Re-shaping and revitalising landscapes for the future

Re-winding to just over a year ago I reflected on the importance of landscape within the unprecedented times the world had only just, at that time, been thrown into. With the impact the pandemic has had and is continuing to have on everyone’s lives it’s still, understandably, a hot topic of discussion for many reasons. Nothing can take away or over

shadow the difficulty that the world has faced over the past year and a half. When I think of landscape, I feel it pertinent a year on to, rather than to reflect on landscapes as I had in my last blog, look at the landscapes of the present and their possible re-shaping or change in functionality, and to look ahead to the landscapes of the future, a part two if you like to my previous blog. Below I’ve looked at examples of landscapes that help to answer the following questions:

How has the pandemic re-shaped or required us to adapt our current landscapes? What have been the beneficial impacts to wildlife and climate during this period?

What will be the lasting effects that will influence us or restrict us as designers of landscapes for the future?

How has the pandemic re-shaped or required us to adapt our current landscapes?

As mentioned in my previous blog, the (now numerous) lockdowns during the pandemic have highlighted the importance of landscapes and the benefits to us as human beings. A year or so on, we’ve now been through multiple lockdowns here in the UK and these have had some positive effects on our outdoor spaces as well as the way we utilise them.

Checkerboard Park, Elblag, Poland (Image credit: Lukasz Kotynski) https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2020- 12-29/14-clever-covid-19-design-solutions-from-around-the-world
Mural on Duling Avenue in Jackson, Mississippi (Image credit: Travis Crabtree) https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2020-12-29/14- clever-covid-19-design-solutions-from-around-the-world

Pop-up and community landscape projects have been popular long time before the pandemic, but with the restrictions we’ve all become accustom to (also with any luck on a somewhat temporary basis) i think its likely we’ll see more of these ‘popping up’ in the near future. Checkerboard Park in Elblag, Poland is a great example of how soft landscape can be adapted to suit a purpose for social distancing (although I’m not sure I like the thought of being stuck in one of the middle square if it got busy!).

The Mural on Durling Avenue in Jackson, Mississippi conceptualised by two local designers, adapted the street to provide socially distanced dining and recreation spaces for public use. Both these pop-up examples show how our outdoor spaces can be adapted to suit the climate that we find ourselves in. And speaking of climate…

What have been the beneficial impacts to wildlife and climate during this period?

As we are all aware, the numerous lockdowns have impacted the maintenance of our landscapes. Of course, this has had a negative impact in some areas of landscape maintenance, but many landscapes have benefited from the lack of lawn mowers, strimmer’s and hedge trimmers cutting back verges and shaping hedgerows. With local council’s reducing the maintenance regimes, wildflowers have had the time to flourish and many council’s are changing their policies for future maintenance on grass verge cutting.

(Image credit: Plantlife) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52215273

What will be the lasting effects that will influence us or restrict us as designers of landscapes for the future?

The pandemic is very likely to have an effect on how we design landscapes in the future. The effect that it has can be positive in some ways and negative in others and only time will tell. Public space schemes such as Checkerboard Park and the Mural on Durling Avenue have been designed specifically to get around the issue of social distancing, allowing us to get out and enjoy public spaces safely. Other factors from the pandemic are likely to change the way we design outdoor spaces and the interactions that occur in those spaces. For example, will benches in public spaces be spaced further apart for potential social distancing measures in future? With many shops, shopping centres and publicly accessible buildings changing to individual entrance and exit routes for easier distancing and servicing measures, will this find its way into our lives on a permanent basis and could this also find its way into outdoor spaces – one way footpath routes for example? Will the changing of policies for verge cutting allow us as designers to experiment more with wildflowers species rich grass mixes to boost the benefits to wildlife?

The questions above are of course quite extreme examples of changes that could occur and ways legacy in which the pandemic will leave its mark on the landscapes to come. It will be interesting to look back in years to come and assess any changes adopted during this current period.

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