Designing with Nature and Not against It: Translation of the Spanish Interview with Linda S. Velazquez in El País

September 29, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Diseñando con la naturaleza y no contra ella: Entrevista a la arquitecta paisajista Linda S. Velazquez sobre la necesidad de una arquitectura verde en las ciudades

Spanish interview with Isabel de Felipe in Berlin, originally published by El País on July 17, 2017

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Designing with nature and not against it:

Translation of the Spanish Interview with Linda S. Velazquez in El País on the need for green architecture in cities

Under the header of “Urban Beings” in the “Green Cities” section, here’s my translationOf course, they edited quite a bit and didn’t include all of my answers, but so be it.

NOTE: El País didn’t use any of the photos or graphics I sent, and in fact put one in of an interior courtyard landscape above – is it a greenroof?  I don’t know.  All of the photos below are my own placement!

Q & A Translation by Linda Velazquez

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Here in Alpharetta, GA at Rock Mill Park where I designed the Greenroof Pavilion & Trial Gardens.

Linda S. Velazquez is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), GRP, LEED AP. She is also the founder and publisher of Greenroofs.com (1999) and design consultant at her company Sky Gardens Design (2004). Linda studied landscape architecture at the University of Georgia (2000).

Linda writes and reports extensively about greenroofs and living architecture and has presented across the globe. Linda’s role as Greenroofs.com publisher affords many opportunities to promote the industry.  She has collaborated on numerous books including Green Cities in the World, Vertical Garden City: Singapore, and The Rise of Living Architecture, in addition to journals, magazines and online media.

Q: From your experience as a pioneer in the analysis and dissemination of urban green infrastructure, how do you perceive its evolution in the last few years?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

SOLARIS, Fusionopolis (Phase 2B), One North Singapore schematic by T. R. Hamzah & Yeang Sdn. Bhd., courtesy of Ken Yeang.

A. In my opinion, I believe our green architecture industry and market continues to grow each year because of the increasing general public interest and acknowledgement of important projects along with their associated multiple benefits – both public and private. We must also recognize the accomplishments of innovative leaders within the industry and design fields, businesses, and government at all levels who have promoted the idea and its progression further.

In the last 20 years we have seen dynamic and avant-garde designs that have drawn great attention to promote the greening of the planet with the integration of green: bioclimatic, biodiversity, biomimicry and sustainability.  Of course, construction follows financial cycles and we had a few years with fewer projects completed, but many people around the world are interested in green technologies, whether renewable energy or low impact development including green infrastructure like greenroofs and walls, and much more.

Q: Who or what are the most dynamic elements?  Architects, designers, entrepreneurs, institutions, NGOs …?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Vancouver Public Library, B.C., 1995. Currently under renovation, its new greenroof garden will be at grade with the existing maples. The top 2 floors will have a reading room, community event space, theater & public garden. Photo: American Hydrotech.

A: I think it has been a combination of experts, visionaries, and multidisciplinary professionals who have spread greenroof technology, at least here in North America.  As for early completed projects, I would have to credit collaboration between architects like Moshe Safdie and landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander with the government of Vancouver, B.C. in Canada with its spectacular Public Library (1995, currently under a major renovation to create an accessible public roof garden space).  Another innovative architect is William McDonough who worked with entrepreneurs such as the GAP in San Bruno, California (1997); the City of Chicago with its City Hall (2001), perhaps the most famous greenroof in the U.S.; and the Ford Motor Company with its River Rouge Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan (2003), which had the distinction of being the largest greenroof in the world for a few years, with 454,000 square feet.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Chicago City Hall, designed by McDonough + Partners and a multitude of multi-disciplinary professionals. Photo courtesy of Charlie Miller and Roofmeadow.

In the United States in 1997/98 the pioneers who helped me tremendously were civil engineer Charlie Miller of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; landscape architect Tom Liptan of Portland, Oregon; and the German environmental engineer Katrin Scholz-Barth who lived at that time in Minnesota.  Also, ASLA began writing on the subject during that time frame and, with thanks, I began to discover and research further, culminating in Greenroofs.com in 1999.

