Excerpt:‘Nature to Nurture’ is a landscape architecture thesis by Soumitra, from Scuola di Architettura Urbanistica Ingegneria delle Costruzioni – AUIC – Politecnico di Milano, which explores the role of nature in strengthening mental health immunity. Using Bengaluru as a model, the study examines how nature could potentially be employed as a therapeutic factor in the Indian context. The proposal is built around the concept of landscape design, utilising the lakes and gardens of Bengaluru’s city centre and their inherent potential.
Introduction: India is ranked 126th out of 137 countries in the 2023 World Happiness Report. This is the result of an array of factors, one of which is the nature of Indian cities themselves. One of India’s fastest-growing cities, Bengaluru, is known for its thriving IT sector, which frequently comes at the expense of the mental health of its citizens. Using Bengaluru as a model, the study investigates how nature could potentially be employed as a therapeutic element in the Indian environment. The proposal in this landscape architecture thesis is built around the concept of landscape design, utilising the lakes and gardens of Bengaluru’s city centre and their inherent potential.
Bangalore, officially Bengaluru, is the capital and largest city of Karnataka, India. With a population of over 8 million and a metropolitan population of over 11 million, it is the third most populous city in India and the fifth most populated urban agglomeration in the world. It is also the largest city in South India. The city is known as the “Silicon Valley of India” and is the largest IT powerhouse on the continent. Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), International Tech Park, Bengaluru (ITPB), and Electronic City are the three main clusters that comprise Bengaluru’s IT industry.
Site Analysis: Electronic city has been chosen as a site for the microscale intervention for the purpose of this landscape architecture thesis.
The evaluation of the Electronic City’s site was divided into four sections—Blue Infrastructure, which examined the area’s lakes and canals for quality; Green Infrastructure, which highlighted the presence of protected forests and agricultural fields in the surrounding area; Land Use and Socio-Cultural, which studied the presence of diverse built infrastructure typologies in the study area; and Transport Network, which demonstrated the linkages of the study area with other significant areas of Bengaluru.
Human – Nature Relationship: Biophilia hypothesis
Biophilia is “a hypothetical human tendency to interact with or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature: a desire or tendency to commune with nature.” One’s relationship with nature—specifically, how much they take note of, reflect upon, and value their natural surroundings—is essential for promoting positive mental health and averting distress.
Restoration and Restorative Cities:Restorative urbanism is a new concept that places mental health, wellness, and quality of life at the forefront of city planning and urban design. It builds on theory and empirical evidence from a body of research called restorative environments, which shows how certain places foster recovery from mental fatigue, depression, stress, and anxiety.
The research employs a particular technique and takes a transversal, multi-scale approach: In the beginning, the emphasis is on drawing a clear connection between nature and mental health and the variety of ways it can influence people.
Consequently, nature-based solutions have been seen as an important tool to build the proposal in three stages: the first stage formulates city-level strategies and policies while involving a variety of stakeholders; the second stage acts as a transition between the city and the neighbourhood level; and the third stage concentrates on building a prototype in a specific neighbourhood that can be applied to other contexts across the city or region.
This landscape architecture thesis attempts to develop a framework that enables the integration of green-blue infrastructure surrounding people’s workspaces and residences.
Strategies were planned at various dimensions and phases based on the outcomes of the spatial analysis and the responses from the public. The thesis looks at the solutions at three scales: macroscale, mesoscale, and microscale.
At the macro scale, the approaches were concentrated on locating the current landscape corridors surrounding the city’s southeast axis and creating connections to them through ecological corridors. For implementation, a number of nature-based ideas for green areas, blue areas, streets, and buildings were shortlisted. The Electronic City IT cluster was the area of attention at the meso and micro scales.
On a meso scale, it was discovered that the area’s two main landscape ecosystems were farms and forests; therefore, plans were made to direct these landscapes into the city centre. The strategies proposed at this scale were formulated as a continuation to the ones proposed in the macro stage. The area is surrounded by two major green infrastructure typologies: forest and farms. Therefore, the vision revolved around extending the forest and farm connections to the centre of the area.
The forest axis continues into the site in the form of urban forests and wetlands, while the farm axis continues in the form of urban farms, orchards and meadows. The spaces like recreational grounds, parks, private green areas and finally the linear boulevards act as transition spaces between both the axes. Parallely, the blue connections in the form of lakes and canal extensions aid in the creation of a holistic green-blue infrastructure plan of the study area.
At the micro scale, the strategies were focused on the site level to develop a prototype that could be replicated across the city. The site chosen for micro scale design interventions falls in the core of the IT Industrial Estate of Electronic City. The site was selected as its location in the heart of an office building environment creates a platform for the implementation of strategies to counter workplace related stress. The site also falls on the axis of proposed green-blue infrastructure connections in the macro and meso scales of the research, thereby providing a platform for creating a prototype which could be replicated across various similar sites in the city.
As explained in the vision, the plan consists of 3 zones: Horticulture Zone:
Horticulture zone to allow people to engage in activities like urban farming in their allotments, fruit collection and participating in animal based therapy. The horticulture zone falls on the southern part of the site, which is a continuation of the farming axis as envisioned in the meso scale plan. The horticulture zone consists of a small orchard which provides people with activities like fruit picking and collection, allotments for urban farming and vegetable cultivation. There are also green houses in the area which house different botanical species along with a small market for the sale and purchase of the same.
On the extreme left of the horticulture zone, there is an animal care centre which serves as a point of interaction between humans and animals. While the space provides a therapeutic platform for human nature interaction, it also creates opportunities for social interaction between people having pets. Therefore, this area serves as a transition space between the Horticultural Zone and the Social Zone
Social zone was created keeping in mind the influx of people from office buildings and commercial centres around.
The zone has been divided into two parts through the central water body. On one side, there are spaces promoting playfulness and physical activity like the green gym and the play area. while on the other side, the spaces are dedicated to social interaction and liveliness like the Central Plaza and the food stall surrounding it.
The Social Zone gradually meets the Serene Zone through meadows, which provide people with an opportunity to spend time in nature without engaging in a specific activity, but overlooking all the natural elements and activities happening around them
Serene zone focused on calmness and tranquillity which allows people to feel directly connected to nature, away from built infrastructure.
The Serene Zone focuses on a spiritual connection between humans and nature. The space deals with sensorial elements like smell, sound and vision, encouraging humans to spend a peaceful time amidst the elements of nature, which has been proven to be a de-stressor.
This zone consists of a flower garden, individual pods, nestled between vegetation, to provide a sense of privacy and detachment and a water cascade. The landscape species in this zone have been carefully picked in order to activate the aforementioned senses. Alongside the spaces, there is a continuous corridor of dense vegetation towards the highway which shields the area from possible noise disturbance as well as creates a forest like trail in the middle of a concrete jungle.
In India, where mental health problems are on the rise, they continue to have a negative impact on people’s quality of life. This landscape architecture thesis envisions a bright future for Bengaluru and all Indian cities in harmony with nature to make the nation of India a better place to live and seeks to be a tiny step in the larger objective of strengthening mental health immunity.
[This Academic Project has been published with text submitted by the student]
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