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    • 05 July 2022

      When Nature Thrives, Communities Will Flourish

      On June 20th, the landscape architecture firm Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl joined Henning Larsen. We sat down with Dieter Grau, Design Director Landscape and Gerhard Hauber, Market Director Landscape, to discuss the urgency of making space for nature. 

    • What are the challenges you see in keeping green spaces in cities healthy?

      Dieter: "The main challenge is the densification of cities, which has a strong impact on how water in cities can be managed and how the effects of climate change can be mitigated. As urban areas become increasingly dense, we should really think about how to integrate water and vegetation to restore biodiversity while still offering the public healthy outdoor experiences."

      Gerhard: "We need landscapes, water systems and biodiversity to be the number one priority in planning processes. We know that we have to give space to nature. To improve ecology, water and air quality. This not only benefits the life of plants and animals, but also our own health. We look at green space as something that has multiple functions; serving people, but also its environment and the plants and animals within."

      • Dieter Grau is Design Director Landscape and Partner and has over 20 years of experience as a landscape architect, and is an acknowledged expert in implementing liveable cities, specifically with urban water, as well as solving major infrastructure challenges through an integrated urban design approach.

      • Gerhard Hauber is Market Director Landscape and Partner in Germany, and has been a landscape architect and planner for over 20 years. Since 1998 he has specialized in international project management, having successfully led projects in the US, Great Britain, Australia, UAE and other countries.

    • What role does landscape architecture have in improving our urban communities?

      Gerhard: "Landscapes and water connect to so many aspects that keep cities and ecosystems healthy. When we work on a water system, we have to look beyond the site and assess how it influences its environment. For the Singapore Central Watershed Masterplan we worked on implementing a strategy to take better care of rainwater while designing a natural destination, collecting water and using it for drinking water. Now they realise that they have resources available in their own city, and don’t need to import water from elsewhere, benefitting people and ecosystems."

      Dieter: "Landscape architecture has a tangible impact on how people value their cities. It’s important for us to closely monitor our work and watch, over many years, the effects of our projects on communities and nature. When we designed a pocket park in Portland, Oregon, our client conducted polls in the neighbourhood. The value of people’s apartments in the area had increased by 30% since the park opened."

      Why is an interdisciplinary approach important for landscape architecture?

      Dieter: "As landscape architects it is crucial to involve a wide range of perspectives to find the right balance between nature, buildings and cities. Developers and city planners often put infrastructure and buildings centre stage. We know how to integrate buildings and urban spaces with nature. Teaming with architects and engineers at early design stages helps us to gain a broader understanding of the environmental impact of a project."

      Gerhard: "We see water as an essential element of a landscape. Water shapes nature, habitats, and material cycles – this is fundamental to how we work. We try to deliver projects that work with water and perform on multiple levels, that benefits not only people but also nature. We need everybody on board to prioritize this throughout all stages of a project."

      • An industrial peninsular on the River Main is being regenerated into a new sustainable city district, in Frankfurt, Germany. The “harbour” forms the new urban focus, with varied access to the water and multifunctional urban space.

    • How does your experience as landscape architects complement that of architects and urban designers?

      Gerhard: "We want to be a catalyst for liveable public spaces. Together with the many experts of Henning Larsen, I think, we – together as a design community – can elevate the positive impact of not only landscape architecture but building design and urban planning and how they affect one another."

      Dieter: "We have a holistic view on cities and landscapes, and really look at how a piece of architecture relates to its environment. Our team brings new ideas on how to integrate buildings within landscapes, landscapes within buildings and within cities, ranging from innovative materials, native species, the integration of blue and green infrastructures to circular design principles."

      Practically speaking, how do you ensure that landscapes protect and restore ecosystems?

      Gerhard: "Our design ethos is that landscapes should always be multi-functional. When I need to combine a playground and a green park in a landscape, where do I integrate water? When it rains, why don’t we give space to water, and turn the playground into a reservoir that can clean the rainwater with a nature-based solution? If you are working on projects with a monofunctional mindset, this would never work."

      Dieter: "Our projects have many layers. Often, landscapes are designed to just look green. We look at many more factors, the different ways in which people can use a space, the impact on natural processes, the restoration of biodiversity. For example, we use the GreenScenario planning tool to predict what effect our design will have on the local climate. We try to do the best we can for all these aspects, including biodiversity, water, vegetation or topography."

      • The Shale Experience Park is on the recultivated land of a mining site near the village of Dormettingen. The project restored agricultural land and the completed park is a celebration of industrial character and contextual design.

    • Together with more than 30 colleagues, you are both based in Überlingen in Southern Germany. What does this city mean to you?

      Gerhard: "Before the pandemic, when we would come back to Überlingen from a work trip to Singapore, New York, or London, I always had to go out and ride my bike through nature to reconnect. The region offers a really fine balance between nature and culture. People here are able to transform a landscape into something that is both productive and that protects the soil, nature, and the lake. This is a great inspiration for our work."

      Dieter: "We are right on the Bodensee, the biggest retention lake in Europe that protects Cologne from flooding. Five million people get their drinking water from this lake. It is a habitat for many animals, it attracts tourists, there is industry, agriculture, and aerospace companies have R&D centres here. All these functions overlap, and this is exactly what we think is important in our work."

      Gerhard: "Being here reminds me that climate change is a chance to rethink our relation to nature. We should not let catastrophic thinking take over but learn from nature. We should reconnect and learn from these principles, and let this into our cities, our brains and hearts."

      • Adjacent to the historic old town of Bönnigheim on the site of a former yarn factory, a new city district has come to life. The new city park with its exposed Mühlbach forms the backbone of the district. The natural meandering stream is reflected in all the design elements of the park.

    • On June 16th, we celebrated the opening of our new studio in Berlin. This also marked the integration of Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl to the Henning Larsen brand. The community of landscape architects brings decades of experience in sustainable landscape architecture, marking an increased focus on the quality of life for people, in balance with nature for Henning Larsen. Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl’s existing studios in Überlingen and Hamburg will become part of our global network of design studios - allowing them to exchange knowledge generated in different cultural contexts.