Q. In your presentation at the WGIC Berlin 2017 Congress, you identified the 10 most recent trends in greenroofs and walls. What are the underlying market drivers?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

A. Each trend in greenroofs and walls has several underlying factors depending on the location of the project: variables such as the needs and desires of the public and governments or the client / owner, what type of buildings are popular or necessary, different uses of a structure, aesthetic tendencies, the weather, the available products or materials, etc.

With Greenroofs.com’s annual compilation of the most popular trends, the “Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design” (since 2007), we try to highlight cutting-edge structures and designers who are outstanding, inspiring, and magnificent – underlined by the exceptional green vegetation covering the building.

Q. What effects can green infrastructure have on the population?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh: 1st & only building to meet 4 of the highest green certifications: • Living Building Challenge, world’s most rigorous green building standard • LEED® Platinum — tied for highest points awarded under version 2.2 • 1st & only Four Stars Sustainable SITES Initiative™ for landscapes project (pilot) • 1st & only WELL Building Platinum project (pilot). Photo: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

A. Instead of using “gray” infrastructure such as concrete, asphalt, or hiding rainwater in underground pipes, detention ponds, etc., designing with nature instead of against it – using vegetation and natural ecosystem services – offers a multitude of beneficial opportunities and associated effects to improve a city or locale. The integration of nature into the urban fabric produces a wide spectrum of environmental benefits for the flora, fauna and human communities of our planet.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Santalaia in Bogotá, Colombia. Photo by Groncol.

Green infrastructure’s greatest potential lies in the ability to cover impermeable surfaces with permeable plant material. Using plants with engineering systems for stormwater management results in cleaner, fresher water and at the same time reduces the volume intensity that eventually falls on the streets. This immensely ameliorates a city, which is mostly impermeable, during heavy storms, when there may be overflows of the sewer system. Green infrastructure also reduces the urban heat island effect, which can dramatically increase temperatures due to lack of trees, plants, and green areas in cities, affecting the health of many people.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Berry Architecture Office Building Green Roof, Red Deer, Canada. Bumblebee feeding on Gaillardia sp. overlooking downtown, September 2014. Photo by Cynthia Pohl.

We can re-introduce native or sometimes even endangered plants by planting roofs and walls and green facades. At the same time, this attracts wildlife back to our cities like bees, butterflies and birds. We all know that seeing and being in nature is beneficial to human beings because of biophilia, the innate attraction in our biology to connect with nature. For example, nature helps us psychologically, improves the recovery of patients, and we rejoice within its natural and open spaces.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Mashambas Skyscraper, a mobile educational center for Swahili, Africa: eVolo 2017 Skyscraper Competition Winner by Pawel Lipinski and Mateusz Frankowski.

The creation of green spaces in a city is extremely important but sometimes there is no where to build a park or vegetable garden. Why not put it on top of a public building? And we must not forget that sometimes the green infrastructure costs much less than the gray infrastructure because we are using natural systems. If the cost of building a greenroof, for example, is more expensive at the outset, it has to be understood that life-cycle costs will reduce the final cost because of lower replacement costs because it will last double, triple, or perhaps even longer. Also, the use and energy costs of the building will decrease while at the same time a fifth facade has been created for the building – a new roof or wall space previously not utilized for the use of the owner or the public.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

J.R.R. Tolkien’s vision of the idyllic Middle-Earth village home in The Shire.  Frodo’s Home, Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata, New Zealand, October, 2014. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

The World’s 1st & largest Double LEED Platinum Museum: California Academy of Sciences (CAS) Living Roof in San Francisco. Photo by Tom Fox, courtesy of SWA Group.

Finally, using a variety of low impact development techniques can reconnect people with nature. When all the environmental, aesthetic, emotional, and economic benefits are added, we can see that green infrastructure offers sustainability benefits to many. Implemented on a local or intermediate scale, green or biophilic architecture can improve the health and well-being of a community, country, and our planet Earth.

