WILDPOINTS: urban biodiversity network


Jacques Abelman, Celine Baumann  (celinebaumann.tumblr.com), YukaYoshida


The Wildpoints strategy creates a new form of urban green by actively seeking out new places for nature to colonize the city. The end result of found nature and design interventions adds up to an urban biodiversity network.

Discovering Wildpoints

The small presence of uninvited nature in the city – where wild grasses and plants come up through the cracks, providing food and shelter for insects, birds, and other small urban animals, are almost never created intentionally. They spring up at construction sites in disturbed soil, in quiet alleys where wind-borne seeds settle and thrive between bricks, or under bridges where mosses and ferns find the humidity and darkness they need.

These sites are reservoirs of genetic diversity as well as habitats for uncounted species. They are also moments of unexpected beauty that could become a new form of “wild” garden, to provide visual pleasure in otherwise sterile and mineral urban environments.  The Wildpoints concept augments the way nature already infiltrates the urban fabric by studying and replicating nature’s own strategies, augmenting the sites where nature can take hold through specific design interventions.  The result is an urban biodiversity network of micro-habitats that adds a living layer to the city.

 What is biodiversity in the city?

Biodiversity can have many interpretations. Three key elements of biodiversity are species diversity, ecosystem diversity, and genetic diversity. For instance, the green lawns of city parks or planters filled with one or two species of decorative plants are not biodiverse. For biodiversity to occur and become part of a larger ecosystem network in a given location, to actually become vital nature, we must look farther than traditional conceptions of green in the city.

We define biodiversity in the city as the network of urban biotopes where indigenous species of plants and animals thrive, and natural ecological processes occur with or without the influence of humans. We propose that by carefully examining the places where nature colonizes the city, in urban cracks and out of the way places, we can amplify nature’s potential to be present in the city. The accumulation of many small zones that can be considered pocket parks establishes a network through which an ecological web of relationships can be established.

4 New Biotopes for Urban Sites

 The foundation of the Wildpoints concept uses biomimicry as a design strategy. Biomimicry is the examination of structures and processes in nature in order to find inspiration for solving human problems. In this case the first part of the Wildpoints strategy is looking for places where nature is already colonizing locations in the city, and creating species richness and diversity with no help from humans. The second step is finding other locations with similar conditions but where nature is unable to take hold. The design interventions provides a growth substrate which is modular in nature, upon which plant growth can occur. Our initial research into exisiting Wildpoints shows four primary potential sorts of new urban biotopes.

The Wildpoints strategy intervenes in two ways to create a biodiversity network.

First, wild sites where local plants and animals are thriving and creating spontaneous habitats are located and researched to understand what conditions exist there to allow nature to colonize the city.

Second, other sites where similar conditions exist but where plants and animals cannot take hold are located. Lightweight natural fiber panels are placed on façades, on hard surfaces, or floated in the water and hold a layer of soil that will seeds to cling and germinate. The correct plants and seeds can be brought in from the wild sites in the city, and augmented with other indigenous species.

The lightweight modular panels can be cut and assembled in a variety of patterns. After several seasons the panels will be covered with vegetation that requires no maintenance, creating habitats for insects, birds, and other small animals.

Results and Benefits

The biodiversity network of found and new Wildpoints allows insects, birds, and small animal species to establish themselves in micro-habitats across the city. Because the territories of birds and animals will be extended through the network, as well as seeds being transported by animal and wind, the Wildpoints will continue to evolve in richness.

This new living urban layer will also have additional functions. Floating plants will play a role in keeping waterways clean. Climbing green will absorb rainwater and help to cool buildings. The accumulated affect of vegetation surfaces will help remove particulate pollution from the air, as well as producing oxygen and acting as a carbon sink.

For humans, the Wildpoint network will be a new way to experience nature in the city. The web of life and ecological cycles will gain a new visibility. Abandoned lots will give way to colorful meadow patches. Unused infrastructure and building surfaces will feature beautiful green surprises around unexpected corners, teaching, relaxing, and delighting.








beating blue heart

Ecologically Emergent Leisure Landscapes

One of the remarkable characteristics of The Netherlands, especially from the foreigner’s point of view, is the amount of carefully protected open green space surrounding densely populated urban centers. The Dutch are extremely keen on verdant fields with placidly grazing cows and sheep always being within a bike ride away from the city, and this is true in most cases. However, as space becomes an ever more precious commodity, the preserved status of these green zones is being called into question. In many cases these peri-urban areas are carefully managed by several partners in order to preserve their rural appearance, yet they no longer function as viable agricultural spaces for a variety reasons. In some areas soil has been too contaminated by dioxins, pcb’s, and other pollutants to allow food production. In other areas it is no longer economically viable. An enormous amount of energy and coordination is necessary for the maintenance of these spaces which appear to be agricultural but are in fact a kind of park landscape reminding inhabitants of their farming origins. As urban populations increase and diversify what future role will these once vital farmlands play?

The Krabbeplas initiative set out to investigate if these green zones could be “put back to work.” The task of the designers was to investigate meaningful re-purposing of place. The EELLs project point of departure was the desire to immerse visitors in the sensory pleasures nature has to offer by creating new outdoor leisure space, a lounge-in-a-field that creates opportunities to be in touch with sights, sounds, and smells of nature at close range as well as offering a window onto ecological cycles. The project was driven by the use of agricultural processes to create a flexible form of ecological architecture. Hay and straw from the site were stuffed into biodegradable plastic tubing and then arranged into different configurations to create temporay shelters and organic lounging spaces.

