From weather to climate

Even though I enjoy the arboretum, I also study. It has already been more than two weeks that my new course started.

Have you read my short summary of my paper about people and weather? I was unusually passionate researching the theme and enjoyed a lot learning about this essential, yet not well recognized topic in the field of landscape architecture.

Coincidence or not, my current class, Landscape in transition, started with a very smooth change from my previous essay to the actual lectures. The new course is about climate change, the impact of climate change in the landscape and possible opportunities for adaptation. To get enough background we started with an essential topic: weather! But to be correct: weather is just a regional phenomenon and climate is the broader, global counterpart– yes, I just learned it.

You will hear more about my new course in the upcoming blogs. But what I can say, I like it already. Particularly, I am fascinated to hear about things which I am completely unfamiliar with. My homeland, Hungary, has a big history in combating flooding caused by our rivers. But as a landlocked country I have never faced with any issues connected to salty water. Post glacial continental rebound? Rising sea level? Or eroding coastal areas?

And there will be an excursion as well – “erosion spotting”! But, coming with the updates soon!

Island of green

Going to university embedded in the middle of an arboretum is a complete paradise for students, I would say. Especially if you study landscape architecture! Alnarpsparken and the campus itself is a green island surrounded by agricultural fields and the coast of the Öresund. It always gives me the feeling of a different world to arrive at and a place which I am fond of going to and being at.

The park is proudly cited as one of Sweden’s largest botanical collections where more than 2500 species live and flourish with the majority of woody plants (and hopping rabbits everywhere). It has a significant collection of magnolia trees, not by accident it’s even the symbol of the Alnarp Student Union. I have plenty of favourite spots to take a stroll, like the gingerbread smelling Katsura tree clumps in autumn, the bear garlic covered forest in early spring or the perennial garden in late summer with the ornamental grass patches.

But there is a place which is unlike any other spot. A hidden part on the other side of the railway, which gained international recognition among landscape architects in the past decades, the Landscape Lab.

This laboratory is not quite what you expect when hearing it for the first time – not full of chemical tubes and colourful toxic liquids in a homogeneous white room. But they experiment with different kind of tree species accompanied by a broad variety of maintenance techniques. The area itself is an oblong strip of woodland planted in the ’80ies and ‘90ies with a forestry approach but with design background. Which means that the trees in the stands are planted in grids but for the purpose of researching the cases of openness, density, light & shade, biodiverse and monocultural stands as well as how people enjoy different areas with these different features mentioned.

To reach the different function or aim of the stands they also experiment under the principle of design by maintenance. However, it’s hard to track the changes because they rather do smaller, somewhat unnoticeable interventions than big, loud changes.

The combination of the old, romantic Alnarpsparken and the newly built landscape lab creates an unusual and exciting variation. The woodland laboratory lets the floating green island of Alnarp extend with still leaving the feeling of that special other world.

Dansa och prata

It may seem like the fun possibilities in Alnarp are nearly endless. Indeed.

Even though all our classes are in English and every Swede is fluent in speaking it, I have always found it a weakness that they don’t provide a Swedish language course for international students at campus. But have to add, that any native speakers are always willing to teach you and are very pleased if you try to patch up a meaningful sentence with your surely wrong accent.

Built on this experience, recently, some friends of mine had a brilliant idea and started an initiation right away. They wanted to have an informal way of practicing a language by speaking it. So they invited people to meet in the student union house for having chats in every language possible and having fika besides (indispensable ingredient) – “språkcafe” or “language café” in its official name.

Despite the fact that I was big supporter of this event series, I was hesitant to go when it was time. Have to admit, it’s not really my thing to just say whatever comes to my mind not caring about grammar mistakes. But eventually, I could convinced myself to do so.

It was a quite a surprise when I stepped in, and the whole room was crowded with people coming from different countries motivated to learn another language. All a bit clumsy staying and waiting for it to start I didn’t feel that afraid anymore. But the mood was dissolved soon when we began with a warm up exercise to break the ice. The bonding game, was literally bonding.

Now, that we got a more sociable atmosphere the speaking could begin. Depending on what language you wanted to acquire you could choose from tables where to sit to. Expectedly, the majority was preferring Swedish which made poor Swedes being invaded by internationals. But the good thing is that you can actually exchange languages if two persons are interested in learning each other’s mother tongues. There were corners like French, Spanish, German or even Japanese besides the popular Swedish.

The peak of the intercultural exchange has arrived as my Spanish friend gave the possibility to switch to learn dancing Colombian salsa when you gone speechless… Like a stretch down after a demanding exercise.

 

Not just the fun, also to learn something new is nearly endless in Alnarp 😉

These benches are always occupied

At the end of October I made an enthusiastic report about a conference held in Alnarp, called “Beyond-ism: The Landscape of Landscape Urbanism”. Back then it only seemed like a fun event as a stuff member hanging colourful tassels on doorknobs and serving fika in the breaks. Now I can tell you, it was way more fruitful than that!