Q: With your international vision, what are the most dynamic cities in the implementation of green infrastructure and what are their drivers?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Potsdamer Platz in Berlin – a glowing example of green infrastructure! Photo by Linda S. Velazquez, June 2017.

A: It is impossible to talk about the most dynamic cities and not start with Germany in general, since many cities like Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, and others have been leaders for the last 50 years. At least 48 German cities provide financial support for greenroofs. Around 35% have integrated greenroofs as part of their regulation, establishing around 86 million m2 of greenroofs which represent 14% of the total roof area of Germany. And they have established professional associations and organizations for the study of materials and best practices, such as the FLL (Forschungsgesellschaft Landschaftsentwicklung e.V.), FBB (Fachvereinigung Bauwerksbegrünung e.V.), and DDV (Deutscher Dachgartner-Verband), to name a few.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Oasis d’ Aboukir in Paris full bloom, one year after the plant installation, early April 2014. Photo courtesy of Patrick Blanc.

There are other numerous cities in the world that stand out with integrated green construction including Chicago, Basel, Portland, Toronto, New York, Linz, London, Paris, Mexico City, Shanghai, Washington, DC and the area, Milwaukee, Bogotá, and lately Madrid and Barcelona. American states like California and Pennsylvania have also done many projects. My favorite leader is Singapore, an island nation that currently has more than 720,000 m2 of greenroofs and over 50,000 m2 of green walls with plans for 2 million square meters of skyrise vegetation by 2030.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, by Grant Associates, Wilkinson Eyre Architects plus many more. Photo by Grant Associates.

Q: Could you provide some advice on measures we can take to improve urban dwelling?

A: We need to find or identify local leaders to talk about the topic of greenroofing and other greening opportunities and how to implement policies and strategies to encourage project stakeholders to build with green infrastructure. We still need to inform the public and various governments of the benefits so they understand the importance of protecting the natural environment and improving our construction practices using green infrastructure. As designers and other project principals we need to inform our customers why and how to do achieve this. And, we have to find ways to lower the prices of greenroofs and walls, either through industry or with the support of governmental incentives, tax exemptions, subsidies, etc. Green infrastructure should be considered first, whenever possible, within our built environment.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

1. Munich development: Connected to large park. 2. Community garden allows people to grow flowers & vegetables. 3. Most roofs covered with greenroofs, most buildings have greened balconies. 4. Open space for socializing, typically above underground parking garages. 5. Solar Garden Roofs combine to max-out environmental benefits. 6. Houses are entirely covered with PVs. Photo courtesy of Green Roof Service.

Q: The well-being of city dwellers requires action in different fields. Could you give us your opinion on the importance of biodiversity, food security, a healthy environment, water management, energy savings, and creation of green spaces and recreation?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall by Emilio Ambasz & Associates, a perfect integration of green over gray.

A: My academic background is landscape architecture. We recognize that our Earth is limited in its natural resources, and we have to protect all of us: animals, plants, and humans. We are as one, living and sharing an ecology that is this planet. We must bestow the heritage of a healthy and sustainable land to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The Earth is not ours to plunder, but our planet to sustain and protect for generations to come! With all my being, I believe that, in part, this is possible with architecture and design that is ecological and sustainable. Urban greening diminishes the effects of the built environment and promotes a strong and beautiful green infrastructure, flourishing and healthy.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

NAUTILUS ECO-RESORT Biophilic Learning Center: Zero-Emission, Zero-Waste, Zero-Poverty by Vincent Callebaut Architectures, Palawan 2017, Republic of the Philippines.

Author Isabel de Felipe

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

I’m honored to have been interviewed in Spain’s #1 newspaper, El País, by Isabel de Felipe, PhD and thank her for the opportunity!

Isabel is Professor Ad Honorem Polytechnic University of Madrid, on the Board of Directors for the Center for Innovation in Technology for Human Development, and has published numerous articles and books on urban greening and agriculture for development. Most importantly, she is a dear colleague of PRONATUR and WGIN.

