Domus 1037: Nature at the centre of design

Guest Editor Winy Maas introduces the topics of the new issue of Domus: the positive impact of Green Dip on the city and on an urban level, the transformation of a building in São Paulo, the infrastructure to safely organise the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Editoriale Madrid

Architects who have used green facades or rooftop gardens have been criticised for greenwashing. There was quite a bit of negative energy drected at the Milan’s Bosco Verticale by Stefano Boeri Architetti upon its completion, but people overlooked that the actual completion date of a vertical forest can only be after the forest has had a chance to grow. It is fair to add another five years as a “growth period” after the construction phase, and to celebrate another opening once the forest has matured – see how wonderful the Bosco Verticale looks right now.

Adding plants does not replace sustainable technology, but in this issue an article about the Green Dip shows that this approach still works and how it still has a positive impact on the city.

We show that it also works on an urban level with the landscape design of Moscow’s inner ring road. From hostile concrete and tarmac environments, in this way the city can become friendly for its inhabitants and a joy to experience.

Even if a city has little space left to become greener or refurbish its streets, a real difference can be made. In São Paulo, the transformation of a former office building into a public building with a stunning rooftop pool is touching in its simplicity and effectiveness. I always like to see humans and architecture interact in photography because we create architecture for use and interaction, and it’s amazing how often there are no images with people in them. But the building by Paulo Mendes da Rocha and MMBB is always fully used and the images are already a monument to its success. It is a truly public building in Brazil.

Even if a city has little space left to become greener or refurbish its streets, a real difference can be made

We also analyse the massive infrastructure needed to safely organise the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Saudi Arabia has massively remodelled the city of Mecca; the sheer scale is most remarkable. Once a year the vast pedestrian bridges and mosques turn bright white because of the white tunics worn by the millions of pilgrims.

Looking back at earlier issues of Domus, I have to voice regret and share an observation. My regret is that the Mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmena, whom we featured in May, won the recent elections but was not re-elected, and that the new right-wing city government has announced the cancellation of her coura- geous plan to pedestrianise the centre of Madrid, despite measurable ecological and economic benefits. These are ideological politics that help no one, especially not the citizens of Madrid.

Now my observation: in the April issue of Domus we discussed the rise of German “birdcage” architecture, a tendency which the author Klaus Englert cautiously connected to the architecture of the Third Reich. In Germany there is currently a vivid debate in magazines and newspapers discussing the revival of fascism in architecture. We brought this to you just before the debate started in Germany.

I hope this underlines the relevance and urgency of the topics we present to you in Domus.

Opening picture: The road markings on Calle de Alcalá in Madrid call attention to the “Madrid Central” anti-pollution plan promoted by the former mayor Manuela Carmena to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city centre (photo November 2018). Although the initiative produced measurable benefits, the new right-wing city government that has taken office since the recent elections has announced its attention to scrap the pedestrianisation plan. Photo Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

Speciale Guest Editor

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