Urban design magazine

Expressions

Fertile spaces in landscape design

Image of a fertile office
The “fertile” office

The Jardins de Gally, leading corporate landscape designers, creates and maintains interior and exterior green projects in companies, shopping centres and public spaces. Their aim? Optimise user well-being and make urban areas more attractive. We interviewed Marketing Manager, Pierre Darmet, to find out more.

Mr Darmet, could you tell us a little more about les Jardins de Gally and your most emblematic projects.

The term “Gally”, which means “muddy and marshy ground”, alludes both to an area, where Versailles stands today, and to gardeners and landscape gardeners from farming families. Its historical origin dates back to an 11th century text that refers to the existence of a farm occupied by Benedictine monks, which provided the royal court and the Paris area with food and plants.

The Jardins de Gally, created in the late 1960s, has become the corporate landscape design leader. We bring nature into companies, including landscapes, interior and exterior gardens, but also provide daily services for workers, for example, distributing fruit or flowers. We guide them through each stage of the project from designing (Research Unit) to implementing and maintaining the spaces.

For example, we’ve created green spaces in shopping centres, stations and airports including Marseille Saint-Charles Station, Aix-en-Provence Station, Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, as well as leisure spaces like swimming pools

Image of fertile shopping centre

Leclerc Atlantis Shopping Centre, Nantes, France

Image of fertile shopping centre at Chambourcy

SCI, Chambourcy (78)

With 80% of people living in cities by 2050, questions about the role of nature in the city are becoming increasingly important. How would you define urban biodiversity?

Defining urban biodiversity isn’t easy. We could refer to the contact and compatibility between nature and human life, nature whose good and bad sides (e.g. rats) we accept.

Over recent years, real estate players have been focusing on green renovation. The city is interested in biodiversity as a way to recreate ecological corridors. As biodiveristy has a positive effect on ecology, some people talk about “positive biodiversity”. It is clear that the sooner we act, the sooner we will see the effects. And, as the statistic you mentioned shows, we will soon be able to reach 80% people from a very young age. Our educational role is therefore very important.

Image of planted rooftop garden in Paris

Roof top at Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris

The Jardins de Gally is one of the founding members of the International Council for Biodiversity and Property (CIBI), alongside, among others, Caisse des Dépôts, the League for the Protection of Birds and Bouygues Construction. What unites you in your vision of the city?

In many ways, very little unites all the companies who have very different interests. Urban space have multiple stakes (economical, ecological, aesthetic, historical, sociological and technical) and the diverse nature of these companies creates heterogeneous positions. But, the companies have also realised that a sectarian attitude is not constructive.

The International Council for Biodiversity and Property brings players together around a common cause, the “living” spaces within building projects. It was born out of the shared desire to improve standards in this area. The property sector needed to reinforce its position with different skills in order to stand out. For example, ecologists bring their unique expertise and Research Units solve important technical and maintenance problems. And so, the BidiverCity labels was created as a response to the lack of tools relating to biodiversity.

Fertile shopping is becoming a key element in public spaces. What exactly does this involve and how can we ensure that green spaces aren’t solely dedicated to consumerism?

Firstly, to me, the term “green space” is rather outdated as it emphasises colour and therefore also the results. I prefer the term “living space” as it includes the notion of change and being connected to other spaces – the insects and birds on one hand, and people on the other. I also like “fertile spaces”, for example, fertile offices or companies. This is interesting as it alludes to the compost that allows things to grow.

More and more commercial spaces are implemented differently based on the premise that we can no longer oppose nature and shopping. Shops add value to spaces such as airports making them into become places of consumption. The shops and offices on the edge of cities, which often look like shoe boxes, show disregard for architecture, the local landscape and ecology. Customer experience – making places more attractive and pleasant – has become a priority. To achieve this, we need higher standards.

Image of fertile shopping centre and office

Left, One Nation Shopping Centre, Paris / Right, the fertile office

Planted spaces are living and evolve. How can they be made sustainable for long-term benefits?

The time dimension is very important in the work of gardeners because everything starts when they begin planting. We need a utopic vision, but we also need to study the technical aspect of projects, that is to say, how gardeners can concretely manage the space over time. This opens the door to creating new jobs – do we need architects specialising in plants or landscape design architects? Landscape designers and architects already work together using a multi-disciplinary approach. Landscape designers need to make adjustments to architects’ project that take the technical limitations into account.

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