In February 2018, B2N researchers travelled from Tampere to Jyväskylä to attend a seminar on landscaping, called Viherpäivät. Viherpäivät is organised annually by the Finnish Association of Landscape Industries since 1980s. The association is the main organisation dealing with urban and rural landscape management in Finland.
Anna, Ari, Hannele, Jere, Johanna and Outi participated the seminar with open eyes and minds for observations and new insights. Here are our thoughts:
Johanna: “My first impression was that this is a big event ant there must be a lot of people who are interested in urban and rural landscape management in Finland. The seminar had several academic talks addressing, for example, the challenges of changing the minds of business people and politicians in brown and green planning (Professor Julie Bargmann, University of Virginia, USA), building bridges among different actors for enhancing responsive landscapes (professor Pia Fricker, Aalto University, Finland) and fostering innovation in green space management (Professor Thomas B. Randrup, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences). In addition, many presentation discussed more practical questions like how to grow and sell green roofs (Nina Wennäkoski and Tanja Fri, Eg-trading), how to use virtual and added reality in visualising city planning (Taneli Hiltunen, the City of Oulu), and how private and public sector can collaborate for resource efficient planning (Roosa Kohonen, Ramboll Finland). Moreover, there was a big exhibition hall full of companies presenting their products and services for planners and constructors.”
The exhibition hall displayed a broad variety of green infrastructure solutions
Outi: “I found it especially interesting, how for example show gardens were seen as instruments combining aesthetics, research information and sustainable planning into green spaces in urban areas. Another issue that caught my attention was the emphasis of the need for collaboration between researchers, builders, designers and all other parties involved in order to make urban green areas sustainable and innovative.”
Ari: “This seminar shows that the principles of circular economy are clearly entering into theories and practices of urban green management and landscape planning. The programme included not only provocative imaginations that helped us to feel the beginning of this paradigm shift but also explicit examples of circular solutions. My favorite was ‘Brown is the New Green’, a presentation given by professor Julie Bargmann. It was a high-class demonstration of the core issues of urban dynamics and reminded about the need to incorporate urban place-making as a central case of circular economy. This aspect is hard to find in the current discussion of circular economy in Finland. A point she made was that place-making in urban brownfields should appreciate history, authenticity, human industrial labor, and the dirty work of restoration instead of greenwashing.”
Julie Bargmann gave a presentation "Brown is the new green"
Anna: “To me, the most interesting presentation was given by Taneli Hiltunen (city of Oulu) on 3D visualisation of urban green areas and citizen engagement. Taneli showed how in Oulu, they have piloted VR (virtual reality) and MR (mixed reality) experiments in designing urban green areas. In the pilot project, citizens were given VR glasses to demonstrate the design plans of Mannerheiminpuisto. To me, it seems like a great way to engage and to interact with citizens and other local people, as they actually get to see how the new area will look like. Taneli mentioned that the main challenge of VR classes is, however, that it only allows for individual experiences whereas group work and interaction with others would be more fruitful when engaging with citizens.”
Jere: “I was astonished of the plentiful talk about biodiversity in the seminar. It was common to notice the biodiversity related issues in the presentations. Biodiversity was mentioned and related usually to landscaping projects, meadows, green roofs and storm water management issues. Harder nature conservancy issues were still missing, like issues relating the rare or threatened species or habitats. Despite the talk about the biodiversity, there was a lack of representatives of traditional nature conservation, like associations or institutional representatives, or consultants from companies, in the seminar. Why the green industry related biodiversity issues were handled without traditional actors of nature conservation? It seems to me that there is still a wide gap between the green industry and nature conservancy representatives. I hope to see more the representatives of nature conservancy in Viherpäivät in future, and vice versa the actors of the green industry in the biodiversity emphasised seminars”.
A green wall at the exhibition hall of Viherpäivät
Hannele: “As a critical accounting scholar, I am often willing to explore new arenas and try to open up my mind to new ways of seeing. Attending various kinds of events from different disciplinary backgrounds sometimes feels time consuming but really is one of the best parts of academic life to me. From this perspective, I was eager to see what the Viherpäivät 2018 had to offer.
Thinking back, three things come to my mind. First, exploring the exhibition hall with practitioners gave an insight of the more practical side of “the daily life” of urban green planning and green area management. It provided an insight on the contemporary approach to urban planning, which to me seemed to be “a controlled” and categorised system with an attempt to efficiently manage urban nature. In addition, in our B2N research group, we have been talking about invasive vs native plants and some interesting small businesses seem to be growing in this area.
Second, from this more practical perspective I was delighted to hear the key note speech by Outi Tahvonen on dynamic planting. Outi Tahvonen spoke about how the dynamic planting challenges and broadens the existing conceptualisations, perceptions and practices of urban green planning and requires reconceptualization of such issues as human control over nature, and also new kinds of knowledge on multiple types of plants and their dynamic interconnectedness (and not only on the visual elements). It seems that this kind of dynamic model may have something to contribute to the experiments on contingency and unpredictability in the processes of creating urban nature.
Thirdly, perhaps the most interesting key note in advance was titled “Brown is the new green” by Julie Bargmann (University of Virginia). The presentation was rich in visual and artistic ways of presenting examples of brownfield restoration projects and provided a holistic, thought-provoking way of understanding the multiplicity of the process. “Kill industry with kindness” (meaning decontaminating industry with gardens) and “let it be”, were a few of her catchy phrases that stuck in my head.”