Urban permeability: on plants and plinths

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Human civilisation is becoming ever more urban. With the growing densification in our cities, green and open (public) spaces are put under pressure. As the number of built, non-permeable surfaces (such as asphalt and concrete) increase, storm water absorption, biodiversity and a pleasant microclimate in our cities is threatened. All non-permeable materials contribute to extreme water conditions in the city (low ground water level or flooding) and to the ‘urban heat island’ effect. Alongside with this development, the number and quality of public spaces is put under pressure. How do we provide the necessary built urban environment (housing, infrastructure) of a growing city, and at the same time enhance and offer lively, inclusive public spaces with a comfortable microclimate? Climatological factors such as sun, temperature, wind and humidity largely influence our behaviour in, and usage of public spaces, and they even determine why we like to stay in certain places more than in others. They have an effect on how we feel, how ‘comfortable’ the circumstances of being outdoors are. Human comfort is a subjective concept. In a public urban environment it has to do with people’s acceptance of spaces and their conditions. In this paper, I will introduce and highlight the concept of urban permeability, influencing not only human comfort but also climate resilience in urban spaces: open, breathing, absorbing and cooling green spaces in cities, on the one hand; accessible, inclusive, lively plinths and the public space formed by and in-between them acting as catalysts of social interaction on the other hand.
Strategies For the Post-Speculative City : Proceedings of the 4th AESOP European Urban Summer School, Madrid, Spain, September 2013
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