Dense + Green Cities (2020) by Thomas Schröpfer at Birkhäuser Architecture as Urban Ecosystem

The topic is global, cities all over the world are affected, participate from the start to the green lung. Interplay between the built-up area and the natural zone, concepts of greening are required as well as city planners willing to plan, who understand meaningfully and to green more despite all the economy. The consequence is that more and more people live in cities. But which cities are growing exactly and how strongly – that is hardly predictable. To exert influence, this is the task of the experts. A question of the quality of life when there is an increasing need for compensation zones to counterbalance the built-up, hard world. The way cities expand is very different. A dialogue is therefore required in order to interact between buildings, built-up surroundings and a city as a functioning ecological system. Finding feasible ideas and concepts are the premises of the present. With planning, questions of design and technologies are conceived in more detail. Last but not least, human experience counts when international experts discuss, analyze and arrive at results in case studies. Diagrams provide abstract images of what is happening and allow conclusions to be drawn in order to create new standards. Every step that has been taken is followed by another step towards increasing urban ecology. The scientific environment provides the selected contributions to sharpen the background knowledge of those involved.



Of the 19 cases examined, seven come from Asia, predominantly from Singapore, six from Europe and six from America. From this it can be concluded that the ecology of the tropical zones is the most underdeveloped in contrast to ecological zones with higher temperatures. Thomas Schröpfer’s publication is based on works from the Singapore ETH Center for the Future Cities Laboratory, ETH Zurich and Schröpfer’s academic foundations at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. It is about the broad question of the extent to which buildings and their architecture can actively and positively contribute to a better functioning urban ecosystem and for the benefit of all involved. This is clearly a topical issue that affects society and its individuals, especially at a time when the balance of humanity with nature seems to be becoming increasingly precarious and threatening. ‘Dense + Green Cities’ offers solutions on an international basis.

The main components of the ecosystem under study are biodiversity, particularly through the representatives of plant and bird life, due to the important ecological services, including reducing the effects of urban heat islands, improving rainwater management and air pollution. As the book warns, the loss of biodiversity, even in the rich region, is likely due to further population expansion and urbanization that is destroying the habitat, and this inevitably seems to be equally important for the spread of the ecosystem. If buildings are adequately landscaped, the network and other green spaces, such as forest reserves, parks, road links and the like, will significantly expand into an expansive and vibrant urban ecosystem.

Apart from the possible combinatorics of how buildings fit into such a scenario, this book offers an excellent starting point for asking necessary questions: How can greening support the abundance and connection of biological diversity? Do dense and green buildings actually cool surroundings? What do property owners spend on the nearby vegetation? What are the operating and maintenance costs for integrated green spaces and buildings? The documentation and analysis of suitable green architectural components comprises five types: gardens, sky gardens, roof gardens, green walls and landscaped decks. In particular, it takes into account the progress made in Singapore in the groundbreaking planning of ‘blue and green’. Suitable metrics are used to compare areas over 200 hectares, which include vegetation surveys, econometric data and models as well as drawings and precise readings of the location and the associated conditions.

Overall, the results of the book come with few surprises. Soil gardens are best suited for alternatives, with green walks taking place in a confined space and sky gardens with a relatively low vegetation density. According to albedo effects, shading is useful to lower surface temperatures. Albedo indicates the retroreflectivity of diffusely reflecting, i.e. not self-illuminating surfaces. Residents seem to prefer living near parks. Interestingly, construction and maintenance costs are quite variable, but generally affordable. In short, dense and green, as defined and illustrated in the book, has positive net results. However, the more significant contributions are derived from the rational, which relates to empirical findings and the level of detail of the results themselves. Albedo effects are complicated, but well explained and analyzed in terms of surface temperature. An overview of the actual costs offers customers, such as regulators and designers, useful information. The same applies to the perception of value facets by property owners in their apartments and residential areas.

The examples within the book are abundant and have been carefully selected. At least within the immediate geographical area and in what is dense and green there are many images, which was supplemented by accompanying text. In short, it is a respectable publication and a worthwhile reference. Of course, networking is an important way to promote the wealth and performance of ecosystems in urban areas. Landscape ecologists like Richard Forman from Harvard have clarified this in great detail. The next step, based on this publication, will be to advance networking more fully and to expand it in an attractive and visionary way. Part of the success will be being able to convince so far and to bring the network concept to a broader and sometimes more skeptical public.

Look inside the book…

Dense + Green Cities
Architecture as Urban Ecosystem
by Thomas Schröpfer
1st edition, 2020
Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel
Language: English
Format: 30.0 x 23.0 cm
bound, 320 pages
ISBN: 978-3-0356-1531-9
ISBN: 978-3-0356-1511-1

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