January 25, 2019 Green City Buzz: Greening the City with Soul

“Sometimes we feel like it’s magic — the value of green is really incredible, in all aspects.”

Want to boost your mood, heighten your productivity and increase your quality of life? Get some plants.

Green City Buzz is on a mission: to green public spaces in a beautiful, sustainable and cost-effective way. Founder & Director Tanja van der Knoop’s business background and lifelong love of plants is seen in the company’s success transforming urban spaces across Europe with unique and sustainable greening projects.

Located at Meet Berlage partner Downtown Offices on historic Warmoesstraat, the company's in-depth process considers a building’s specific architecture, design, aesthetic and brand identity, and finds the specific greenery to enhance it — creating a truly custom final product.

“We want to make green cities an integral part of stabilizing cities and making them more resilient,” Tanja said. “We aim for the highest target of green — real green, not clay material or sort of fake, vertical gardens — most of these are quite expensive and not sustainable.”

Greening Amsterdam's Knowledge Mile Park

The Knowledge Mile, running along Amsterdam’s Wibautstraat and Weesperstraats, is known for its busy offices and university campus buildings — as well as urban challenges such as traffic, air pollution and flooding. When given the chance to add much-needed greenery to the area, the team jumped at the opportunity — creating a project that’s caught the attention of a wide audience.

“Because it was paid by a company, we had more possibilities to use really beautiful plants,” said Tanja, whose team utilized a large variety of plants, many of which are annuals — meaning something will be blooming at all times of the year.

“We wanted to show the technical possibilities of making green really interesting,” Tanja said. “We really tried to enthuse people from city hall and show them the difference between average and really diversified greening. It was done in the dead of winter, and even then, it looks appealing. Now all the flower bulbs are coming up, and from April on you’ll never see the soil because it will be filled with plants.”

Because the project, located in front of the Baxter Building, is much larger than what is typically allowed by the gemeente, it took over 3 weeks to navigate all the necessary municipal procedures to get permission — 32 different parties in total. The strenuous process motivated Tanja’s team to help the municipality make their processes more versatile for future greening projects: “We’re lobbying with overall platforms to make sure that it will become easier."

Due to its size and the area’s high foot traffic, the project has gained a lot of attention, especially from residents in the community — now, adjacent buildings are frequently asked if they plan to implement similar projects. Even the nearby Hortus Botanical Garden took interest in the large variety of plants used in the project.

“The building’s receptionist said that passersby used to walk by quickly because it’s not a really ‘beautiful’ area,” said Tanja, “But now, everyone’s step has slowed down significantly, and there is suddenly contact with the building — now people look inside. It’s really nice.”

Greening the Meet Berlage

Another recent project of the team? Greening the Noteerzaal (previously called the Artists’ Foyer) of our own Meet Berlage.

“Looking at the brand identity of the building, I was so happy with Beurs van Berlage, because Berlage made one big vision for the furniture, art, everything; but he didn’t think about plants at the time,” said Tanja, “So it’s really a challenge, because he’s [so highly regarded], and to get in line with that — I was really proud, because I thought, ‘If Berlage would’ve looked down, he would’ve thought, ‘Well done.’”

“We’ve really tried to look at the colors, the kinds of plants that were used when Beurs van Berlage was built — many ferns, these kinds of things — so we were really happy doing that.”

They plan to expand their greening to the rest of the Meet Berlage space in the coming months.

“I asked Hans, ‘Which meeting room do you want to rent out more?’ and I said, ‘We’ll take this out of the budget and we’ll do it on our risk. I’m sure that it will be rented out 2-3 times quicker.”

The Bigger Mission

Through greening, the team’s ultimate goal is to prove the value of greenery with research — from increased mood to heightened productivity.

“Our mission is to green cities because we feel it’s necessary — cities are getting bigger and bigger, and more people are living on a small surface together,” said Tanja. “There’s a lot of research showing that people feel better when there’s green around; they can prove it in brain scans.”

Greening, she says, has the highest ROI of almost any urban improvements: “Sometimes we feel like it’s magic,” she said. “We always say, it’s the quickest and most affordable way to make a change or a positive impact and create value. The value of green is really incredible, in all aspects.”