This last week we finally enjoyed the second edition of UNI-Health program held in Newcastle University! The topic of this very special week was green and blue infrastructure for health promotion. Students from University of Newcastle and from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and VOICE members engaged this course about design with nature and citizen engagement to generate more resilient and healthier communities.
The course was celebrated from Monday until Thursday, organised in presentations and field trips and then, on Friday, students presented their works in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape.
Dr. Dominic Aitken took us throughout the complete week programme and Professor Tim Townshend started the week explaining the concept of Natural Environments and Health.
A couple of new projects in Newcastle were also shown during this very first session. First of all, South Seaham, a Garden Village conceived for all the ages, as an example of new development that could bring together intergenerational housing promotions and common green spaces to meet as a natural infrastructure.
Landscape Designer Carwyn Thomas continued the journey with a couple of pop-up examples he has developed in Newcastle City: Grey Street green and a beach at the Quayside of Tyne river. In both cases, he has achieved to conceive comfortable and attractive spaces where people stop and meet while enjoying a meal or drink all together.
Monday ended with a brief introduction by Zoe Webb from ARUP (Newcastle) of the proposed site for Blackett Street renovation.
Tuesday was dedicated to citizen engagement projects in which nature played a significant role. Greenering Wingrove is an interesting project where trash in common spaces was degradating the image and the life of a neighborhood. When streets introduced green for the very first time, neighbors started to care of their public spaces and then, little by little, urban gardens and community projects started to create a strong connection between inhabitants.
Another interesting project was Byker, designed by R. Erskine by the end of 60s. Its development incorporated an interesting methodology with participation dynamics to work with local neighbors and promote social cohesion. Nowadays, many cultural and arts projects are beig developed in this community. To get the principal ideas, you can check this link.
To finish the morning, the Comfrey Project showed us how easy can be to integrate new members of community through gardening in allotments. Activities in open air, taking care of the vegetables, developing trust within the community and exchange and share with volunteers and visitors is a inclusive way to engage new habitants of the surroundings and migrants that don’t have social networks yet.
The field trip during the afternoon consisted on visiting Whitley Bay and it’s Community wildlife Garden, accompanied buy the yoga center, little cafe and local markets that happen regularly. This interesting project has been possible thanks you to a concession of the manager of the Station Master to have a free open space for community and education about agroecological education.
Wednesday was dedicated to explore the work of our partners ARUP in UK. Dan Wales and Zoe Webb explained the concept of green infrastructure and the benefits in terms of health and economic possitive impact it has on the retail activities where it is integrated.
The field trip consisted on a pleasant walk around Gateshead’s Whitehills Carbon Park. Local ecologists explained us the different programs they were carrying on to promote health through this kind of natural environments, as well as preserving biodiversity.
Finally, on Thursday, Spanish team presented different topics connected by water as main topic. Elisa Pozo introduced the importance and challenge of drinkable water nowadays, as green infrastructure can’t forget its base for growth and richness. Asier from ARUP Madrid explained briefly the main characteristic of a Sustainable Urban Drainage Solution (SUDs) to learn how to use it according to the different climates and contexts. Finally, the morning session finished with Profesor Francisco Fernández Laumiquiz explaining methodologies and urban designs he had accomplished in Madrid and evaluated the impact in terms of socioeconomic activty.
Friday was dedicated to students’ workshop so at the end of the afternoon we all met at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape of University of Newcastle to see and comment their work. The results were ashtonishing! Motivation and hard work of students resulted on several interesting fresh ideas for Blacket Street! Fresh is the word, indeed! Newcastle’s city center lacks of green and many of its beautiful streets are overcrowded by cars, making the public space discontinuous, risky and tough for pedestrians. All the proposals contemplated green as part of the solution to encourage healthy habits and promote culture and active lifestyles through a walkable and comfortable city center.
To read the full, original article please visit the Universidad Politenica de Madrid website