“Human society depends on resources derived from nature and linked to, inter alia, food, raw materials, clean water and air, climate regulation, flood prevention, pollination and recreation. However, many of these benefits, often referred to as ecosystem services, are used in the belief that their availability is unlimited and are regarded as free products whose true value is not fully appreciated.”
This is the beginning of the European Strategy for the enhancement of green areas in Europe, which refers to the Biodiversity Strategy, defined to achieve precise social, environmental, financial and employment objectives. From this point of view, many macro and micro initiatives such as pocket gardens are born.
“Green infrastructure is a proven tool for achieving ecological, economic and social benefits through the use of “natural” solutions. This helps us to understand the value of the benefits that nature offers to human society and to mobilise the necessary investments to support and consolidate them. This approach also often makes it possible to move away from costly infrastructure to cheaper and more sustainable solutions that are based on nature and in many cases create local employment opportunities. Green infrastructure is based on the principle that the need to protect and improve nature and natural processes, as well as the multiple benefits that human society can derive from them, is consciously integrated into spatial planning and development.”
What are pocket gardens?
Small urban gardens, also known as pocket gardens, pocket gardens are the new trend that the public and private sector in Europe are starting to create to improve the quality of life in the city. These are gardens and green interventions, punctual and capillary, which bring about a transformation to urban spaces.
The public space takes a new form giving better livability to those who use it and greater environmental awareness. The strength of these small but widespread interventions is precisely in the ability to create a continuous urban network among public spaces that can enliven even the less frequented or interstitial areas and make them attractive, for social or commercial purposes.
Pocket gardens were born in New York as early as the mid-1960s thanks to an ad hoc law drafted to enhance the commercial value of private areas for public use (law of 1961 on POPS Privately Owned Public Spaces). Over the years, this practice of urban redevelopment was also carried out in Lyon (Jardin de Poche) and Copenhagen (Lommepark).
The advantages of pocket gardens
We know how green surfaces can improve the environmental microclimate of the places we live in: from this point of view, pocket gardens are real “happy islands” from a thermo-hygrometric point of view to the benefit of the surrounding buildings and the inhabitants who live or work in those places.
These pocket-sized urban gardens also represent a versatile and economical solution for improving environmental well-being: to increase the number of usable and multifunctional spaces in the urban fabric, it is possible to plant trees and shrubs by exploiting residential spaces that are not properly used or planned.
Pocket gardens and green maps in Italy
The Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea has issued the document “Urban green strategy”, which provides guidelines for improving the presence of green areas in cities.
A virtuous example of 2018 is Mantua, which, from 28 November to 1 December, will host the 1st World Forum on Urban Forests with the aim of highlighting the positive examples of planning, design and management of approaches of cities with different cultures, forms, structures and histories, which have used urban forests and green infrastructure to develop economic and environmental services and strengthen social cohesion and public involvement.
Urban gardens in Naples
In Naples, an interesting initiative was presented to raise awareness of the presence of green in the city: the Green Map of Naples is the map of green in the city. It presents itineraries with visits that link different pocket gardens, through the use of stairs and/or pavements, underground lines and funiculars. The beauty of the botanical heritage, inside and outside the city walls, is represented with the help of a very explanatory legend that highlights the opportunities to enjoy urban gardens: benches, fountains, fountains, areas equipped for children or picnics, viewpoints with spectacular views of the Gulf of Naples. But also places suitable for reading, meditation and sports.
Urban green spaces should be promoted through urban planning and governance in all areas of human activity. The effects of the presence of urban greenery, and therefore of urban gardens, are most effective when the involvement and social participation that promotes the use of green space is adopted. For these reasons, urban green interventions must be integrated into sectoral strategies and plans (urban planning, health and transport policies, sustainability and biodiversity strategies, social inclusion, etc.).
Urban green space interventions must be planned and designed with the local community and potential users of interest to ensure the provision of benefits to the local community and facilitate the implementation of interventions that meet the real needs of communities, especially in contexts of marginalisation and socio-economic distress.