STUDENT PROJECT | Urban Water A New Layer in The City Landscape | Jelena Kotevska

Urban Water A New Layer in The City Landscape Aerial
Urban Water A New Layer in the City Landscape is an attempt to investigate the possibility for ecological treatment of Skopje sewage wastewater, which currently pollutes the river Vardar with use of the available city landscape. It is also offering a stormwater treatment and reuse solution.



One of the biggest rivers in Macedonia, Vardar, carries the title of the most polluted rivers in the country. It runs through a couple of cities, and through the capital city Skopje. It is one of the most important public amenities in the city. History witnesses its powerful potential for generating vibrant social life. Regardless of the social, religious, national or religious backgrounds, citizens were free to experience the natural potential of the river. As the city continued to grow,the natural conditions of the river changed dramatically. Since the second half of the twentieth century the morphology of the river bed through Skopje was completely altered. Human intervention (the riverbed regulation and riverbed sediment use) resulted in Vardar to became a natural sewage pipe, collecting around ninety million litters (90 mil. l) of residential sewage per day. The morphological changes and the human influence on the flow (concrete river bed) of the river have prevented its natural abilities to purify its own water. Conventional wastewater purification plants are too demanding on the city budget. So, I ask the following question: is there a different, more sustainable way of looking at, and resolving this problem?


Urban Water A New Layer in the City Landscape tries to give an answer to this rather difficult question. The proposal is giving a spatial and technical solution for transforming the available city landscape, activating it in order to perform water purification through the use of ecological and biological systems called The Living Machine. The purified water from the living machines becomes a new element in the city urban fabric. It gives the possibility for the creation of new activated landscapes, which not only reuse the purified water, but also interacts with the existing context and allow a more vibrant neighborhood and city life. Wastewater becomes urban water, which sustains and enhances urban life and no longer pollutes the river. The aim is to apply the concept on city level. In order to achieve that, I chose a small test area to reveal the potential and possibilities of my idea. What I propose is to divide the city in areas that produce, and areas where the wastewater can be treated.


The site I chose for this purpose is developed quite recently, after the city earthquake in 1963. Its proximity to the river as well as its contribution to the river pollution, were the key factors for my decision to work with it. The predominant residential land use results in lack of mixed activities and public gathering points. The available open spaces currently used for parking or informal markets allow for interventions, which could allow for diverse and livable social spaces. This will enhance the social interactions and sustain the social life on the site.


The Living machines are installed in the available spaces between existing buildings. They are accommodated inside greenhouses with maintained conditions suitable for the plants as well as for the living organisms, key for the water purification process (bacteria, microorganisms). The water which gets purified, will be further exposed in opened ponds (oxygen enriching), and be stored for landscape irrigation, or will be released in the open water canal incorporated in the existing boulevard. This purified water opens possibilities to create productive landscapes within the site area, activating the currently left out inactive areas or vast parking lots. The project elevates several active landscapes: Pink orchard (empress tree orchard- suitable for air pollution elimination), Urban Flower Garden (flower production-later sold in the nearby flower market), Blue garden (opened water ponds, which are creating humid microclimate conditions in hot summer days). These activated landscapes are shown in the presented site sections.


Introduction of Urban Farming gives a social aspect of the project. Buildings like the supermarket and the sport hall, allow for roof extensions and incorporating productive greenhouses. The water used for greenhouse irrigation is the collected stormwater through a newly introduced storm water system. The collected stormwater from the surrounding streets and buildings is purified in the street integrated bio-swales. They are newly introduced technical elements, which enable collection, filtering, purification and reuse of stormwater.



STUDENT PROJECT | Urban Water A New Layer in The City Landscape | Jelena Kotevska
Location: Taftalidze, Skopje, Macedonia
Design and Image credits: Jelena Kotevska
Student : Jelena Kotevska, Masters in Sustainable Urban Design, Lund University, May 2013

About Damian Holmes 3292 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at