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The sponge city principle for smart cities: intelligent soils for healthy trees

Invisible foundation: The third winning project of the URBAN MENUS Smart City Calls (, advertised by the Austrian-Argentinian architect & urban planner Laura P. Spinadel, has been decided. In the Smart City Products & Services category, the Sponge City principle and landscape architect Stefan Schmidt are honored, who is committed to ensuring that the road surface is constructed in such a way that trees grow optimally and people in a healthy urban climate - in the URBAN MENUS sense - can live happily.


“We have never planted as many trees as we do today, and trees have never died so young,” says landscape architect DI Prof. OStR Stefan Schmidt from the Higher Federal Teaching and Research Institute for Horticulture Schönbrunn. The soil under the streets does not have enough cavities for the roots, no air pores and there is a lack of water. "The trees sit in a kind of small flower pot and then die after 20 years at the latest."

However, trees are the city's air conditioning systems and unfold their effect as the tree tops become more lush - “without trees, there is no bearable climate in the city. If we want to have 2080 trees that protect us, we have to plant them today and we have to plant them in such a way that they get old. ”This requires adequate underground supply systems that also carry water: Green infrastructure is only possible with blue ones.

Stefan Schmidt brought the idea for a solution from Scandinavia to Austria: In a working group founded in 2018 under the aegis of the Austrian Society for Landscape Planning and Landscape Architecture, he is researching the "Sponge City" system: According to this, roads are given a sub-structure with a substrate that trees around 30% Provides cavities and can store water. Local types of rock can be used as a substrate. This promotes sustainable, regional material cycles.

This type of soil loosening has been used in Scandinavia for more than 30 years. The concept has already been implemented in Austria: Schwamm-Allee in Graz. In the Seestadt Aspern Vienna, an underground sponge structure is planned in the quarter on Seebogen.

The project was recognized by URBAN MENUS as a symbol that many essential structures for sustainable cities with a high quality of life and amenity exist in the dark and because it stands for the central aspect of forward-looking planning. The potential for smart cities goes beyond the visible - such approaches should be covered in front of the curtain.

Learn more about the Sponge City principle - URBAN MENUS has produced a video. This is below accessible.

Initial spark for something big - the URBAN MENUS Smart City Calls are still open to everyone who works out consensual visions and solutions for an urban future that is worth living in.

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Written by Laura P. Spinadel

Laura P. Spinadel (1958 Buenos Aires, Argentina) is an Austro-Argentine architect, urban designer, theorist, teacher and founder of BUSarchitektur & BOA office for offensive aleatorics in Vienna. Known in international specialist circles as a pioneer of holistic architecture thanks to the Compact City and the WU campus. Honorary doctorate from the Transacademy of Nations, Parliament of Humanity. She is currently working on participative and impact-oriented future planning through Urban Menus, an interactive parlor game to design our cities in 3D with a mutual approach.
2015 City of Vienna Prize for Architecture
1989 award for experimental tendencies in the architecture of the BMUK

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