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 (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 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 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’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

“Rooftop” by Brad Temkin Available in September and at CitiesAlive in NYC

August 20, 2015 at 8:00 am

Brad Temkin, Chicago-based photographer extraordinaire, has some exciting news to share with us:  A new large-scale book out next month on one of our favorite topics, if not our very favorite, titled Rooftop.


Knowing his beautiful body of work (as in 2012’s wonderful The Rise of Living Architecture Commemorative Edition Book), I am sure Rooftop will be both a collector’s item and a real crowd-pleaser!

“My goal is to give the work exposure to as many people as possible so they can understand what we already know too well…that our grace and ingenuity come through when we work together, and that the world is (can be) a beautiful place.  I believe sustainability and the future of humanity depends on this. ” ~ Brad Temkin

Published by Radius Books, Brad has been working on this photographic project on greenroofs since 2009. Rooftop will feature many high-profile local and international greenroofs as well as lesser-known, but equally fascinating ones as well.

“Rooftop draws poetic attention to a significant new movement which counters the heat-island effect afflicting cities across the globe. The benefit of green roofs reaches beyond reduced carbon footprint and improved storm water control. These grassy spaces embody the conflict of our existence, symbolizing the allure of nature in the face of expanding urban sprawl. Shot in locations ranging from Chicago to Zurich, Temkin’s images do more than merely document rooftop gardens. He situates his organic subjects within the steel, stone and glass angularity of urban structures, inviting viewers to revel in the open patterns and colors of these rooftop landscapes and their unobstructed connection to the sky.

Temkin’s images are interspersed with writings by authors John Rohrbach and Steven Peck, as well as architect Roger Schickedantz. These essays address such things as the aesthetics and intent of the photographs, living architecture, design, sustainability and the concept of bringing nature into an innovative urban context.” ~ Radius Books


Birds (looking east) in Dun Laoghrie Co., Dublin, Ireland; August 2009. ©Brad Temkin.

The hardcover in a clear Lucite slipcase measures 12.5″ x 11.5″ (80.6cm x 74.1cm) with two sections.  The first section is hardbound with 110 pages and 65 color images.  The second part is a 36-page perfect bound booklet insert with text by Rohrbach, Peck, and Schickedantz.  Both are housed in an acrylic shell with a retail price of only $50.00.

Brad is also offering a special edition book, limited to 45 copies, that includes a choice of three images (see here) printed as one 77.4cm x 96.7cm (12″ x 15″) image on 90.3cm x 109.6cm (14″ x 17″) archival inkjet print paper.  This will retail for $850.00 with a pre-publication price of $750.00 until September 20, 2015.


Lurie Children’s Memorial (looking southwest) in Chicago, IL; May 2012. ©Brad Temkin.

Rooftop‘s release will coincide with a traveling exhibition beginning at the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida and the exhibition will travel to institutions and galleries over the next few years as well. The Southeast Museum of Photography is also including a dozen or so large prints from each of Brad’s series from Private Places, Relics, and Topographic Tales.

A suite of three Rooftop images are currently up at the exhibit “In The Garden” at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York.  In fact, Brad will be there on Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. in the Special Exhibition Galleries to give a “Gallery Talk” on his Rooftop series.  A few other events are scheduled, including a solo show of the work at Scott Nichols Gallery in San Franciscso next month and the Sol Mednick Gallery in Philadelphia this October, as well as book signings at each.


Rock n’ Roll McDonald’s (from above, looking west) in Chicago, IL; July 2013. ©Brad Temkin.

And, as a treat for all of us, Brad will be holding an exclusive book-signing at the upcoming CitiesAlive Conference on Tuesday, October 6, from 1:00 – 2:00 pm at the Brooklyn Marriott Hotel.  Don’t miss it!


Brad shares his passion on the subject:

“My interest began because of my long time interest in documenting the human impact on the landscape and biophilic philosophy. ROOFTOP draws poetic attention to the movement of green roofs and how they reflect the conflict of existence, symbolizing the allure of nature in the face of our continued urban sprawl. These elevated landscapes represent the judicious reintroduction of nature, flourishing in a new urban setting. By securely situating the gardens within the steel, stone, and glass rectangularity of urban downtown, I ask viewers to revel in their far more open patterns, colors, and connection to the sky. In this break, I see not merely beauty and dichotomy, but the framework for positive change.” ~ Brad Temkin


Jacob Buckhardt Haus (looking east) in Basel, Switzerland; May 2014. ©Brad Temkin.

Amazon shows a release date of September 29, 2015, but it will be available by early September.  Make sure to get yours today at either Radius Books or Amazon to ensure the pre-order pricing.  Or, better yet, come to CitiesAlive in New York City this October and get a signed copy from Brad – I’m looking forward to mine!

Happy viewing,

~ Linda V.

About Brad Temkin:


Brad Temkin is a Chicago-based photographer and teaches photography at Columbia College. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington DC), the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), Akron Art Museum (Ohio), and Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago) among many others. His images have been featured in Aperture, Black & White Magazine, TIME Magazine, and European Photography.

