Etosha Heights Private Reserve, Namibia

Eco Zhang, Urban Designer, Perkins & Will

I grew up in northern China during the fast-developing period. Experiencing the built environment at an ambitious pace was something that triggered me to get into the profession. After graduating from Architecture, I continued my study in Urban Design in the US and started working at Perkins and Will. I relocated to the UK in 2015 and started to lead the design process on projects ranging in size from city block design to large urban area regeneration and to the planning of entire cities.

Over the Christmas holiday 2020, I went for a road trip in Namibia. Seeing the stunning nature and wildlife has changed the way I see our environment. The balance between humanity and nature in Namibia is visible through people’s daily life, from the consumption of goods to land conservation. It pushed me to think more holistically about the systemic approach to development and ways to create truly sustainable cities and communities. One of the most memorable experiences was seeing a variety of animals enjoying a man-made waterhole at Etosha Heights. As the dry season leaves the riverbank empty, these waterholes are the only water source for the wildlife. They come here, solo or in groups, interact with each other and enjoy the fresh water. The picture of that is almost comparable to the scene in William H. Whyte’s book, the Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. The similarity of the two reminds us that we, as well as countless others, are living on the same planet, sharing the same valuable resource.

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