My Research Stay: Report by Attila Tóth

Dr Attila Tóth has done his PhD in Landscape Architecture at Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra, Slovakia. He received the Green Talents award in 2017 and conducted his three-month research stay under the supervision of Prof Frank Lohrberg and Dr Axel Timpe at Institute of Landscape Architecture at RWTH Aachen.

Green infrastructure is globally considered to be one of the strongest and most efficient urban and landscape planning tools that helps creating sustainable and resilient urban landscapes. By enhancing green infrastructure at the local, metropolitan and regional level, we can create healthy and sustainable living environments for the human society and for wildlife. Green infrastructure supports and enhances biodiversity and it helps develop multifunctional human environments with functioning ecosystems providing a wide range of social, environmental and economic benefits.

The aim of my Green Talents Research Stay was to study the implementation of the EU Green Infrastructure Strategy at the regional and city level in the process of a sustainable and climate-smart urban development. The main research question was “How the European Green Infrastructure Strategy has been adopted by, integrated into and implemented through landscape and urban planning in North Rhine-Westphalia?” The goal was to conduct a complex analysis of landscape and urban planning at the regional and municipal level. The research has been conducted on a case study basis, while cities, regions and their planning systems and tools have served as research samples.

The research results consist in a better understanding and a complex overview of planning approaches in formal and informal planning at the regional and municipal level. They show how European strategies, directives and policies in the field of green infrastructure and nature-based solutions have filtered down from the EU level, through national, federal-state level, regional and metropolitan level and found their way to municipalities, where concepts and strategies have been adopted and implemented through green infrastructure projects that strongly contribute to a sustainable social, economic and environmental development.

I can evaluate my research stay in Germany as successful as it has met my general expectations and aims. During the three months I have had the unique opportunity to identify, study and analyse some of the best practices that are currently being applied in North Rhine-Westphalia in the field of green infrastructure strategic planning, implementation and integration into regional and municipal planning concepts and documents in both formal and informal planning approaches. My research findings are strongly supportive of my habilitation process, including my ongoing research on green infrastructure.

Future research cooperation with Germany has already been established. The cooperation with the host institution (RWTH Aachen) will continue in three immediate follow-ups in 2019. The most important co-operation consists in elaboration of a research paper on planning and implementation of Green Infrastructure in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia. I have also considered the possibility of applying for a Humboldt or Sofja Kovalevskaja Award in the coming years.

The research stay in Germany was very supportive in terms of making valuable contacts with German experts and institutions. First of all, I was in daily contact with my mentors and colleagues at RWTH Aachen (Prof. Frank Lohrberg, Dr Axel Timpe and others). Besides these institutional contacts, I have had the opportunity to meet professionals and experts working at different institutions in the region.

The research stay has significantly supported me in deepening my insights into the German planning system at different levels and scales. Interviews with professionals working in city or regional planning as well as international scientific conferences, an international summer school in Hildesheim and a working group meeting of Region Köln/Bonn were great opportunities to get to know the German science community. Furthermore, valuable exchanges with my host and my mentor on green infrastructure research were of great inspiration for my further work.

Special thanks to the Green Talents programme for enabling this great opportunity to conduct a research stay at RWTH Aachen University and to get valuable insights into green infrastructure planning and implementation in cities and city regions of North Rhine-Westphalia. Many thanks to the Green Talents team for their kind support before, during and after my research stay, making so always with a very friendly and helpful attitude. Many thanks also to my colleagues at the Institute of Landscape Architecture, especially to Prof. Frank Lohrberg and Dr Axel Timpe, for their support before and during my Green Talents research stay in Germany and for providing me with a nice workplace and a very friendly working environment. Special thanks to Dr Dorothea Ernst who provided me with a very nice accommodation during my 3-months stay in Aachen, which was of great help and I am also very grateful for the inspiring discussions on sustainable development. And last but not least, many thanks to all specialists who were so kind as to agree to be interviewed during my research stay.

Read more about Dr Attila Tóth.