The New Network
This issue was initially titled “infrastructure” but that word feels increasingly obsolete in the lexicon of sustainability. There has been a substantive shift in the conversation this past decade for which we need new words. We have moved from a techno-centric view of Green to a quality-of-life perspective, where we plan better systems. The pride we felt in concrete highways and storm water systems—once symbols of an efficient, progressive city—is giving way to the pleasure we seek from blue-green systems that improve ecology and create new public space.
Japan was a pioneer in the re-naturalisation of waterways. The Japan River Restoration Network (JRRN) was formed in the 1990s; it later participated in the formation of the Asian River Restoration Network (ARRN) in 2006. The JRRN attempted to fix the mess that came out of rapid industrialisation in the 1970s.
Fast forward 2005: Seoul opened the Cheonggyecheon project, probably the most publicised river restoration project in Asia where an elevated vehicular highway was removed to restore a waterway. Singapore, in 2012, opened the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (featured in FuturArc Sep-Oct 2014 issue) that took away a concrete storm water canal and replaced it with a naturalised stream. Singapore now has an island wide network of park connectors that promote walking and cycling (featured in FuturArc Sep-Oct 2014 issue). Each project has been massively popular with the public, having impacts on biodiversity, urban hydrology and real estate prices—or as what experts say as the people-planet-profit.
In this issue we feature several blue-green parks in China, not unlike the ones in Seoul and Singapore. There is an urban cycling network in an Indian city, an elevated park connector in Seoul, much like the High Line in New York.
What is common to all, aside from stated environmental goals, is that they are built around human experience. We are meant to feel good. And this comes from proximity to nature and community, access to clean water, air and natural light, all delivered with a purposeful sense of—dare we say it?—beauty. Sustainability starts with reimagining systems. The building occupant and the city dweller, both deserve a better life, not simply a less worse one.
Data on Japan was sourced by Alakesh Dutta, who in this issue talks about the assessment of blue-green projects.