Adding nature to urban spaces

The clean lines and simple building materials often used by architects designing urban spaces are functional and visually appealing, but the abundance of such building in an urban environment can make it seem cold and characterless when not broken up by greenery or older buildings. There are however, ways in which green can be introduced to the metropolitan palette.


Some guerilla gardeners have taken things into their own hands in urban centres right across the world. The movement involves planting herbs, shrubs and wildflowers in unlikely places in cities – either planting under cover of darkness or using ‘seedbombs’ to encourage plants to grow on roundabouts, in under-utilised planters and anywhere else which appears to be a bit derelict and run down.

Seedbombs are made with a 5:1:1 ratio of clay soil to seeds and water. By forming the mixture into balls, seedbombs are created, which can be thrown or placed to encourage seeds to germinate in otherwise unlikely places.

It might seem extreme, but fans of the movement think it’s a great way to encourage ecological diversity in towns and city centres. Studies have shown that greenery in urban environments improves the mental and physical health of those who live and work there, so it should be an important consideration during the design process.

Green and sedum roofs

Another interesting way to encourage nature in areas where there may not be much space is by adding greenery to the buildings themselves. The prestigious Athenaeum hotel in London boasts a living wall made of a range of plants which takes up much of the front of the building. As well as looking attractive and increasing local diversity, it also absorbs carbon dioxide, an important function in an increasingly deforested world.

A sedum roof can provide many of the same benefits as a living wall, while also being easy to maintain (as gravity is on your side!) Adding a green roof to your building is a responsible way to add eco-credentials to your build, as well as a warmth and softness to the design, which modern building materials can sometimes lack.