Landscape architects in Europe are doing really innovative things with pavers, perhaps more so than in the United States. Some recent contemporary urban plaza projects from Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Barcelona show the amazing visual effects that can be achieved with bold paving patterns.
In a barren lot where there used to be a railway station, just west of Amsterdam’s city center, LANDLAB created Funenpark, a new courtyard for a residential complex. The standard Dutch courtyard, which usually has separate streets, pavement, parking and front and back-gardens, instead gets a contemporary take, created as one “continuous, luxurious” place. This Dutch landscape architecture firm purposefully kept things simple in order to create a distinct space residents and passers-by can easily wander through.
To achieve this, the firm writes in Landezine, “we designed an intensive network of paths made of two specially designed pentagonal concrete paving stones in three shades of grey. These were laid down in a random fashion which resulted in a directionless, rugged pattern that looks like an unidirectional stretched fishnet from above.” The green parts of their landscape also really make the pavers pop. Among the grass are scattered groups of Robinia pseudoacacia and odd daffodils.
In Copenhagen, a busy downtown shopping street gets a contemporary update. A long, curved street set in the “labyrinthine medievel city center,” Købmagergade shopping street uses “strong materials such as natural stone” in a few different colors to create a “harmonious appearance,” writes Karres en Brands and Polyform in Landezine.
There are reasons behind the use of different colors: “The layout of the three squares is varied, just as their historical situation and their location in the city are varied. On the Kultorvet the dark – almost black – paving pattern of the stone is inspired by the 18th century coal trade. On the rather more peaceful Hauser Plads square, the exciting grass play mounds form a green oasis in the urban fabric. At night, the Trinitatis Church square with its famous observatory Rundetårn is transformed by artificial lighting into an enormous starry sky. The three squares are diverse in colour, from dark coal to bright stars: ‘From Kultorvet to the Milky Way’.”
Finally, Passeig de St. Joan boulevard, a project in Barcelona, makes wonderful use of grass and pavers together to create a stunning visual effect. The boulevard was first laid in 1859. Over the years, it began to fall apart, creating accessibility problems. In remodeling the street, the Barcelona city government also wanted to revitalize Ciutadella Park, a set of small urban parks alongside it.
In Landezine, landscape architects with Spanish firm Lola Domènech write that they first re-organized the pedestrian routes. “Some 17m of pavement have been organized so that 6m are allocated to a pedestrian pavement, while the remaining 11m under the rows of trees are for recreational uses (benches, children’s play areas and bar terraces). As part of the new layout, the two-way 4m bicycle lane is physically segregated, protected and signposted, located in the middle of the road.”
Together with the new street, the park was revamped to be more sustainable. The use of pavers and vegetation works together in the park to aid in stormwater management. “In order to guarantee the sustainability of this new layout, we needed to ensure proper drainage of the subsoil and take on the challenge of incorporating a mixed pavement system in the tree-lined zone. The treatment of the soil with mixed pavements and the automatic watering system that uses phreatic water are key to ensuring substrata drainage that will guarantee the survival of the vegetation. The incorporation of local shrubs to this tree lined zone will contribute to enriching subsoil biodiversity.”
Different pavers are also associated with different human uses: “The pedestrian section the pavement is made of ‘Panot’ paving slabs (typical ensanche paving), while, in the recreational zones, a new prefabricated pavement with draining joints was laid down.”
See more interesting uses of pavers in Europe.
Image credits: (1) Funenpark / Anne ten Ham, (2) Funenpark / Jeroen Musch, (3) Funenpark / Anne ten Ham, (4) Købmagergade shopping street / copyright Ty Stange, (5-6) Købmagergade shopping street / KBP, (7-10) Passeig de St. Joan, Barcelona / Lola Domènech
Dear Mr. Green: I regular read your comments and find them interesting and challenging. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with others. To-day you talk about pavers in Europe. We have used such pavers for a number of years on our Garden center projects. The cost per square foot is much less than in Europe than in this country. They also have equipment where they place these pavers from a pallet. WE need to be very careful that we have joints that will not make any noise when shopping carts are being used or for that matter in airport suitcases with rollers. There is also a problem with using the correct seal so that these pavers can be kept clean. There is a maintenance cost which should not be overlooked. It is essential that these pavers are placed on a solid base so that we have no settlement. Do we know how long such pavers will last. The photograph of the street in Barcelona is lovely, but the trees are planted much too close. The tree in the pavement of the curve has not enough space around the trunk and the roots might lift the pavement. I assume that there is no stopping or parking along the street curb, becauce if there was, passengers would step onto the planting when they get out of the car. There is always more to be learned. Sincerely yours, Ernest Wertheim
Excellent points, Mr. Wertheim. Thanks for the insight from both a design and practice-in-use standpoint.
The landscape architect for the Barcelona street, Passeig de St. Joan, was Teresa Gali-Izard. She is our new Landscape Architecture Department Chair at the University of Virginia (UVA) . Her extensive background in agricultural engineering and twenty years working as a landscape designer was brought to bear in this project; the former comments assume a naivete on the part of European designers that is not warranted here. Gali-Izard is extending the lessons earned on this project about “greening” Barcelona streets to a larger precinct between the old city and the Eixample. This is the focus of UVA graduate design studio (Barcelona’s Urban Forest) this coming year.
These are all really awesome walkway designs. I wonder if this style of combining landscape and pathways will take off in other parts of the world.