Perfect for events in the fields, the EELLs have another purpose. Once their use as outdoor furniture is complete, they can be left on site to begin another process. The straw filled tubes are soaked in water and innoculated with mushroom spores. Over the course of several weeks, the mushroom spores spread throught the straw while the bioplastics break down, bringing the growing fungi into contact with the earth. The fungi are then able to colonize the soil of the site. Studies have shown that the enzymes present in fungal mycelial networks break down complex molecules such as dioxin and pcb, metabolizing them into harmless substances. This form of bioremediation is called mycoremediation. The mycelial net, which can grow to the size of an entire forest in some species, does the work of purifying the polluted ground. The fruiting bodies it then creates that we call mushrooms remain safe to eat.

The EELLs project attempts to address new ways to enjoy agricultural green space, actively connecting users to ecological cycles and introducing the concept of bioremediation. From hay harvest to lounging and through to mushroom production and soil purification, pleasure and utility are combined in a new leisure landscape.

EELLs project featured in new book from BRACKET

from the website of  BRACKET:


Once merely understood in terms of agriculture, today information,energy, labour, and landscape, among others, can be farmed. Farming harnesses the efficiency of collectivity and community. Whether cultivating land, harvesting resources, extracting energy or delegating labor, farming reveals the interdependencies of our globalized world. Simultaneously, farming represents the local gesture, the productive landscape, and the alternative economy. The processes of farming a remutable, parametric, and efficient. From terraforming to foodsheds to crowdsourcing, farming often involves the management of the natural mediated by the technologic. Farming, beyond its most common agricultural understanding is the modification of infrastructure,urbanisms, architectures, and landscapes toward a privileging of production.

Check out the book, now available from ACTAR.

Walk on the Wild Side

The essence of the “Wild Side” landscape vision is new farming methods that will transform the site into an official “High Nature Value” area. This designation describes certain types of agriculture that increase the biodiversity and ecological health of farmland.

This plan has three layers. First, a network of hedgerows is re-established on existing parcel boundaries.This network of native species creates a diversity of animal habitats and connects nature areas.Hedgerows also yield biomass as well as a diversity of fruiting and medicinal plant species.

Secondly, agroforestry or forest farming is established. In conjunction with the hedgerow network, stands of trees are planted for fruit, wood, or biomass. Here we have taken the example of Acer saccharum common in North America. These natural stands of trees yield sugar. Orchards and nurseries are also part of the agroforestry strategy.

Biodiversity in the hedgerow and agroforestry areas is augmented through a diversity of spatial conditions. Buffer zones, rhythms of closed and open spaces, and the corridor effect of the whole system will create and maintain much higher levels of indigenous biodiversity.

Thirdly, the economic possibilities of farmers are further expanded by tourism. New vacation cabins are located in the “chambers” formed by the agroforestry zones and hedgerow system. These weekend getaway residences provide an intimate experience of tranquility and nature. Accessible only by small paths, the houses require very little new infrastructure and are self-reliant for energy production and waste recycling, as well as providing a high level of additional income for the farmers.

The future of Twente can be shaped by a combination of these integrated elements: strengthened nature, renewed agriculture, and enlightened tourism.

“Landscape Architecture is not doing a great job…”

Quote from Alan Berger, professor at MIT and director of the laboratory for design research called P-REX,

The Project For Reclamation Excellence (www.theprex.net)

“The main issue for me is that landscape architecture is not doing a great job addressing the larger-scale environmental issues that are currently affecting urbanized regions in the world. Rather, landscape architecture tends to still be focused on discrete locations and places and unfortunately too often on superficial cosmetics. I am interested in how to creatively reclaim and reuse landscape waste, especially in urbanized areas where environmental systems have been permanently altered beyond recognition and function. Given the scales of my research and projects, I feel that the core interests of today’s landscape architecture profession are actually quite distant from my own. What has become painfully clear to me over the last few years is that, for multiple reasons, landscape architecture has not been able to keep ahead of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. ”

This article provides an excellent overview of Berger’s standpoint and work in the emergent field of landscape urbanism.

– via an interview on http://www.abitare.it

catch the whole article here

Redesigning the urban fringe: culture + ecology = new landscape park for Utrecht’s green ring

8mb PDF_Jacques_Abelman_Landscape Park Proposal

Project Brief from instructor Patrick McCabe ( http://www.redscape.nl )

Based on the classic Dutch concept of compact city, Utrecht has undergone major transformations in the last ten years. Intensification of urban areas, the realisation of Leidse Rijn (VINEX) and countless large infrastructure projects have been key steps in the city’s ambition to grow. However the benefits of this development are not always evident. On the eastern flank of the city’s margins, a greenbelt area otherwise known as the “Kraag van Utrecht”, is a good example. The area ( about 5km x 5km) is a result is what some might describe as an inconclusive urban condition; a marginal urban landscape sliced into bits and pieces by motorways and train lines, sporadically filled in by so-called green urban functions, a campus, a golf course, new nature, but missing a clear idea for future development. Slowly but surely this green belt is being encroached upon by neighbouring local authorities who are eager to find new building locations for its own inhabitants. The area is rich in history, forming part of the ‘kraag’ or belt of defensive forts, built as part of the New Dutch Waterline. Most of the forts have limited use. It forms part of the important ecological structure of Utrecht as well as housing the Uithof, the city’s university district and centre of learning.

Develop a new vision for this area based on a theme of your choosing, in which the tension between city and landscape is central. Take a stand, form an opinion. The area will transform but why and how? This is your decision. What is your vision for this area? What will it be like when you’re 64? Choose a strategy and demonstrate its potential for change. Search for ways, in which the tension between city and landscape, i.e the border condition, can be transformed to give new interpretations for living, leisure, infrastructure, nature or other activities. What would you like to research? Where would you like to create change? How would you like to transform? Recognise and identify the processes, the often concealed and sometimes unspoken rules of order, the players, and playmakers. Don’t use your creeping common sense, use your intuition.