Essays Archive

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.
March, 2020

22 March 2020

The Green Cloud, A Rooftop Story from Shenzhen: A “Living” Sponge Space Inside an Urban Village
Vivin Qiang, Shenzhen Xin Yu, Shenzhen

用中文阅读 Shenzhen, a coastal city located in Southern China, exemplifies the idea of  rapid urbanization. In just 40 years, Shenzhen has transformed from a fishing village to a bustling megalopolis. Today, about 50% of Shenzhen’s 13 million residents live in its urban villages. These urban villages are some of the few...

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18 March 2020

What the Garden Belongs To: Sensorial Listening in Urban Space
Jake Nussbaum, Philadelphia

On Emily Street between 7th and 8th in Philadelphia lies the Growing Home community gardens—two discrete plots of land separated by an assortment of old and new construction rowhomes that are the architectural hallmark of the neighborhood. Chainlink fences separate the gardens from the street. Through them one can see...

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16 March 2020

Design with Nature is not about Financial Return—It is a Recognition that Humans Rely on Nature.
Stephanie Pincetl, Los Angeles

There is no doubt that cities, especially since the industrial revolution, have by and large been built overriding local ecologies, obliterating topography, soils, streams, altering soils, ignoring seasons, breezes, sunlight. Nature based solutions, urban ecosystem services, however they are called, have emerged to try to remediate this historical modernist hubris...

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12 March 2020

Renewable Rikers as a Blueprint for a Sustainable City
Rebecca Bratspies, New York City

On 29 January 2019, New York City Council held a hearing on a trio of bills collectively known as “Renewable Rikers”. Rikers is currently home to the most infamous prison in New York City—the Rikers Island correctional facility an island penal colony with one lone bridge connecting it to the...

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9 March 2020

Common Trends and Conundrums in Nature-Based Solutions: Greening at the Intersection of Urban Densification and Urban Sprawl
Filka Sekulova, Barcelona Isabelle Michele Sophie Anguelovski, Barcelona Francesc Baro, Barcelona Bernadett Kiss, Lund

Traditional chinampa cultivation as a way to restore water-stressed ecosystem services in Mexico City’s artificial wetland areas conquered from the sea in Tianjin Harbour … a network of bug-friendly bushes and patches of green along cycling routes in Scotland … an urban forest strategy in Melbourne promoting the plantating of...

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February, 2020

19 February 2020

Toronto Harbour Cleanup: The Cornerstone of Waterfront Revitalization
John Hartig, Windsor

As Toronto grew into Canada’s largest city and a world leader in business, finance, technology, entertainment, and culture, there were unintended consequences such as water pollution and loss of habitat. Today, Toronto and Region are a leader in environmental cleanup and reconnecting people to their waterfront as a part of...

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14 February 2020

Who Takes Care of New York?
Lindsay Campbell, New York

Civic leaders and community members regularly put time and energy into caring and advocating for the environment. We call these acts of care stewardship. Beyond improving green and blue spaces, stewardship can also lead to other types of civic action. Local stewardship groups can strengthen social trust within a neighborhood....

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7 February 2020

Re-envisioning Cities Through Bottom Up Neighbourhood Planning, Not Top Down Master Planning
PK Das, Mumbai

If there is one thing that I have to state as being the most important learning from my living and working in Mumbai, it is the need for collective intervention to combat the current trend of exclusionary urban development with an objective of achieving social and environmental equity and justice...

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January, 2020

23 January 2020

A Fractal Solution to Regional Complexity and Governance
Mathieu Hélie, Montréal

Could we construct a new image of what the political boundaries of an urban landscape could take shape as? Instead of the hierarchical approach that is commonplace, with cities governed by layers of neighborhood, urban, regional, and state-provincial levels through different electoral or appointed bodies, I propose to approach the...

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18 January 2020

Placing Equity at the Center of the Urban Greening Agenda
Peleg Kremer, Princeton Annegret Haase, Leipzig Dagmar Haase, Berlin

Equity and Sustainability: a history of ideological convergence vs. practiced indifference The idea that equity is an important and indispensable part of sustainable development has been there from the early days. The intellectual basic for and actions taken towards sustainability are thought to be fundamentally fair and just—a world in...