During those days I attended a lecture held by Marie-Claude Dubois from White Architects, about using climatic maps to predict pedestrian urban comfort in early design stage. She pointed out a method how to achieve optimal outdoor spaces for people with taking climate into account. Even though, I just appeared on her presentation accidentally, it turned out to be one of the driving “forces” that set off my curiosity and started my brain working. It amazed me how important, useful, still not widely applied or well-known this topic is. Later on, I watched a documentary for my course based on William H. Whyte’s book “City, rediscovering the center” and their observations in New York. I became fascinated by how people follow the way of sun in front of a plaza along the day. How they act differently in different weather conditions.

The individual essay in my previous course “People and Environment” was a perfect reason to map this subject better and find out if indeed climate is not that fashionable to talk about, or, it is in fact, the black sheep of the planning process.

There are existing examples keeping climatic conditions in mind including both large and smaller scale projects that can stand as a proof and show why the topic deserves the spotlight. Sadly, but I can’t share all my research in a short post. Instead, there is a tiny, but very descriptive example I can bring and with which we can all meet on the street: benches in the sun.

A public space does not always require much, sometimes small interventions can already invite people to enjoy the milieu to a bigger, more quality extent. In the city of Lund they emerged the concept of outdoor seating places to a next level – putting out the so-called “sun benches” on the main square. These are rows of seats placed out in Stortorget, a busy spot in the city. For the first glance they seem to have an unusual character with their linear arrangement. They likely provide seats for city dwellers to have a rest and spy the “performance” of the square as the audience of the show. However – wait for it –, they are also oriented in a perfect direction to catch the sunshine all day long. Turning the unusual seats into the best sun bathing spots in the city. Accident or planning?

As this concept proves, sometimes already just a little adaptions to the environment can raise the quality of a place. We can only make attractive public spaces optimal for outdoor staying if we consider the surrounding conditions which involves climate as well.

Maybe you will notice it when next time you catch a sunbeam and wish to have a bench to sit on.

Tripping mosaic

Before letting the topic of holidays go, let me give you some tips and illustrate some of our best moments and trips we made from the dream cottage in Båstad:

Charming Båstad at dusk                     56°26’00.9″N 12°50’32.2″E                               photo by: David Zimmerling

And the following day!                         56°27’43.4″N 12°41’29.3″E

Serious whale watching at the peak of Kullaberg 56°18’03.2″N 12°27’04.8″E                               photo by: David Zimmerling

Refuelling in Torekov with the best Swedish winter pastry, Semla                                        56°25’37.4″N 12°37’26.3″E

 

Atmospheric jump

Finally, back on track!

I have not been in Alnarp for a long time. In the past one month we had an individual task in my course “People and Environment” that didn’t require us staying at school. Of course I was “busy working” but at the same time had the opportunity to relax and enjoy Christmas break. And there had been a lot of fun stuff going on during the holiday (besides my paper :)). One thing I have to tell you: how we celebrated New Year’s Eve.

During the semester I gradually discovered how much advantage it has to be part of the Student Union. Remember the parties, baking sessions and international dinner I wrote about? And, apparently, there is even more to discover. As a member, you can rent a house for student budget in a small charming fishing village. There, in Båstad, located at the coast of the Kattegat in the most Northwestern corner of Skåne you can easily spend your holiday in the former house of a famous professor.

It was a chance that we couldn’t miss. So we decided to chill an awesome week with my friends in the wooden cottage, called “Arons hus” having the view of the sea and a fireplace to make our stay more “hyggelig”.

The property was actually donated in 1975 by Aron and Paola Westerlund and now is owned by the two student unions of Alnarp and Ultuna. It still has the touch of the past century with astonishing pictures of the family adventures and it feels like we were just dropped down in a neat home in the middle of the last century, not a usual run-down student house!

The water is at about 5 minutes’ walk so for us it was a daily program to rush down and watch for the smallest whales, the porpoise, endemic in the area. Or just, as a compensation watching some seagulls… When it was about to turn midnight on the 31st, we did the same, so took a stroll to the sea but this time to have an atmospheric jump into the New Year. It was such a breathtaking experience. Have you ever seen fireworks at the sea almost 360° around?

As a recovery, on the 1st of January, we decided to gift ourselves with a sauna experience. And now, don’t just think of a little cabin in a spa as an additional service. Instead, imagine a long pier leading to a wooden house in the middle of the sea! While approaching the sauna and looking at the water waving under you, combating the frosty wind is a ritual in itself, like reaching a rocking boat. It makes you prepared for the arrival and to be longing for being finally inside. The best part comes when you are totally heated up by staying inside the hot cabin for 15-20 minutes. You take a big breath, run outside, down the stairs and jump into the icy sea without any thinking. Or at least a short dip for the less daring ones…

It was like being born again and a jump-start for 2017! Just a hint for this year…