EXPERIMENTING WITH CONDITIONS - garden project Artis Zoo

 

About 60 percent of Dutch flora and fauna is present in urban or semi-urban areas. Yet still Dutch policy on nature is based on the controversy of the city versus nature, which divides them into two separate worlds.


The maps above show the Nature values map of Amsterdam. Although it shows a gradient of nature values it is still based on the assumption of red versus green. The distribution of Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) [right map, red dots] shows no correlation with the nature values map. This strengthens the idea of a new approach, not just to focus on ‘the green’ in the city but to regard the city as a whole.

 

The (un)conditional garden Urban biodiversity in Artis

In Artis, the Amsterdam zoo, nature conservation has been founded in 1905 with the establishment of Natuurmonumenten. More than hundred years later it’s time to take a new step in nature conservation. The changed relation between man and its surroundings demands for a new -or extended- vision on nature.

The main shift in this plan, compared to the traditional nature idea, is the disentanglement of ecological value and its common landscape images. Surely for plants and animals it does not matter how the ecosystem exactly looks like, as long as the system answers their basic necessities. For instance, the common tern (Sterna hirundo) likes the vast pebbled rooftops of an industrial area just as much as the pebble beaches in the coastal areas.

The design for The (un)conditional garden searches for a new form to reveal the ecological wealth of the urban environment. On the existing car park of the Artis zoo, a new parking garage will be built. The roof will be the basis for the eventual design. The garden will be part of the urban ecological system and opposed to the other animals in Artis the inhabitants of the garden are free to migrate in and out of the zoo. For the visitor the garden is an extension of the zoo and adds up to the Museum of Biodiversity Artis is developing right now.

Parallel to the design work an experiment has been executed. On an urban wasteland, basic soil conditions have been altered to monitor their ecological and visual potentials.  After all, conditions are just a tool to compose an urban natural landscape. Within a year the different plots showed characteristic differences, not so much in species, but especially in image.

The findings have influenced the design process and have resulted in a design that reflects and exhibits the richness of urban ecology. A grid resulting from the architecture of the parking garage creates a landscape of containers in which a variety of conditions results in a wide range of niches (both outside and inside the garage). The grid does not just express the urban design aspect but also refers to the scientific monitoring standards in field biology.

A diverting walkway will lead the visitor through the different areas of the garden. Sometimes the walkway is elevated (even inside, high above the parked cars to approach the resting areas of the different bat species), sometimes incised in the containers bringing the eye of the visitor to the level of plants and insects.
The result is an educational garden reserve that acknowledges the city as a valuable ecological landscape and is an expression of a nature optimism.