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The Root of the Problem: Addressing the Conflicts between Spontaneous Vegetation and Built Landscape

Colwill, Simon

FG Landschaftsbau-Objektbau

Built landscapes are under relentless attack from both spontaneous urban vegetation (plants that colonise naturally without cultivation) and the gradual encroachment (spreading) of existing plantings onto adjacent surfaces. The location, spread and rate of this growth is highly influenced by microclimatic factors, the availability of soil and propagules, and the frequency of disturbance. Spontaneous urban plants are highly adapted to the harsh urban environment and colonise the built landscape both overground through seed dispersal and underground by means of regeneration from rhizomes. The encroachment of plantings beyond planned boundaries onto surrounding surfaces often occurs due to unrestrained growth and the insufficient removal of rooting substrate from the border area between soft and hard landscape. This paper discusses these conflicts by analysing the causes and effects of this growth over time, pinpointing areas of weakness and vulnerability, diagnosing the underlying issues, and developing optimisation strategies. Current research at the Technische Universität Berlin is focusing on analysing the processes of patination and subsequent deterioration of built landscapes over time. A low-threshold and non-destructive monitoring method to ‘read’ and decipher these traces of time is being developed in order to determine and analyse the agents of landscape transformation. The principles of construction pathology are used to identify relationships between the observed ‘visual signs and symptoms’ (effects) and ‘pathological conditions’ (causes). This enables causes to be determined and recommendations for the most appropriate course of action to be made. This paper will focus on developing optimisation strategies for the areas of weakness and vulnerability identified, and therefore aims to enhance the durability of our built works.