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New light through old windows: the creative use of trees to counter a deteriorating quality of urban life and environment

Recorded 11 February 2021

Speaker: Alan Simson (Leeds Beckett University)

The 21st century is the urban century. It has been forecast that by 2050 urban populations across the world will have expanded by more than 2.4 million people inhabiting an area in excess of 1.2 million km². Part of the reason behind this huge increase in urbanism is the fact that human beings are social animals, who respond positively to the opportunities that urban living can bring. Thus there have been many attempts over the years to design “urban utopias” to create the ideal urban experience. The scale and speed of urbanisation has however all too often compromised such attempts, compromises that have generated significant environmental and health problems for urban dwellers, problems often made worse by a lack of contact with the natural world and natural processes. Recent experiences regarding the effects of the coronavirus on human beings have further emphasised these issues.

This paper will discuss the concept of urban forestry and its role in choreographing increasingly creative ways of re-establishing contact with natural processes and reconciliation ecology so that the urban areas of the future will be able to function in a viable manner and adequately support both biodiversity and the health and well-being of their human populations.

Alan Simson is a landscape architect, an urban forester and an urban designer, and is often referred to by his colleagues as being an ‘urban spaceman’. Currently, he is Emeritus   Professor of Landscape Architecture + Urban Forestry at Leeds Beckett University. Prior to working in academia, he worked in the UK New Towns, particularly Telford, where he ran the Urban Forestry Programme for over ten years. He has also worked in public and private practices, including his own, both in the UK and abroad. He is a member of the International Committee of the European Forum on Urban Forestry and, in the UK, is Chair of the White Rose Community Forest. He has been engaged in planning, designing and promoting urban forestry and associated urbanism for many years.

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