Gerard Heumann

Breathing space

In this era of massive building, rapid urbanization and densification, the need to protect our open and natural landscape is critical. The art of urban landscape architecture has become of the greatest importance, urgent and mandatory.

Creating healthy, sustainable, attractive and functional outdoor spaces of all dimensions, landscape architecture deals with the design of streetscapes, plazas, parks and playgrounds, pedestrian ways, bikeways, transport corridors and forest preservation, together with an interdisciplinary team of architects, engineers and horticulturists.

Successful, it can aid the physical and mental health for people of all ages. Providing, for example, appropriate child and family-friendly outdoor spaces green and close by is central if we are to support our children’s well-being, while at the same time protecting the environment, insuring cleaner air with less pollution. Trees lesson air pollution and greenhouse gases.

The real life of any city takes place on the ground plane, on our streets, boulevards and squares, Attractive public spaces, the social centers and hearts of our cities, can encourage meaningful social interaction and community, afford leisure and relaxation from the pressures of urban life.

Enabling a strong connection between residents living in the high-density towers being built in Israel today to well-designed public open spaces helps in fostering a sense of belonging to place.

Urban squares, often the goal of the pedestrian movement system, must be easily accessible by foot and public transportation and spatially well-defined. They succeed when life takes place around them as well as within. The street level functions of adjoining buildings are most important.

Excellent landscape architecture can bring significant economic benefits, One example is the world class Promenade des Englais (English Walkway) in Nice, France. Its superb landscape architecture bounded by architecture of the highest quality translates into 1.5 billion tourist dollars a year

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa which offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in landscape architecture, after all these years, is still the only such school in the country. Needed are additional landscape architecture faculties.

We must fight to safeguard and preserve our natural open spaces against new roads and building development. The importance of the art of urban landscape architecture, supported by an architecture of quality at this time of intense densification impacting our lives cannot be overstated.

About the Author
Gerard Heumann is an architect and town planner in Jerusalem.
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