Isabel and her husband Dr. Julian Briz participated in our second Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2013 in the Spanish-language Panel “La Agricultura Urbana en Iberoamérica y España” – “Urban Agriculture in Iberia-America and Spain” along with Dr. José María Durán-Altisent, Tanya Müller García (Moderator), Dr. Gilberto Navas, and Joaquin Sicilia Carnicer – watch it on our 2013 Virtual Summit playlist.

If you’re a Spanish speaker, you can read Diseñando con la naturaleza y no contra ella yourself at in El País.

Contact Isabel at isabel.defelipe@upm.es.

“Green Cities in the World” Book Available Now

May 8, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Green Cities in the World Book Available Now

Green Cities in the World

Although the newly published Green Cities in the World book will officially be launched at the World Green Infrastructure Congress (WGIC) 2014 in Sydney, Australia on October 7-10, 2014, it is now available for purchase in paper book and PDF.

Available Now

Edited by Julián Briz, Manfred Köhler, and Isabel de Felipe of WGIN – the World Green Infrastructure Network, Green Cities in the World is a compilation comprising 23 authors, including myself.

Green Cities in the World Book Available Now

The World Expo Zaragoza, Spain. Source: Greenroofs.com; Photo Courtesy: ZinCo

“The book Green Cities in the World is the result of a convergence of interest from individuals and public and private institutions looking to provide the urban society with a reference publication of a diversity of main topics and opinions from the green urban market. It has been edited by WGIN and PRONATUR.

The mix of academics, practitioners, entrepreneurs, and professionals in this publication leads to fruitful interactions and provides new insights into green urban development of the world. The publication has 16 chapters and 25 national stories, from 23 authors and 241 photos.

The book is structured in four scenarios: Economy, Sociology and Policy; Environment; Architecture and Technical; and National Stories.” ~ Green Cities in the World Editors

Green Cities in the World Book Available Now

Cook+Fox Architects’ 8th floor penthouse in Manhattan. Source: Greenroofs.com. Photo Courtesy of Green Roof Blocks.

World Green Infrastructure Network Project

The first book project by WGIN, the huge effort was spearheaded by Professor em. Polytechnic University of Madrid Julián Briz, and Associate Professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid Isabel de Felipe.  Both are board and founding members of WGIN from PRONATUR – Sociedad Española para la Naturación Urbana (Spanish Society for Urban Greening).

The 358-page book has a very interesting mix of contributors including non-WGIN members green architect Emilio Ambasz, Singapore’s Dr. Puay Yok Tan (with Ho Wan Weng), Michigan State’s Dr. Brad Rowe, PhD. candidate Kelly Ksiazek, and myself.

Multiple Contributors

Green Cities in the World Book Available Now

The Golisano Institute for Sustainability. Source: Greenroofs.com. Photo Courtesy of Green Living Technologies International (GLTi).

In addition to chapters from Julián Briz (with Jose M. Duran and Kerstein Röhrich), WGIN  President Manfred Köhler, and Isabel de Felipe (with Teresa Briz), WGIN authors include founding board members Steven Peck of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, Matthew Dillon of Green Roofs Australasia, Brazil’s João Manuel Linck Feijó (with Renan Eschiletti Machado Guimarães and Luis Alberto Suárez Correa) and Japan’s Hajime Kozhimizu.  Additional WGIN member authors include Ho Wan Weng (with Dr. Puay Yok Tan), Colombia’s R. Andres Ibáñez Gutierréz, Poland’s Ewa Piatek-Kozuchowska (with Dr. Jan Lukaszkiewicz), Hong Kong’s C. Y. Jim, and Denmark’s Dorthe Rømø (and WGIN Green Ambassador).

Green Cities in the World is a thoughtful and important, heartfelt combined effort from dedicated professionals across many disciplines on many facets of international green building, urban greening and in particular, of course, the living architecture of greenroofs and greenwalls.   The spread and depth of topics and perspectives are unique and truly enlightening, full of keen observations, detailed research, project applications, and further reading.

