By Asmaa Aslan, Senior Architect / Project Manager & Nisrene Baghdadi, Senior Architect – “If you can tell a man by his shoes, you can tell a city by its pavements”, says Architect Rowan Moore.

Each city has its own identity, feeling and its distinctive form. Urbanization growth and development, expansion of transportation, etc. are all factors affecting the image of our city and its social, cultural, economic and environmental values.
Landscape Urbanism is a design method that encourages designers to look across other related disciplines: infrastructure, culture, wildlife, etc. and overlay them, for a better way in organizing and planning the city. The main function of Landscape Architects is to turn the unused spaces created by highways or roads (called leftover areas) into positive living areas that will sustain the social connections, work as a purification zone from pollution, and green layers surrounding city streets. These leftovers can be transformed into active and attraction areas for the community.
Therefore, roadside landscaping as a key element of the city’s landscape and image is shifting from the need to meet legal obligations or repair construction scars, towards supporting a vision of the roadside as a valuable asset of the highway system.

In addition to their aesthetic value and ability to contribute to the character of the city, trees and landscape features along the roadside have a positive effect on “driver” behavior and perception. This results in better safety performance, stress reduction and way finding, where nodes and streets can be marked by distinctive landscape elements using different trees or new colors. So the “driver” can realize and feel his whereabouts, where to slow down or to turn around, as well as the through landscape unity or variety.

Furthermore, to be effective, roadside landscape design must:
1) Recognize that the roadside is dynamic, and assess what is most needed, while anticipating what will be needed many years from now;
2) Integrate highway safety concerns with a greater appreciation for soil, vegetation, maintainability, and financial responsibility;
3) Ensure highway drainage and sustainable landscape plantings, while controlling invasive species and developing strategic approaches to replanting;
4) Promote efficient low-maintenance landscapes, and encourage the development of meadows and reforested areas that can be managed with limited resources.

A collaborative work between all disciplines: Architecture, transportation, planning with landscaping, and a greater sense of coordination between them will give a greater impact on the way we live. It will affect the future of our interaction in streets or public areas, and our moods by producing positive qualities and aspects reflected by the choice of materials, textures, colors, lights, and even sounds and smells.

Finally more green spaces, more active streets, more friendly pedestrian walks, and more integration between highways, roads, buildings, are all needed in our “cities for life”.