We were delighted to be invited to design a new urban plaza – Future City Garden – for the United Nations Biological Diversity Convention (Cop15) hosted recently by the city of Kunming, China. The 3,000 m2 plaza was located outside the main entrance to the convention hall to welcome arriving delegates.

Following the convention the project is remaining in situ in Kunming as an educational template to demonstrate how more productive and beneficial pastoral spaces can be incorporated into urban design.

Chetwoods Future City Garden : Nature and City

Future City Garden explores how urban spaces can be adapted to encapsulate Cop15’s ideals, incorporating the ancient Chinese philosophy of “unity of man with nature”.  The design – led by Laurie Chetwood – combines architectural and landscape design forms with environmental protection features to create an urban plaza that conveys Cop15’s central theme of “co-building a global ecological civilization and protecting global biodiversity”.

Chetwoods Future City Garden : Nature and CityAt the centre of the plaza a representation of the Sun is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell to highlight the vital role of green hydrogen in enabling the world to transition its energy towards net zero ambitions. Other areas of the design are themed around the role of a more pastoral approach to urban design in protecting biodiversity and improving human survival and wellbeing.

Air, water, food, shelter and rest – the five basic conditions for survival – are explored through a series of urban gardens featuring urban food production, shelter, air quality, water management and natural and human wellbeing.

The Food Garden uses herb walls and growing shelves to demonstrate the importance of food production and the need for cities to shorten supply chains by growing food on vertical and horizontal surfaces. It proceeds through a series of urban allotments into a more rural setting featuring orchards and mixed-use hedges which cater for birds, insects, bees and butterflies.

The Sleep Garden is a quiet space in which visitors are encouraged to leave the city behind and lose themselves in nature. The garden entrance is characterised by a number of large mirrors configured in a way that produces multiple reflections and gives a sense of the city’s chaos. As visitors pass these mirrors, they move into a series of quiet, private spaces at the heart of which is a secluded woodland area.

The Shelter Garden provides shelter for all: from humans to insects and microorganisms. Shelter is both vertical and horizontal, in the form of a translucent canopy and a series of shelves, boxes and ledges.

Chetwoods Future City Garden : Nature and City

The Air Garden aims to demonstrate the benefits of flora in reducing air pollution as well as introducing visitors to the sensory benefits of air itself as they become aware of the sounds and movement of the wind through trees and grasses. The plantings include conifers – as pollution ‘eaters’ – and aromatic shrubs and flowers, heightening the intensity of smell which visitors can experience. This garden combines the restorative and enhancing powers of nature; it also features three helical wind turbines to emphasise the benefits of sustainable energy generation to the planet.

The Water Garden focuses on rainwater harvesting as a means of addressing water scarcity. It demonstrates the potential to use existing water resources more effectively, and the health and wellbeing benefits of water.

Chetwoods Future City Garden : Nature and City

Laurie Chetwood said: ‘It was a great privilege to be asked to contribute the centrepiece for the COP 15 UN Biodiversity Conference. Our plaza reflects the ever-present influence of nature in architecture and design and serves to demonstrate our concern – as architects – for the natural environment.

‘Chetwoods has created a number of other concept gardens in China in recent years. We pride ourselves on being bold and brave and on using design to stimulate both thoughts and actions. Design doesn’t just exist to create landscapes or buildings but to convey messages and change mind-sets. Addressing the important issue of biodiversity and the role it has in all our lives – not least in the context of food security – was a challenge we were pleased to take up.

‘While Future City Garden has a serious point to make, it’s also fun. I hope that people will enjoy visiting it, remember its messages and be motivated by them, thereby enriching future decisions in this extremely important global debate.’

To find out more about Chetwoods’ work in China, please click for Chetwoods China Brochure