The mouth of a tunnel on the Channel-Tunnel Rail Link route, which blends almost seamlessly into the surrounding Kent countryside. Copyright Arup." title="The mouth of a tunnel on the Channel-Tunnel Rail Link route, which blends almost seamlessly into the surrounding Kent countryside. Copyright Arup.

+ By reflecting the character of an area, the urban and rural environments can be reinvigorated as a place to spend time in rather than rush through.

Why can’t grey infrastructure such as roads, railways, bridges and energy networks integrate better with, or function as, green infrastructure? I believe it can, and it should.

We need to stop looking at green and grey infrastructure separately. New infrastructure should not only improve connectivity but also enhance the environment to improve health, quality of life and resilience to climate change.

Movement corridors can be reworked as new arteries of excitement, interaction and life. By reflecting the character and aspirations of an area, the urban and rural environments can be reinvigorated as a place to spend time in rather than rush through.

For example, the design for the A85 in France includes a variety of landscape typologies around the route, instead of just alongside it. This connects and integrates the corridor into the surrounding vineyards, meadows and forests. In Ashford, Kent, the redesigned ring road has reconnected people with the town through high quality design and creating shared surfaces – helping to stimulate growth within the area.

I believe this combined benefit has to be worth the comparatively small additional investment required through the design process (when compared to the capital costs of these projects). So I was pleased to see the launch in October of the Green Infrastructure Partnership, designed to help communities in the UK make more innovative use of existing and new grey infrastructure.

New infrastructure provides an opportunity to reconnect places and people. It gives us the chance to maintain and enhance ecological networks. It also offers more ways to understand and experience the environments that we travel through and live in every day.

To achieve this, the design of infrastructure needs to respond to place in innovative ways to create special and memorable environments. And that demands a truly collaborative approach. Through a collaborative approach, ideas come to the forefront that may not have been considered by one or two individual disciplines.