Increasingly, the planning of outdoor urban spaces is less an exercise in prettifying unbuilt areas for the benefit of lunchtime strollers and office smokers; more a heavily-laden exercise in making these spaces actively support life in our cities and on our planet. Enmeshed in the fabric of metropolitan working, cultural, ecological and social life, it has become a tool with which to encourage good mental health, respond to climate change and reinforce cultural identity.
That’s a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of a park bench, a flower bed, a stretch of grass or a water feature. But these are the building blocks; making them count towards a holistic green urban space is where the challenge lies. Reduced to its simplest message, the role of public space in towns today is to mutually benefit nature and the community, and the practices of all protagonists, from planners to architects, horticulturalists to urban furniture designers need to be engaged to this end.