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23rd Aug 2022

Architect Africa Online

Africa's Leading Architecture Aggregator

Building with Nature: Creating, Implementing & Upscaling Nature-Based Solutions

Building with Nature: Creating, Implementing and Upscaling Nature-Based Solutions
Erik van Eekelen and Matthijs Bouw (Editors)
nai010 Publishers/EcoShape, December 2020

Paperback | 6-3/4 x 9-1/4 inches | 280 pages | 200 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9789462085824 | $55.00


Building with Nature offers a proven, innovative approach to creating Nature-based Solutions for water-related infrastructure that harnesses natural forces for the benefit of the environment, the economy, and society.

EcoShape is a consortium of contractors, engineering firms, research institutes, NGOs, and governmental authorities. In the past decade, it has conceptualized implemented, and analyzed Building with Nature projects in several countries. These projects demonstrate the capacity to build Nature-based Solutions at scale so as to create sustainable flood protection and cultivate resilient, ecologically rich living and working environments. Building with Nature, therefore, is the ideal approach for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

In this book, EcoShape introduces Building with Nature methodologies and outcomes. Dialogues with experts and stakeholders show there is an urgent and compelling case for further implementation. Key concepts are described, illustrated, and linked to six landscape types and their underlying ecological, economic, and social systems. This volume captures the imaginative potential of Building with Nature, and seeks to inspire readers and policy-makers across disciplines.REFERRAL LINKS:

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Over the weekend, the much anticipated Little Island opened to the public on Manhattan’s West Side. Originally called Pier 55, Little Island was designed by Heatherwick Studio and paid for primarily by Barry Diller as a two-acre park with an amphitheater, a hardscape “play ground,” a lawn, and a trio of overlooks. The raised landscape is supported by more than one hundred concrete “tulips” rising from the Hudson River and is linked to the Hudson River Park — of which it is a part — by two bridges. Effectively, the tulips act like huge flower pots where trees, flowers, and other plants have been composed by MLNA into what New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman calls “a $260 million charmer.” 
Kimmelman mentions Westway, the ill-fated project proposed in the 1970s — stopped, in part, by the efforts of the J.M. Kaplan Fund — to bury a highway in new landfill in the Hudson, but he doesn’t go into any detail on the efforts to stop Little Island on environmental grounds. Although lawsuits to stop the park were eventually dismissed, clearly Little Island is an example of urban impact taking priority over natural processes. What would this two-acre patch of the Hudson look like, though, if Building with Nature principles drove the project, rather than those of a billionaire wanting to leave a legacy and a designer always intent on making statements?

Simply put, Building with Nature is, as the subtitle of the book of the same name describes, “creating, implementing, and upscaling Nature-based Solutions,” specifically for water-related infrastructure. Building with Nature is “a philosophy rooted in hydraulic engineering,” the text reveals, that “continues to broaden its applicability for sustainable development.” Projects sited at shorelines, for instance, would use solutions that protect and restore natural ecosystems, increase biodiversity, and address societal challenges, including climate change. A basic attitude of “working with rather than against nature” would guide every decision, be it the form an elevated park in a river takes or, more importantly, if it should even be built at all. 

Two entities anchor the book: EcoShape, “a network of organizations and individuals, working together to advance the application of Building with Nature in water related societal issues” represented by Erik van Eekelen; and One Architecture & Urbanism, the design and planning firm headed by Matthijs Bouw that is a “leader in large-scale climate adaptation and waterfront infrastructure planning.” Not surprisingly, both are Dutch. It’s also not a surprise that most of the projects mentioned in Building with Nature are located in The Netherlands, with a couple in New York, most notably Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is highlighted for the  small tidal park located at the northern end of the larger 1.5-mile-long park. One need only compare Little Island and BBP’s tidal park to discover two very different approaches to small waterfront parks.

Many projects are mentioned in Building with Nature, but most of the book uses fictional settings to explore and explain the many Building with Nature concepts that arose from research programs carried out by EcoShape: one in 2008–2013 and one in 2014–2020. The six contexts/chapters are “Sandy Coasts,” “Muddy Coasts,” “Lowland Lakes,” “Rivers and Estuaries,” “Cities,” and “Ports.” Each chapter is treated consistently, with an aerial of the fictional landscape keyed to the relevant concepts that are described in detail on the following pages. The contexts are then diagramed and described in terms of ecological benefits; places to live, work, and visit; resource flows; integrated approach; and a growing system. Last are a list of resources, where the real-world projects are mentioned, followed by interviews or roundtables with project participants.

The consistent structure of the contextual chapters, the clear drawings and diagrams, the easy-to-follow texts, and the contributions of experts add up to an excellent resource for engineers, landscape architects, and government officials. (Kudos also to Vanessa Van Dam and Adriaan Mellegers for their layout and design, and to nai010 Publishers for the lay-flat binding that makes the book easy to peruse.) Ultimately, the success of the book would be in the part it plays in convincing clients and designers to use Building with Nature approaches on relevant projects in the future, be it a resilient coastline defending against rising waters, a large wetland restoration, or even another “little island.”

* Syndicated content from A Daily Dose of Architecture Books.


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