line, New York, USA

Built in the 1930s and last used in 1980, the High Line was a little known and long abandoned stretch of elevated railroad that spanned Manhattan’s meatpacking district when an initiative to determine the fate of the line began in 1999.

Demolition seemed imminent until, after a competitive selection process, the Friends of the High Line and the City of New York commissioned Buro Happold and Field Operations, Diller Scofidio+Renfro to create a masterplan for the reuse and reintegration of the railroad.

The idea to transform this desolate track into a beautiful park was realised through the concept of agriculture, which changes the rules of engagement between plant life and pedestrians by combining organic and building materials in varying proportions to accommodate the wild, the cultivated, the intimate, and the social. Buro Happold created two structures to fulfil this ethereal vision – the Flyover is an elevated steel walkway engineered so as to appear to float above the main path, and the Cutout is a steel mesh deck providing views down to 30th Street below.

Restoring and protecting the Wadi

Wadi Hanifah Flood Management Plan, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Wadi Hanifah is a 120km long, 4500km2 watershed that passes through the city of Riyadh. Located in the middle of the Najd Plateau, it is the most significant natural feature in the region. With the city’s population projected to more than double from approximately four million residents in 2004, to almost eight million by 2025, the demand for high quality public recreational and amenity space was rising.

 Image: Buro Happold

The delivery of the Wadi Hanifah Comprehensive Development Programme (WHCDP) by the Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) in 2010 went a long way to respond to the demand for public space, whilst addressing other urgent issues such as flood risk management, environmental protection and landscape rehabilitation. Following Buro Happold’s role in the successful delivery of the WHCDP from 2001 to 2010, the ADA commissioned our team to prepare a Flood Management Plan.

The key objectives of the Flood Management Plan were to protect life and property as far as reasonably possible, allow the city to pro-actively manage and respond to the risk of flooding, implement a rainfall and flood monitoring system, and control the development of land in areas of higher flood risk.

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