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13 January 2020

And, Now What? Exploring what happens after a 16,000-kilometer walk across two continents
Jennifer Baljko, Barcelona

Those last few days in June, we could see Barcelona’s shape in the distance. The three chimneys from the old power plant. The slanted roof of the Forum. The towers from the Olympic village. The long stretch of beach reaching to the glass sail that is the W hotel. The...

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8 January 2020

Paseos Verdes: The Story of a Morning Walk and a Partnership for Greater Community and Watershed Health
Bruce Roll, Portland

Since its beginning fifteen years ago, the landscape conservation program called Tree for All (TFA) has found a home for more than 10 million native plants in the 750 square mile Tualatin River Watershed of  Northwestern Oregon. Over 700 projects have been completed along 140 river miles across 30,000 acres....

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1 January 2020

Highlights from The Nature of Cities in 2019
David Maddox, New York

Today’s post celebrates some of the highlights from TNOC writing in 2019. These contributions—originating around the world—were one or more of widely read, offering novel points of view, and/or somehow disruptive in a useful way. All 1000+ TNOC essays and roundtables are worthwhile reads, of course, but what follows will give you a...

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December, 2019

19 December 2019

Tree Planting in Green Urban Infrastructure
Graciela Arosemena, Panama City

Lea esto en español. The functions of today’s green are defined mainly by the needs that were conceived in the hygienist movement linked to the industrial city of the nineteenth century. Environmental pollution was the driving force behind public open spaces at that time, and at that time, the need...

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16 December 2019

A Storm in a Bioswale: Breaking Down Barriers to Nature-Based Solutions
Stuart Connop, London Caroline Nash, London

Nature-based solutions are emerging as a key mechanism for renaturing cities, yet barriers around evidence and effectiveness still stand in the way of widespread rollout across our urban landscapes. More by luck than design, we learned that a straightforward technical test of a Sustainable Drainage System (SuDS) retrofit scheme in...

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13 December 2019

Cities are the Perfect Laboratories for a Global Green New Deal
Sven Eberlein, San Francisco

It was only a year ago when the idea of a Green New Deal entered the American public sphere with a big splash. When a group of young activists, joined by an idealistic new crop of congresswomen, stormed the incoming house speaker’s office to demand nothing less than the wholesale...

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10 December 2019

Is Experimenting Natural in Cities? The Nature of Experiments and the Experiments with Nature
Niki Frantzeskaki, Melbourne

Experimentation is a way to bring new solutions or approaches to cities. As a researcher on sustainability and sustainability transitions, I believe that, if solutions are to be adopted and scaled to improve human and ecological conditions in our world, they require testing in the field, beyond closed-door labs but...

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7 December 2019

Neither Above Nor Below
Claire Stanford, Los Angeles

Jakarta Is Sinking So Fast, It Could End Up Underwater —New York Times headline, 12/21/17  A flash of silver-green in the water. That is all Hasan sees, but it is enough. He runs after, alongside, his small legs propelling him across the planks and platforms that crisscross the city. The...

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3 December 2019

Biophilia Revived: How Do We Strengthen the Connection to the Natural Environment in a City Expanding in the Desert
Abdallah Tawfic, Cairo

I live in a country that lives the dream of conquering the desert and building new cities. Cairo is the second largest city in Africa with a booming population crossing 23 million over an area representing less than 5 percent of the whole country’s land. I always wondered what is...

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November, 2019

29 November 2019

Inspiring District Residents, Specialists, and Government Officials to Work Together to Create a Park That Would Sustain Biodiversity and Meet People’s Desires
Nadezhda Kiyatkina, Moscow

Этот текст также можно прочитать на русском языке. For the last two years our interdisciplinary team has been working on the Cherished Meadow (Zapovedniy lug, in Russian) project. This is an unprecedented happening, as it is the first project of its kind in decades that involves building a city park...

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