• City panorama – skyline of New York seen from Central Park.

    Urban oases – Searching for the Garden of Eden.

    The green city as a healthy space for living and a place of yearning.

    Text: Claudio Rimmele

Escaping the noise of the city.

Summer in New York: Between the skyscraper canyons, the sun burns into the tarmac of Manhattan’s streets. The noise of the metropolis blares forth. And yet all you need to do is turn a corner, walk a couple of metres and you will be in quite a different city all of a sudden: no sooner are you standing among the trees of Central Park but the shadows are softer, the sounds quieter, the air fresher. A free vista opens up onto a huge area of radiant green.

Green roof terrace.

Rethinking green spaces.

“Parks are the lungs of a city,” said renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted of New York’s Central Park in 1872. With the 160-year-old park in the centre of Manhattan, you can picture how the whole city can breathe deeply thanks to it. Up to 500,000 people a day visit this gigantic garden seeking recreation, fun and sports facilities. A true urban oasis, where a daily art and culture programme inspires tourists and locals alike. However, the Central Park model does not hold much promise for the future. For according to experts, Central Park is no longer up to the demands of modern cities. A liveable city needs more than efficient transport routes and a functional infrastructure: the well-being and health of the residents are also playing an increasingly important role.

  • People on roof terrace above Central Park.

Important for health.

Urban green is a lot more than just a pleasant accessory to the city. In particular air quality and temperature regulation by plants are important health determinants for city dwellers and their children. Dutch scientists have conducted a large-scale study entitled “Vitamin G” to establish the direct link between the green environment and human health.

The results show that people living in a green environment get ill less frequently and generally feel healthier. They also experience less stress and have more time for social contacts. Parks are thus also important for an urban coexistence.

People in front of tall building surrounded by greenery.

Better quality of life.

A study from France compiling the results of 30 years of urban research, has shown that there is a direct link between distance to gardens and parks and excess weight among children. Elderly people also benefit from the green spaces close by; this is reflected in their health and ultimately in a longer autonomous life. An additional positive effect of urban green spaces is also reflected in crime statistics in France: crime and vandalism rates are lower in greener districts of France than in grey concrete housing estates. And less criminality leads to less fear and thus automatically to less stress.

How can you make cities greener?

In many city studies, two factors turned out to be decisive: residential proximity and walking distance of parks. For cities, it is therefore more important to create smaller local green spaces than large parks such as Central Park. Because only if city dwellers regularly benefit from urban green spaces will this also be beneficial to their health. Fortunately, the spirit of invention is currently flourishing to meet these challenges; from urban gardening concepts that transform city roofs and derelict land into living gardens and communities, to moving moss walls that clean the air of the city. Another pioneering concept is that of the Singapore Botanical Garden. In the Garden by the Bay, technology and nature form a unique symbiosis: steel trees, covered with real plants, regulate the climate of greenhouses and are an exceptional place for excursions and recreation for city dwellers. Tomorrow’s cities can be transformed into vibrant urban jungles where plants grow on every street corner and invite you to relax. This not only benefits our health, but also creates a harmonious and natural environment that makes us more content in the long term.

Pavilion in a park.