Awesome Photos

Brimming with spectacular color photos from around the world (many which I supplied from Greenroofs.com’s various esteemed colleagues and advertisers – thank you!), they beautifully illustrate key points and projects.

Green Cities in the World Book Available Now

A pioneer in rooftop agriculture, Brooklyn Grange is a 40,000 square foot commercial farm located above a six-story building in the dense urban environment of Queens, New York. Photo © Andy Kropa.

Linda Velazquez’s Contribution

I wrote about a subject near and dear to Greenroofs.com‘s heart: Green Cities in the World Chapter 5 – Greenroofs & Greenwalls in the New Millennium: The Influence of the Age of Technology through Online and Social Media. An except is included below:

“The rise in popularity of vegetated roofs and walls is no doubt due in part to advances in information technology and the rise of multi-media exposure.  Beyond the traditional print, radio and even television venues, the power to reach, inform, and influence the masses at all levels of age and socio-political-geographical backgrounds from around the world has never been greater with the advent of the Internet.  According to Internet World Stats, by December 31, 2000, the Internet had 360,985,492 users worldwide and by June 30, 2012 the amount had exploded to 2,405,518,376 users. With Asia leading the way with 1,076,681,059 users, followed by Europe (518,512,109), North America (273,785,413), Latin America / Caribbean (254,915,745), Africa (167,335,676), the Middle East (90,000,455), and Oceania / Australia with 24,287,919, this figure represents a 566.4% growth rate (Internet World Stats, 2013).

Ecommerce, entertainment, the rapid diffusion of news and events, along with Email, instant messaging, social networking, texting, video calling over Wi-Fi and Skyping, is not only possible, but expected at the touch of a keyboard or mobile devices.  Our views of culture, social relationships, and how we interact in the world of e-business have forever changed through electronic media and smart devices.  The Internet has altered the way we do business forever – surfing the net has become a way of life around the world. ” ~ Linda Velazquez in Green Cities in the World

Order Online

As in many first-print editions, the paper copy of Green Cities in the World has some typos and photo caption errors.  All of the ones I caught were amended in the PDF version and will appear in the second printing of the book, too.

Green Cities in the World Book Available Now

2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village. Source: Greenroofs.com; Photo Courtesy of Vitaroofs International Inc.

The paper copy cost is 40 € Euros plus shipping and handling costs, and the digital copy is 25 € Euros.  Order directly online here or from:

Editorial Agrícola Española

Email questions to:

Libros@editorialagricola.com or administracion@editorialagricola.com

Hopefully you’ll order a copy of this fine book, and we’ll see you in Sydney this October with many, if not all, of the authors for the official Green Cities in the World book launch!

Green Cities in the World Book Available Now

Follow @greenroofsaus on Twitter.

Happy reading,

~ Linda V.

Reflections of Fall 2010 Greenroof Conferences: Mexico City, Part 1

December 31, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Late Fall 2010 was quite a whirlwind of international conferences for us, and I’m just a little late blogging about our wonderful experiences!   With the Winter Solstice and Christmas just behind us, and the New Year looming ever near, it’s still better late than never!

During the past three months I’ve presented the Greenroofs.com  “2010 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design” in Mexico City, Singapore, and most recently Vancouver, B.C.   To get the ball rolling, I’ll  start with our October outing with detailed coverage of the awesome tours coming in February:

Mexico City

We had the pleasure of attending the WGIN Mexico City World Green Roof Congress  – El Congreso Mundial de Azoteas Verdes México 2010 – in Mexico’s hustling and busting capital  on October 7-9.   Mexico City is the longest continuously-inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere and sits atop the lake basin where the Mexica Indians founded their empire in 1325 and were defeated by the Spanish under Hernan Cortes two centuries later.   The city lies in an immense, volcano-dotted valley, encompassing a population approaching 23 million.

