The (un)conditional garden: master’s project by Thijs de Zeeuw

The (un)conditional garden: Urban biodiverstiy in Artis

“About 60 percent of Dutch flora and fauna is present in urban or semi-urban areas. Yet still Dutch policy on nature is based on the contro­versy of the city versus nature, which divides both in to two separate worlds.”

“In the Artis, the Amsterdam zoo, nature conservation has been founded in 1905 with the establishment of Natuurmonumenten. More than hundred years later the time is there to take a new step in nature conservation The changed relation between man and its surround­ings demands for a new -or extended- vision on nature.

The main shift compared to the traditional nature idea is the disengagement of ecological value and its common landscape images. Surely for plants and animals it does not matter how the ecosystem exactly looks like. As long as the system answers their basic necessities of life. For instance, the common tern (Sterna hirundo) likes the vast pebbled rooftops of an industrial area just as much as the pebble beaches in the coastal areas.

The design for The (un)conditional garden searches for a new form to reveal the ecological wealth of the urban environment. On the exist­ing carpark of the zoo, a new parking garage will be build. The roof will be the base for the eventual design. The garden will be part of the urban ecological system and opposed to the other animals in Artis the inhabitants of the garden are free to migrate in and out of the zoo. For the visitor though the garden is an extension of the zoo and adds up to the Museum of Biodiversity the Artis is developing right now.

Parallel to the design work an experiment has been performed. On an urban wasteland basic soil conditions have been altered to monitor their ecological and visual potentials. After all the conditions are just a tool to compose an urban natural landscape with. Within a year the different plots showed characteristic differences, especially in image.

The findings have influenced the design process and have resulted in a design that reflects and exhibits the richness of urban ecology. A grid resulting from the architecture of the parking garage creates a landscape of containers in which a variety of conditions result in a wide range of niches (both outside and inside the garage). The grid does not just expresses the urban design aspect but also refers to the scien­tific monitoring standards in field biology.

A diverting walkway will lead the visitor through the garden, sometimes elevated, (even inside, high above the parked cars to approach the resting areas of the different bat species) sometimes lowered incised in the containers bringing the eye of the visitor to ground level.

The result is an educational garden that acknowledges the city as a valuable landscape and is thus an expression of a new nature optimism.”

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