My partner is always telling me, “You know how much I love trees.” Blah, blah, blah…yes, I know how much you love trees, Robin.
But it turns out his love of trees is more than just a personal preference. It is life enhancing in our urban areas.
One good example can be found in Turin, Italy. Luciano Pia figured out that planting a lot of trees could make a difference to air quality (not to mention quality of life) in an urban setting. The architect designed an apartment complex with units at quirky odds to each other. That left spaces for trees that gave residents a sense of living in joyously erratic tree houses.
In summer, the trees shaded apartments. In winter, the deciduous trees invited light. Instead of the straight-walled, oh-so-usual and oh-so-boring patterns of “ordinary” high-density dwellings, these curved-wall, irregular units acknowledged the irregularity of the natural world.
The angularity of urban, high-density housing is anathema to many. Still, if we are to preserve natural areas and good farmland in a high-population world, we do need to live in closer quarters than are comfortable to many (particularly in North America).
Pia’s urban treehouses may be an answer. Without succumbing to the boring, straight-sided pattern of urban development that is common in urban centers, he envisions (and, in Turin, brings into existence) urban density that is softened by the natural world. The trees scrub the air. They shade harsh sun, then open to winter’s need for light.
Our boring, angular, urban neighbourhoods are not the only way to live in heavily populated centers. We can create beauty and healthy environments as Pia shows us, and in ways we have not yet envisioned.