According to our taxi diver, the road we  travelled in and out from the Mexico City International Airport is the 700-year old “La Calzada de Guadalupe”  which was a means to cross the river underneath.   It was then called  Typac which meant sanctuary  in Aztec.

The first time this event (and any other major living architecture event for that matter) was held in a Latin American city, the WGIN Mexico City Congress was hosted by the Mexican Association for Green Roofing –  AMENA  by its acronym in Spanish – together with the Government of Mexico City.   And as  you may know, Tanya Müller Garcia is the president of AMENA (and Vice President of the World Green Infrastructure Network – WGIN), and the main person responsible for this highly successful conference!   Aramis and I were extremely impressed at many facets.

First of all, I believe many people have a wrong impression of Mexico City – in fact we had a few people early on commenting that  they thought it would be unsafe (of course, you have be situationally aware of your surroundings everywhere, regardless).   We found quite the opposite to be true, plus we were pleasantly surprised that although it’s the largest city in the Americas and the world’s third largest metropolitan area by population, after Seoul and Tokyo, the  areas of Mexico City we visited were very clean with lots of greenery, including many public parks, large and small.

 

In fact, we had the beautiful public municipal Alameda Park, a green garden with paved paths and decorative fountains and statues,  just across the street from our hotel.   And everywhere we went, people were extremely  friendly and accommodating, too.

 

As far as the Congress went, Tanya Müller and company is to be commended on the high quality of planning and execution – the location and layout  was spectacular – all it took was one elevator ride in our five-star Hilton Hotel Mexico City Reforma  (with its own rooftop gardens) to get to  the  Session Halls and the Exhibitor Trade Show area.

And they had a huge turnout, young and old  alike with many students  – there were over 750 people in attendance – not bad for the first of its kind in a “new” market!   Of course, greenroofs and greenwalls aren’t new to Latin America, they’ve been developing along with the rest of North America.   In fact, our Top 10 List of Hot Trends for 2010 has “The Greening of Latin America” in the #5 position!  

The Conference had an incredibly lovely Opening Cocktail  Reception  on  the intensive greenroof rooftop garden at the Antiguo Palacio de Ayuntamiento in the Plaza de la Constitución, a beautiful colonial-era Town Hall in the zocalo, or main plaza, located in the historic center where we were greeted by  the  “Grupo Huehuel Tlahtolli Centro de tradición antigua Teotihuacán” – the native group  Huehuel Tlahtolli  of the  Teotihuacán, dressed in full regalia.

Their eloquent spokesperson addressed the ubiquitous developmental practices so common in large urban centers and how we as community members of our planet must come together to further develop sustainable building practices.   He commended the government of Mexico City and AMENA for promoting green infrastructure such as greenroofs and walls, and we then enjoyed a variety of traditional ceremonial  dances and music under a cool, breezy, and starry night.   Mexico City officials spoke about their commitment to greening the city and their “Plan Verde” or Green Plan for its citizens, and then everyone relaxed and mingled in  the party atmosphere.   It was also very nice seeing Tanya’s mom again (we met her last year in Toronto) and meeting her lovely sister, too, seen  below with Manfred Köhler,  President of WGIN, and friend.

The next morning’s Opening Plenary was packed beyond measure as the Mexico City Mayor, Lic. Marcelo Ebrard, welcomed us all to his city.   He is quite a visionary leader speaking to  his commitment of improving our communities, and how we need a healthy relationship with the environment to guarantee sustainability for the next decades.   How do we do this?   By reducing our CO2 emissions and oil dependency, increasing  recycling and related activities and by greening our cities.   Other dignitaries along with WGIN delegates from around the world spoke as well and there were tons of television and newspaper reporters and cameras flashing – very high profile coverage!  

We had a very large selection of wonderful speakers with a decidedly Latin focus – although  our non-Spanish speaking colleagues  had no problem with the language since the sessions were held in both English and Spanish, with simultaneous translations (the glossy programs were in both languages as well).

