Edible walls are a new idea alongside green roofs and green walls: maximizing urban space for plants and food. A New York Times article discuss how a collaborations between garden designers and a metal fabricator to create relatively simple soil and drip water systems that support lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, spinach, leeks, and even baby watermelon. The article mentions an antecedent in espaliered fruit trees in European cities during the Middle Ages. Recently, edible walls are being used in a Los Angeles homeless shelter to feed the residents and generate a small income.
A great article in today’s New York Times about “daylighting” the Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul. Daylighting refers to uncovering streams buried under pavement. Three miles of elevated freeway were removed, a plant-rich stream restored, and central urban land was converted from car-centric to people-centric.
- summer temperature reduction by 5 degrees Fahrenheit
- improved storm drainage, which global warming has worsened
- reduction in small-particle air pollution from 74 to 48 micrograms per cubic meter
- less auto congestion despite the loss of vehicle lanes
- bio-diversity gains include 25 versus 4 fish species, 36 versus 6 bird species, and 192 versus 15 insect species
- 90,000 daily visitors, including walking and picknicing
- higher real estate values for adjacent buildings
- political gains for former mayor, now South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (also formerly head of construction at Hyundai Corporation)
- restoration of the historic center of a 600 year city
Government officials and urban planners from Los Angeles, Singapore, San Antonio, and Yonkers have expressed interest in restoring urban streams. Sadly, the article did not mention anything about Tokyo, where most of its historic canals and rivers are covered by streets and elevated freeways.
I recently returned to Tokyo from a trip to the US that included a formal meeting with my fellowship sponsor and visits to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York.
In the US, urban ecology initiatives seem particularly strong at the municipal government and individual levels. In the photo above, I spotted an amazing formal garden extending on one side of second floor apartment. Perhaps the plants are kept small to preserve light and views from inside.
When USA Today focuses on green alleys, you can feel that this topic of recreating cities has reached a mainstream audience. A recent USA Today article focuses on Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle efforts to use alleys for environmental benefits and improved community life. Resurfacing alleys with porous surfaces reduces runoff, lowers the burden on municipal storm drains, and improves lake and ocean water quality.
In addition to functional environmental benefits, green alleys turn underutilized spaces into living spaces, places for walking, biking and gathering. The article quotes Suzanne Simmons who worked with her neighbors to close their alley to car traffic and set up instead benches, grills and tables.