What sets River Park apart from other residential complexes in terms of Landscape Architecture? How does the complex fit into the initial landscape plan of Sofia? We talked again with landscape arch. Dobromira Lulcheva to find answers of these questions. Together with her team at Landscape Design Studio she has created the distinguished concept of River Park by integrating homes and nature together. Don't miss the first part of our interview here.
1. What sets River Park apart from other residential complexes in terms of Landscape Architecture?
River Park is certainly different and for me the reason is precisely in the way the complex integrates nature into itself. Years ago, the landscape architect profession was perceived as integrating buildings into the natural environment. In recent years, due to excessive urban development and destruction of nature, we have refocused our work in both directions - to simultaneously integrate buildings into nature and nature into the built-up environment. And River Park provides just that - a completely new environment that is one with nature.
2. We know that you plan on planting over 3,000 trees at River Park. What kind?
The area on which the property is located is legally required to have a very high percentage of landscaping, and this requires a large amount of tall tree vegetation. The fact is, however, that we have planned more trees than the minimum requirement, because the goal was to achieve a sustainable and healthy environment, delivering a series of benefits, not only for the residents of the complex, but also for the area and the city as a whole.
A key element in our concept are the so-called “green corridors”. They are the backbone in the vegetation composition. They are designed along the length of the complex, from the mountain to the city. On the sides and along the central walkways we decided to plant trees quite densely. This enables the creation of a type of green corridors to create a smooth transition from the nature of the mountain to the city. As a continuation of the Vitosha Nature Park, which imperceptibly and naturally flows into people's homes. It is as if the mountain flows like a river into the complex. In these green corridors, the vegetation mainly consists of native species, which are respectively rather tall - oaks, hornbeam, maples, birches, spruce (common and silver), pine - all of them can actually be found in the mountains.
We included several flowering and fruit trees in the project. With them we aim to attract more pollinators - birds, butterflies, bees, and other insects, which increase biodiversity and support the development of other vegetation.
We also plan to include an herb and vegetable garden in the barbecue area. In fact, the barbecue itself has become a place for social contacts. There are also spaces for a social garden, where everyone can go to plant whatever they want, grow it and then eat the products they have produced themselves. For the same reason, many fruit trees are planted there, so that children will be able to see how the fruits of apples, pears and cherries actually grow. We also plan to place feeders and houses for birds and insects in these areas, which will contribute to the formation of the “forest habitat” - densely forested areas full of life.
3. What maintenance will be required once the residential park is complete?
When we created the project, we set a goal to keep the vegetation maintenance to a minimum. That is why we chose to leave the plants in their natural shapes. Even with the selection of the species, the idea was for them to be wild, branch out and not require constant tending. At the project level we tried to analyze how intensive the maintenance would be and to take this into account when selecting plants in different areas.
That is the same reason we used two types of grass cover in the complex. In the representative parts, where there is a constant flow of people, grassing is standard, and in the “wilder” areas we chose grass species that do not want continuous mowing. Those that can be left to grow wild, bloom, dry out and then self-sow, a natural cycle in nature. This can minimize the maintenance cost, while also achieving this sense of natural environment that we aim for.
4. What is your general impression of the way the capital looks as a whole? And what are your impressions of the residential areas and neighborhoods?
Sofia has huge potential, as the capital was originally designed as a “garden city”. It is no coincidence that we have such large parks and green spaces. Unfortunately, in recent decades, urban landscaping has been neglected. Not enough attention was paid to it, from which we - the residents of the city - have begun to suffer. I want to believe that our children will not suffer, but it depends only on ourselves. If we see more complexes like River Park and the same construction philosophy, I believe we will not have such big problems with the quality of the urban environment. If the goal is maximum construction, maximum compaction of the land, it will be natural to suffer from floods, storms, or fallen trees, whose roots have been cut off during underground construction.
Even so, I am optimistic, and I see the light in the tunnel. I think the people, the government, the investors are starting to realize the same. I sincerely hope that we have not passed the point of no return. The measures that will be taken in the next 10 years will be crucial in what city our children will live in.