 

The Congress  had two tracks (Aramis went to one, I the other), which made it easier to choose, yet it was still hard as it was fascinating to hear about all these buildings being integrated with greenery throughout the Caribbean and  Central and South America.  And there were so many awesome presentations!    There were tons of people to assist your every need, and it was very easy to be a speaker and moderator:

The main Latin America themes focused on the need for continued research and monitoring, information sharing, and overall collaborative efforts to further informing the public and increasing awareness of greenroofs and greenwalls.   It was great that there were speakers from the majority of all the Latin American countries –  and each shared their successes and struggles with stories of design, trial and error, and in some cases, community involvement.

Just a  few of  our favorite presentations included:  “A Green Habitat for the City of Mexicali” by Javier Sonsosian Aguilar (architect) which showed a variety of stunning colorful and sinuous  greenroofed structures, many resembling the earth sheltered organic designs of Swiss architect Peter Vetch and undulating forms of Catalonia architect Antoní Gaudí, with a variety of cool features like periscopes, earth tubes and wind turbines; “Roof Gardens Over Steel” by Claudia Harari (founder and director of Harari Landscape Architecture) which was a fascinating case study of collaboration and the  trials and tribulations of greening over the irregular geometric shape of the  sharp steel roof of the Museo de Acero Horno 3 (Steel Museum Oven 3) in Monterrey, Mexico; “New Green Strategies – From Outdoor to Indoor” by Andreas Schmidt (founder of indoorlandscaping) – see photo above – which talked about the need, and continued popularity, of interior greenwalls (also being done a lot in Chile by Ignacio Espoz of Latin Green) and other interior plantscapes; and “Sustainable Buildings, LEED Certification and Green Roofs: A Natural Venture” by Cesar Ulises Treviño, President of  the Green Building Council Mexico  which informed us of the current situation here.

Here’s a couple of other slides:

 

Not all the presentations were connected to Latin America, however.   We also had informative international  updates about research, greening policies, and technical experiences from: Joaquín Sicilia from Sicilia y Asociados Arquitectura and Julián Briz from the Universidád Politécnica de Madrid and Isabel de Felipe from the Ciudad Universitaria in Madrid of Spain; Andrew Clements from Green Roofs Greece of Greece; Matthew Dillon from Green Roofs Australia of Australia;  Suresh Kumar Billore from Vikram University of India; Josh Wells (who was a last minute stand in for Clayton Rugh, who couldn’t make the trip) of Xero Flor America of the U.S.; Sachiko Kikuchi from Meiji University of Japan, François Lassalle from ADIVET “Association des Toitures Vegetales of France”; Steven Peck of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities of Canada; and a very large contingency from Germany including the aforementioned  Andreas Schmidt, Manfred Köhler, President of  WGIN and Vice Dean of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Applied Sciences Neubrandedburg,  Olga Gorbachevskaya, Hendrikje Schreiter, and Susanne Herfort, all from the Institute for Agricultural and Urban Ecological Projects associated with Humboldt University, Eckart Kramer from the School of Sustainable Development Eberswalde (FH), and Angelika Kurz, architect.

One extremely cool thing was that AMENA had set up live streaming of one of the presentation tracks with a company called COMUNICASION, for all the world to see!   And COMUNICASION produced several videos of the event (in Spanish), which you can see below.   Tanya is interviewed and you can see the Opening Plenary and dignitaries, including the Mayor of Mexico City, here:

Adjacent to the session rooms, the Exhibit Hall had numerous new and interesting companies showcasing their products – plants, complete greenroof systems,  individual components, professional services, and there were quite a few modular offerings as well.

 

 …  along with North American favorites like Xero Flor America (Josh Wells in the center) and rooflite  (Peter Philippi was in there somewhere!), too:

The Congress offered well appointed snacks, beverages and generous (and delicious) lunches, too – just one of the ways to network among our peers.   We were very pleased to reconnect with several people from last year’s CitiesAlive Conference in Toronto, including the wonderful Spanish couple Julián Briz and Isabel de Felipe, seen below,  and Ignacio Espoz of Santiago, Chile.  

