Arup: Cities Alive – Rethinking green infrastructure

“What should our designs try to achieve? We must take a critical look at the brief, make it more comprehensive.  We must look beyond the narrow object and ask ourselves: What will be the ecological consequences?”

Sir Ove Arup: ‘Philosophy of Design’

An article in The Guardian’s Sustainable Business section features Arup’s recent Cities Alive report as a sustainability case study.  Reviewing the social and environmental impacts of business the article examines the key themes of Arup’s report – subtitled ‘Rethinking green infrastructure’ – which questions if the power of nature can help restore harmony in our cities?  Cities Alive, developed from a collaboration between the Landscape Institute, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, Leeds Metropolitan University and Assoc. Prof. Pat Brown who leads the post graduate Landscape courses here at Kingston University plus Foresight + Research + Innovation teams at Arup.  It shows how the creation of a linked ‘city ecosystem’ that encompasses parks and open spaces; urban trees, streets, squares; woodland and waterways can help create healthier, safer and more prosperous cities. To realise this vision, green infrastructure has to take a more influential role in the planning and design of cities and urban environments.  Download the full report  or  read the illustrated summary booklet

Cities Alive

The Guardian text: “Landscape architecture is more than a green garnish. It can generate an ecosystem of parks, streets, squares, woodland and waterways to make cities healthier, safer and richer.  Arup, the global engineering, planning and design business, has been redefining urban planning by gathering existing research into a major report, Cities Alive, that shows the social, economic and environmental benefits of green infrastructure and how it applies to new developments or retrofitting.  The company argues green space is being sliced out of design briefs to cut costs because it’s seen as purely aesthetic and a “token decorative garnish”.

Cities Alive, launched in 2014, recognises that money talks, but highlights the value of green infrastructure to planners, architects, designers, as well as developers, public authorities, landowners and users. It defines green infrastructure as integrated networks of open spaces, woodland and parks, green streets, squares, healthy waterways, cycle ways and pedestrian routes as well as green roofs, walls and facades.  It puts the case for cities’ long-term resilience. It shows how urban wetlands, permeable paving and water roofs help cities cope with extreme rainfall. Canopy cover protects against fluctuating temperatures and wind. Green roofs and walls enrich crowded parts of the city and clean the air. Together they produce liveable microclimates, absorb pollution and act as carbon sinks.

It also argues that contact with nature reduces stress levels, stimulates better health and helps people recover faster from illness. A greener city fosters cycling and walking. It asks whether cities can rise to the challenge of global warming and depleting resources to become safe, healthy, creative and innovative.  The report examines the products and technologies that might be deployed in future cities, such as underground roads allowing nature to flourish above, water roofs, vertical farming and even glowing, bioluminescent trees that could one day replace street lighting and cut CO2.  The team has begun implementing some of its ideas in projects for the Crown Estate, TfL and the Fitzrovia business improvement district.”

Text: The Guardian – Jackie Wills, 30th April, 2015



  1. landscapeiskingston

    Arup’s ‘Cities Alive’ report has won the inaugural Best Use of Thought Leadership category in the 2015 Management Consultancies Association (MCA) Awards. In addition to achieving a radical shift in the perception of green infrastructure and landscape architecture internally, says Arup, the report highlights the firm’s growing reputation in cities research, one of its core global markets.

  2. Pingback: Landscape IS_Cities Alive_Summer Charette | Landscape Interface Studio
  3. antoniofernandezmejia

    Greening the city by putting trees everywhere is a new trend as desirable as building intelligent cities with fiber optics. But greening the city must be taken to a higher planning level as territorial planning.
    Usually the city is understood as the opposite of the territory, but the city depends on the territory, in fact, the healthy growth of a city is determined by the land support capacity. It means, where is the water coming from and going to; how is the fresh air replacing rate, how much non agricultural or conservation land is available for development.
    Seen from the city side, the city needs a good relation with its surrounding land to achieve good quality of living. People needs to reach within a few minutes a green space for recreation and sport and family houses need a nice view and a playing ground.
    The city center is usually congested, because the radial arrangement concentrates the higher interaction of people in the place where space is most scarce. So people must travel a long time to work in the middle of congestion, noise and pollution. They are seated in front of a computer and they become obese.
    The proposal is the Ring City. The aggregation of existing towns in a circumferential arrangement where commerce and urban housing is located, with a large green space in the middle where professional interaction is combined with sport for a healthy and productive way of living and working.
    Around the ring suburban housing stays close to the city, the distance between the opposite sides of the ring is achieved quickly through the open space.
    To enforce the Family as the natural cell of the society, the daily migration to work or school has to be moderated by remote work and study, this way the family has more time together and share each other’s challenges. The assistance to the office is to share knowledge, to make decisions and to set goals. The assistance to Schools is to receive guidance on research, to share knowledge , to set goals and to play with friends.

  4. Pingback: Turning London’s traffic clogged streets into ‘green boulevards’ | Landscape Interface Studio

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