By Umer Nangiana
In rapidly urbanising environments and decreasing biodiversity counts, an important new terrain of landscapes is the green roof that can participate in increased biodiversity, carbon capture and heat island reduction besides the production of food and creation of social spaces.
Department of Architecture and Urban Planning (DAUP), College of Engineering Qatar University and the Embassy of Switzerland in Qatar in collaboration with Zurich University of Applied Sciences held multiple events on the theme of “Landscape as Infrastructure of Biodiversity and Food Security: Perspectives from Switzerland and Qatar” here on Wednesday.
Besides a chain of lectures, exhibitions, presentations and interactions between experts and students, the event witnessed the department inaugurating a Green Roof being implemented at the Female College of Engineering at Qatar University.
It is part of the ongoing PhD and faculty research on food urbanism and urban permaculture in drylands. The project builds on the edible boulevard that was designed by undergraduate students in the same building with a grant from Qatar Foundation and will be implemented in future as permaculture garden in continuation of the research project.
It is an interdisciplinary project that will involve different fields inside and outside of the disciplines of architecture, urbanism and landscape and will contribute to the vision of creating an edible campus at Qatar University based on Urban Permaculture principles.
“Permaculture promotes more food production in landscapes and also encourages biodiversity producing both organic food and diverse ecosystems,” Luzita Ball, a PhD student and the graduate teaching assistant at DAUP told Community at the inauguration of the rooftop garden.
“This garden at the Female College of Engineering aims to create more productive landscapes at Qatar University that will contribute to better use of resources and to increased food security and biodiversity,” she added.
The project, Ball said, builds on ongoing landscapes, biodiversity and food security projects at DAUP.
“When the Edible Boulevard was initiated at the college last year, the Nepali workers began to spontaneously grow food on the rooftop. Many of them come from farming background and have good knowledge of planting and even using permaculture approaches to planting,” said the researcher.
Dr Anna Grichting, the Assistant Professor at DAUP, said, “Our aspiration is that this will be an interdisciplinary pilot project working with different disciplines within our university including the biological sciences, environmental sciences, engineering and collaborating with agriculture and landscape industries such as our generous sponsors Al Sulaiteen and Nakheel.”
She also conducted the evening public talk events where experts from Switzerland besides the Masters and undergraduate students of the department presented their innovative concepts and ideas on the implantation of the projects in Qatar in general and Qatar University in particular.
She said they are also working with NGOs such as Friends of the Environment and the campus facilities department to ensure that the permaculture rooftop landscapes remains functional and beneficial to both the users and the buildings itself.
The garden is an extension to the Architecture Students Gallery and it surrounds an open air Amphitheatre.
“We hope that in future, the garden and the amphitheatre will become a new social space in the university, not only for the students but also for the workers who will continue to participate in planting the food that they will eat,” said Dr Grichting.
The garden project brings together academics and practitioners and also involves expatriate workers and students at Qatar University, looking at ecological, economic and social values of integrated and holistic landscape practices and systems.
The one-day event comprising different segments brought pioneering knowledge on green roofs developed at the Swiss University of Applied Science ZHAW, Switzerland and implemented in international projects such as Olympic Games venues in London and the urban rooftop farm in Basel.
The objective of the event was to translate these experiences and lessons learned to implement them in Qatar as well as other Gulf states and drylands. A partnership with local agricultural and landscape industries offers a platform to link academia, professionals and industry in order to develop projects and prototypes in Qatar.
PIONEER: Luzita Ball is a PhD student at DAUP and one of the pioneers in designing the garden. Photo by Umer Nangiana