Central Park, New York City

Central Park, New York City

When breathing the air in the city becomes a health risk, something has to be done. Beijing might be the site of the next great architectural experiment to bring nature back into the city.  On Monday (Dec. 7), The Chinese issued a red alert warning that the air toxicity was beyond the index for safety.  Creative architecture could be part of their shining hope to  again inhale deeply  and breathable architecture could be part of the answer.

Before we in the West start feeling smug about our clear blue skies (most of the time),  we should remember that Beijing is experiencing what troubled European and American cities a century ago — smoke so thick it choked residents and sent them fleeing indoors.

A hundred years ago, French architect LeCorbusier,  and English landscape designers Sir Ebenezer Howard, and American Fredrick Law Olmsted  fought the problem of toxic smoke by planning  greenbelts around the core of industrialized urban areas. The plan became known as The Garden City movement and cities such as Buffalo, NY  became livable again thanks to urban parks developed by Olmsted. Today, green space in cities quickly becomes the heart  of the city. It’s a good investment.