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A ‘green’ print for open spaces -INDIAN EXPRESS

A ‘green’ print for open spaces

Landscape design that was earlier deemed as a decorative realm is becoming popular in the city.  From using trees that give you shade to recreational gardens, it can revive unkempt areas and spaces.

Published: 22nd June 2017 09:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd June 2017 09:12 AM  |  A+A A-

By Abinaya KalyanasundaramExpress News Service

CHENNAI: There is an inexplicable feeling of peace when we walk into our home garden or a park, or even sit on the steps of a temple tank — spaces are complete when there is a flow of the natural environment into the structure. Be it natural rural-scapes or design-heavy urbanscapes, landscapes complete a building, and maintain a healthy and enabling environment in the city.  “It’s not only about creating beautiful gardens; there are also many functional benefits that come with a good landscape design. It enables creating a proper environment for the whole city,” says Ravikumar Narayan, landscape architect, Ravikumar and Associates.

Previously thought of as only a decorative element which only the affluent could afford, people have understood why landscape design is a necessity today. Trees prevent soil erosion, filter air, provide shade, and some even give you fruits and flowers; terrace and backyard gardens provide vegetables and space for exercise. And all of this is quite affordable if done right.

“Even in slums, you can see badam trees that give shade for the playground and fruits for the kids. Everyone can do landscaping to their own requirements,” says K Senthil Kumar, landscape architect, adding that rather than using exotic species, using indigenous ones will be more useful. “Palmyra is the state tree of Tamil Nadu and it has been grown for centuries, but is now vanishing. It can be used as roof rafters, for making furniture and so many things,” he explains.

Ravikumar explains why trees are the best landscape elements for homes. “It contributes a green mass, shade, soil stabilisation and needs minimal maintenance once it grows to 1.5 m, unlike flowers, shrubs or lawns that require continuous maintenance,” adds Ravikumar. There is also a rising trend towards produce-gardens — growing vegetables in terrace or backyard. There are also technologies where no soil is needed and plants can grow in water with added nutrients, called hydroponic gardens.

Apartments, college campuses, hospitals, abandoned quarries reclaimed to a park, and even crematoriums can be made so much more welcoming when the landscape is designed well. Landscape architect Arati Chari, of Genius Loci, narrates the rehabilitation project of Nageswara Rao Park in Mylapore. What used to be a space for anti-social elements until about five years ago, is now transformed into a lively hub. “Unless residents use every part of the park, parts of it become shady. So we opened up the whole thing, expanded on the trees being used into a tree square with an open air ground amphitheatre and seating as concentric stepping stones. We also included a gigantic chess board where kids can play. Such focal elements have made the place active,” she explains.

In a similar tale of space-revival through design, Ravikumar speaks of one of his projects, Moksha Griha crematorium: “Initially, it was a typical uncared-for burial ground, but after a thorough study of the cultural and social aspects, we designed the space with more trees to shade the waiting family, flowering plants and even sculptures symbolising the cycle of birth and death. It has now become a park, more than a crematorium,” he says.

But all the beautiful environmental aspects aside, a landscape design needs to be maintained well to sustain. So it is essential to also plan a maintenance budget while planning landscape design for your homes. Using hardy materials that withstand wear and tear, indigenous trees and less exotic varieties can all make it easier on you and your wallet, they advise.

The landscape architects will be presenting some  projects at the Landscape week talks, organised by Chennai Architecture Foundation, at Lalit kala Akademi, June 24 at 2.30 pm

How Chennai can improve

Historically, Chennai was blessed with three rivers — Kosathalaiyar, Adyar, Cooum — and many lakes. The corporation also maintains several parks and beachfronts. Things that can be improved:The riverfront, if it gets developed, it can be become a beautiful landscape.Pallikaranai marsh — protection with landscape edge, and a centre. It’s a natural buffer from floods.Many burial grounds in Mylapore, Kanamapettai, and north Chennai can be made into a nice green space, because of their large expansePublic buildings like Ripon building, can be maintained as social places with good landscaping and barrier-free, like how it is abroad.

repairing damage The tremendous loss of trees due to the Vardah cyclone last year has drastically reduced the city’s green canopy. “Lack of appropriate pruning of trees also contributed to the falling of many old trees. Nizhal has organised a series of pruning workshops, tree-care and maintenance workshops for the staff and officers of the Greater Chennai Corporation,” says Shobha Menon, founder trustee of Nizhal, an NGO in Chennai that works on tree conservation in urban areas.

“The damage is too fast; we need to work overtime to repair it! Plant the right kind of trees, and also take care of them till they grow into mature trees. Caring for mature trees and preventing all forms of tree abuse is important...No boards on trees, wires and lights around, or cementing/ debris at the base,” she says A talk about the effect of Cyclone Vardah on the city's trees cover and the action plan to deal with the loss will be held as part of Landscape week on June 23 at 5:30 pm at the Lalit Kala Akademi. There will also be a Tree Walk at the Kotturpuram Tree Park on June 25.

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