New Ways of Deriving Environmental Benefits

Popular Mechanics magazine featured 18 of the world’s “strangest” landscapes. For us, these don’t seem that odd, but the magazine seeks to highlight landscapes deemed particularly noteworthy around the world. Many of the man-made projects selected seem to exemplify sustainable design practices, and echo surrounding natural environments. 

According to the magazine, as “eco-friendly design prospers,” landscape architects are now using a site’s natural setting to derive as many environmental benefits as possible.

A few of the highlighted projects include:

California Academy of Sciences Green Roof, San Francisco, California (see image above): Popular Mechanics says the unique element of this green roof is their “two larger contours [that] sync up to the planetarium and rainforest exhibitions down below.” Functional and aesthetically-pleasing, the green roof’s twin mounds were designed to echo the San Francisco hills. Inspired by the site’s natural surroundings, the roof also functions as wildlife habitat and helps reduce the building’s energy usage.

Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico: Edward James, an English surrealist and poet, created a garden in the Mexican rainforest. “Walkways stamped with footprints, Orchid-inspired sculptures and fantastical structures looming over the landscape are just some of the features laced throughout the 40 or so acres.” Over time, the artwork and gardens have largely merged back into the rainforest. The garden then teaches visitors about the rainforest and doesn’t require chemical fertilizers.

Step Garden at Acros Fukuoka, Fukuoka, Japan: The Step Garden features a park that continues up the side of a 14-story civic center. Entrances on either side enable visitors to move up the steps, visiting the plant-rich layers. “In 1995, when the building opened, Step Garden had 37,000 plants spanning 76 varieties. Today, there are more than 120 varieties and 50,000 plants” oxygenating the building.

Host Analog, Portland, Oregon: Buster Simpson, a Seattle-based artist, created an installation for the Oregon Convention Center that features a 1,000-year-old “wind-toppled” Douglas fir from the Bull Run watershed. The downed tree, with its fungi and flora, was moved and set up again. Simpson installed an irrigation system that feeds in water from Bull Run and sprays a fine mist every 15 minutes. The site teaches visitors about the natural process of decomposition and nutrient recycling. The artist said: “Host Analog is meant to be totally wild and maintenance-free, and it really won’t be finished for another millennium.”

Watch the slideshow and see all 18 projects.

Image credits: (1) Tom Fox / SWA Group, (2-4) Popular Mechanics magazine

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