Aarhus Universitets segl


Integrative Green Infrastructure Planning (GRIP)

The project is funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, DANIDA Fellowship from 2021-2023

Rapidly expanding disintegrated urban areas in developing economies are presented with social, climatic, and ecological challenges. The design of green, health-promoting cities, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, has become a pressing matter. It is therefore time to rethink urban development in South Africa (SA) towards greater sustainability and inclusion. Green infrastructure offers a sustainable planning approach that integrates water-related benefits and socio-economic gains into cities’ ecological fabric to improve the functioning of urban ecological systems and the quality of public spaces for greater health and well-being.

The GRIP project will provide new knowledge on green infrastructure in South Africa through an interdisciplinary research project that seeks to strengthen the integrated planning approaches in the national capital of South Africa, City of Tshwane (CoT). GRIP will facilitate lessons from City of Aarhus (CoA), in particular their holistic planning integrating social, economic, and cultural issues with urban issues such as non-motorized transportation, densification, water infrastructure and liveable public spaces. Through the GRIP project, a city-to-city collaboration will be combined with research that cross-fertilizes spatial ecology, environmental justice and landscape design, building capacities across disciplines, borders, and sectors. Knowledge will thus be co-created through reciprocal exchange of management experiences (e.g. organization and communication) and stronger technical capacities (high-resolution mapping and big data modelling of multifunctionality), and through integration of ecological knowledge (on species and habitats) and social gains (local identity, equity, justice and economic development, in particular).

Through a city-to-city collaboration, the long-term objective of GRIP is to facilitate a strategic transformation of the inherited social and urban landscape in CoT through improved green infrastructure management, multifunctionality, and planning. We test the hypothesis that improved green infrastructure  can increase quality of life in the city’s urban communities by moving towards a more livable, health promoting, equitable, biodiverse, and climate resilient city. The research design is anchored in a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach integrating a) best-practice urban planning with focus on green infrastructure governance and ecological design; b) ecological modelling across levels and types of greenness and related multiple benefits, and c) mixed methods, including surveys and ethnographic approaches, for assessing environmental justice, human nature relationships, and ecosystem services benefits to communities.

Outputs (for links - see "Further reading")

  • MSc thesis project by Linette: Abandonment or opportunity? A situated study of sense of place and place-making in the Mabopane River Corridor. Defended Jan 25th, 2023.
  • MSc thesis project by Aimee Dominique Roos: Surface-deep: Designing an ecologically healthy waterscape to support identity, ritual and meaning in Atteridgeville. Defended Sep 13th, 2022.
  • MSc thesis project by Shemoné King: Discovering Place: Promoting place and the ecological function of a landscape in ruin. Defended Sep 13th, 2022.
  • MSc thesis project by Lue-Shane Cloete: Unshackling a White Elephant. Defended Sep 12th, 2022.
  • Scientific article by Peta Brom: A Decision Support Tool for Green Infrastructure Planning in the Face of Rapid Urbanization. Published in Land, vol. 12, p. 415, 2023.
  • Popular media article by Titilope Funmbi Onaolapo: Parks versus people? Challenges facing the South African capital’s greening efforts. Published on The Conversation, 2023.
  • MSc thesis project by Maria Andrea Cosma and Isis Oliver: Gender-based violence, climate adaptation and nature: a cuerpo-territorio study of the embodiment of violence in green spaces by the women of Mabopane, South Africa. Defended Jan 17th, 2023.
  • MSc thesis project by Maria Elizabeth Heines: Political Opportunities and Threats Impacting the Emergence of Environmental Justice Movements in Urban Green Spaces. Defended Dec 8th 2022.
  • Vegetation survey by Ecoinfo: Flora Study - Atteridgeville
  • Vegetation survey by Ecoinfo: Flora Study - Mabopane
  • Storm water assessment by Niras: Stormwater management – proposals for local initiatives in Atteridgeville and Mabopane.
  • Popular media article by Ida Breed: Integrative green infrastructure planning improves quality of life in the city. Published in Innovate issue 17, 2022.
  • MSc thesis project by Andreas Møller and Theis Tolkamp: Informal urban expansion: providing basic services while protecting green spaces from encroachment in Atteridgeville, South Africa. Defended Sep 2nd, 2022.
  • Opinion piece by Peta Brom:  Parks for the people — everyone living in South Africa needs easy access to green spaces. Published Jul  25th, 2022.
  • Design proposals by Honours students in landscape architecture and architecture from 2021-2022
  • MSc thesis project by Katharina Berger: Growing Together - Upscaling collaborative learning incentives and trusting relations in a Danish-South African urban green development project. Defended Oct 1st, 2021.


  • 24/02-2023 8th and final GRIP workshop (online)
  • 27/11-2022-1/12-2022 Joint participation in URBIO conference (Leipzig)
  • 24/02/2023 7th GRIP workshop (online)
  • 3/11/2022 6th GRIP workshop (Tshwane)
  • 2/11/2022 SAGIC practitioner seminar (Tshwane)
  • 15/03/2022 5th GRIP workshop (Tshwane)
  • 15/03/2022 4th GRIP workshop (Tshwane)
  • 6/03-2022-18/03-2022 Joint fieldwork in Tshwane
  • 8/10/2021 3rd GRIP workshop (Tshwane)
  • 3/10-2021-16/10-2021 Joint fieldwork in Tshwane
  • 9/9/2021-10/9/2021 2nd GRIP Workshop (online)
  • 13/4/2021-14/4/2021 1st GRIP Workshop (online)

Further Reading


  • Lue Shane Cloete and Charlotte Swart from the Department of Architecture, the University of Pretoria: First prize at the Epidemic and Urbanism competition 2021 for their Tlhaho Community Clinic, as part of the GRIP Mabopane studio in conjunction with GRIP private consultants.
  • Caitlin Mackenzie and Michael Read from the Department of Architecture, the University of Pretoria: Third prize at the IFLA Africa Symposium 2021 on Health and Vitality for their Waste Water Project, which was part of the GRIP Mabopane design studio.

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Principal investigator

Jens-Christian Svenning

Professor, Centerleder Institut for Biologi - Økoinformatik og biodiversitet

Affiliated staff

Kristine Engemann Jensen

Gæsteforsker Institut for Biologi - Økoinformatik og biodiversitet

Maya Pasgaard

Adjunkt Institut for Biologi - Økoinformatik og biodiversitet