Contact Brad at +1 847.668.2723 or SKYPE bradtemkin; and visit

Earth Hour is Upon Us!

March 25, 2011 at 11:27 am

Tomorrow at 8:30 PM, local time – anywhere and everywhere –  on Saturday, March 26th, 2011, lights will switch off around the globe for Earth Hour and people will commit to actions for our Earth  that go beyond the hour…


“Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change.  Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries/territories participating.” ~ Earth Hour

Earth Hour is organized by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF).   With almost 5 million supporters and a global network in over 100 countries/territories, it’s one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and build a future where people live in harmony with nature.

On Saturday March 27, 2010  Earth Hour had its largest  support ever.   A record 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action, and iconic  structures and landmarks from Asia to Europe and Africa to the Americas switched their lights off.     People across the world from all walks of life came together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet.

This year, the  Hungarian International Airport in Budapest will switch off an entire airstrip for Earth Hour at 8.30pm on Saturday night in a symbolic display of its commitment to go beyond the hour.   What are you doing?

For 2011 the organization is asking for us to go  “beyond the hour” and take action to make our world a better place by sharing your act with the world. has been doing this for  four years now – it’s really just a show of solidarity to reinforce our commitment to sustainability at the global level, but it surely has a deeper meaning – but do we really get it?

For me, Earth Hour is a collective beam of hope (albeit darkened!) yet  akin to  the unfurling leaves and buds that signify the eternal springtime of life.   It’s kind of  the harbringer of Earth Month, which is April (OK, I don’t know if it’s really called Earth Month, but it should be).

Because Earth Hour is observed on a Saturday every year, it’s pretty easy to “go dark” for all of one hour – in the past, Aramis and I have entertained ourselves by leaving the house, turning off all the lights  and going to see a movie – hey, they’re going to have the electricity on anyway, but we don’t have to, right?; doing various activities via candle light – grilling and sipping wine outside on the deck; playing card games; and more recently actually discussing the larger picture of the urgency to switch to sustainable means of energy for every day electricity needs and beyond (OK, with wine in hand).   And we blacken out parts of the Homepage, too.   We all know we need to take some action to curb climate change and become less dependant on Earth-depleting energy sources – this is a yearly reminder.

“Climate change is the greatest human induced crisis facing our world today.   It is totally indiscriminate of race, culture, class, nationality or religious belief.  It affects every living organism on the planet – including all of us.” ~  Archbishop Emeritus Tutu

 It’s not all doom and gloom, either  – Earth Hour has also  created some fun activities  to raise awareness at all age levels and  so the  the whole family can get involved, like creating a latern for Earth Hour  and a kids’ game where you turn out as many lights as possible as quickly as you can.

The point is to remember to become more aware of our actions and switch off your lights for Earth Hour!   Rally your friends and family and make it a night to remember.  Make one single action representing the start of your personal journey of commitment to a more sustainable Earth.   So how else can you support it?   Click below to find out:




Earth Hour is asking us to consider what else  we can do to make a difference, after the lights go back on.   Whatever you do, this is just one thing we can do to continue the dialogue.   Learn more by watching the awesome video below:

Happy Earth Hour 2011! ~ Linda and Aramis V.

The Green Roof Give Away, by Cole Roofing Co., Inc.

November 12, 2010 at 2:18 pm

By Bill Cole

Green is the new black.   And for good reason.  Our planet, its resources and wildlife are all in jeopardy.   Americans have finally taken notice and are doing something about it.
Here at Cole Roofing we believe the push to “go green” isn’t just a trend.   It’s here to stay.   And we’re committed to providing our customers with sustainable roofing solutions that help our environment one roof at a time.
Non-profit organizations are the backbone of our country, committed to worthy causes, its employees working long hours, often doing without the latest and greatest technologies so funding can be directed towards the greater good.
We think it’s time to honor area non-profits, so we’ve launched an exciting contest for one lucky non-profit to win a green roof””either a vegetated or solar integrated roof, both on the cutting-edge of sustainable roofing.   Along with the Green Roof Give Away we will have an online public vote to determine the charity most deserving and one with the most votes will be awarded a $5,000.00 donation from Cole Roofing.
Beyond honoring area non-profits, a mission of our green roof giveaway is to educate the public on today’s different green roofing solutions.   Many people are unaware of the environmentally friendly roofing options available today.   Average consumers may be confused or have misconceptions about vegetated, solar roofs and more.   We’d like to dispel myths and misinformation and give you the facts on green roofs.   After all, an educated consumer is a powerful consumer.  

On our contest site we have many educational blog posts that will provide all sorts of information.   Please don’t forget to check out the contest details and our blog posts at or at – click on the Green Roof tab for more info.   While you are there be sure to “like” us so you get updates on the contest!

The deadline of November 15th for entries is fast approaching so nominate your favorite non-profit for something truly valuable.   We can’t wait to see all the entries!

~ Bill Cole

William Robert Cole is Vice President, Cole Roofing Co., Inc. in Baltimore, MD. Contact   him at 410-242-0600 or, or visit