We made several new friends as well, including the fantastic Spanish architect Joaquín Sicilia, bubbly Chilean architect and Vice-President of the Botanic Society of Chile, Vicky Rojas, Colombian architect Andrés Ibáñez Gutiérrez (below with Aramis)  and super-friendly Mexican greenroofers Roberto Huber Romo and Oswaldo Zurita (they do greenwalls, too!).

Remember I said people were friendly?   The consierge recommend a fantastic new restaurant a couple of blocks away on the second day – Spuntino, Alameda, owned by a wonderful Argentine-born U.S. citizen named  Moises Drijanski.   The food, wine selection, and atmosphere was utterly fantastic!   This is their third restaurant, and they’re known for an ecclectic mix of offerings, but in particular for their mixed grill and a variety of steaks from Argentina and the U.S., and pizzas!   If you’re in the area, you must visit them at Desarollo Puerta Alameda, Independencia esq. (corner of) Luis Moya, Mexico City (5518-1107).

The closing cocktail had an Indian flair with a variety of local cuisine and music to inspire us to attend the 2011 WGIN World Green Roof Congress  in Indore City, India on October 31 – November 2, where the focus will be on “Green Technology for Green Roof, Green Home and Rain Harvesting to Combat for a Sustainable Future.”   Professor Suresh Billore from WGIN India, below right, invites all of us to join in the education, networking and fun next year!

From a social standpoint, we saw lots of old friends and colleagues and mingled at several opportunities, and the tours were very well planned with a huge  comfortable bus  – the large selection of greenroofs and walls were very varied and extremely fascinating!   And each site  tour guide had intimate,  in-depth knowledge about each project, which made  each experience even more exceptional.   It’s great to see first hand examples of Mexico City’s greening efforts from municipal, corporate, and grass-roots  leaders.

The WGIN Mexico City World Green Roof Congress was a resounding success and important for many reasons.   Our industry continues to grow, even flourish, in this economy and we must continue to push for more government and private support.   Mexico City is a leader with both, and it’s clear that many other Latin American nations are following suit.   Brazil and Mexico have the highest greenroof and greenwall numbers, but Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Colombia are quickly following suit, with most other Latin American countries involved as well.   AMENA and WGIN made great headway  by offering continuing support to these national members and I think we can expect to see great continued work and success coming from many of these members!

One of the world’s great cosmopolitan capitals, Mexico City offers visitors so many wonderful opportunities for sightseeing, shopping, dining, business, and now, greening!   Unfortunately, we didn’t stay long enough to travel much except for the fun, day long  bus tour, which I’ll talk about later.

I have to say that the two  WGIN  (World Green Infrastructure Network) World Green Roof Congresses that we’ve attended, both last year’s CitiesAlive! in Toronto (read my CitiesAlive! “˜09 Day Tour & Evening Fiesta and  The Inaugural CitiesAlive! – Seeds of Success  posts for more info, as well as Christine’s Reflections on CitiesAlive!  from Christine Thuring) and this one, are an extremely good deal in terms of conference pricing – only $250 which includes two days of excellent speakers, lunch, snacks, the inaugural cocktail, closing cocktail, and the guided greenroof and greenwall  tour.

In conclusion, we enjoyed our visit to Mexico City immensely and wish to thank Tanya and AMENA for their wonderful the hospitality!   Make sure to visit AMENA  where you can learn all about what’s going on in Mexico, as well as see some beautiful photos of the WGIN Mexico City World Green Roof Congress – click on both Galería banners.

On a side note, on our way back home we were also impressed with the final departure lounge in Terminal 2 at the Mexico City International Airport, designed with many sustainable elements by SPACE.   Look at these cool openings in the ceiling which welcome natural daylight inside the lounge, seen above.

That’s it for now, the next post is about  The International Skyrise Greenery Conference  in gorgeous Singapore!  

I hope everyone has a fun time ringing in  in the New Year tonight  safely!   Here’s to a Happy & Green 2011!

~ Linda V.