The ‘genius loci’ as a starting point for climate adaptive design

This article by OMGEVING‘s part of a series by landscape architects in response to Moving Forward with Climate Change.

Climate change is a fact. As landscape designers we are challenged to provide creative and innovative solutions for climate challenges such as increasing precipitation, drought and heat stress. These extreme weather conditions make our living environment more vulnerable and the associated risks require climate adaptive design on every scale level, from an urban region to the street level. On a regional scale, the strengthening of the blue-green networks contributes to a supra-local and integrated approach to flood and drought problems. This approach is also important at a lower scale in the landscape design of resilient public spaces. Combining a public program with climate adaptive interventions creates synergies that accelerate the transition to a climate-adaptive environment.

As landscape designers, our role and attitude for a climate adaptive living environment is therefore twofold: on the one hand, our knowledge contributes to the restauration of the natural systems of areas affected by deforestation, urbanization, large-scale agriculture, etc. On the other hand, innovative landscape ideas offer the opportunity to restore biophysical systems and use scarce space in a more efficient way. Landscape designs integrating multifunctional use, new technologies, new systems, sustainable materials and new products can help to push forward new concepts and alliances to deal with climate issues. They help us plan, design and build more efficiently and sustainably. For example, multifunctional open spaces such as parks can provide an answer to water storage, decrease the urban heat island effects and stimulate more sustainable mobility choices.

Climate adaptive design in station area Liedekerke, Belgium, the restored and enforced valley stream as the ‘genius loci’ of the project. Photo Credit | OMGEVING

Embedding these climate adaptive measures in their social, ecological and economical context represents an important challenge. The ‘spirit’ of a place, the so-called ‘genius loci’, must be the starting point for climate adaptive interventions in every spatial challenge. A thorough analysis of the context can reveal the unique identity of a place. With an understanding of the genius loci, climate strategies can be geared towards site-specific characteristics. The focus on context and identity in climate adaptive measures contributes to engaging local social networks, building social capacity and raising awareness on climate issues. In this sense, landscape designers are important ambassadors and facilitators to work on context-based climate resiliency.

Submitted by OMGEVING

About Damian Holmes 5703 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