Nature, as an instrument of spatial justice in urban regeneration

The City 

Szombathely is a county situated along the western border of Hungary, with a land coverage of 97 ha. and approximately 78,000 inhabitants. It has a wet continental climate, influenced by proximity to the Alps. The city is structured around a roman-medieval core, with a larger industrial sector to the east, and more sprawling residential areas elsewhere. Due to agriculture and housing, only around 18% of the landscape is forest, with much of the historic fauna and flora disappearing. 31.4 ha natural area is under protection, most of it to the west of the city, constituting its ecological network core. In the city center, the green infrastructure is characterized by 11 parks, and two natural rivers (Gyöngyös, Perint). Regarding air quality, there are two main challenges: air pollutant emissions concentrated around recent industrial areas on the eastern side threatening the city’s historically clean air, and a growing/densifying residential building stock threatens to increase emissions/pollutants from car traffic.

Restoring the urban waterway as a carbon sink ecological corridor wrapped around major arterial roads and giving it to local schools to foster a new generation of nature builders.

Focus in JUSTNature

Exploration and Activation Site

An action area is outlined southeast from the city centre, characterized by estate-style housing development, lower to middle-class residents, fading environmental consciousness in the younger generation, and a functionally weak and ecologically fragmented Gyöngyös river habitat. Two specific intervention sites are identified: Dési Huber primary school in the center of the neighborhood, and a leftover space between the river and a busy road.


  • Nature: restoring an ecological corridor on the southern section of river Gyöngyös by multiple targeted conservation interventions that create new habitation fragments connecting to the inner-city parks.
  • Low carbon | High air quality: strategic development of urban “lungs” and carbon sinks near a busy road.
  • Societal: build an ecologically committed community centered around children through common nature-building and hands-on programmes in the newly created urban ecosystems.

Key Stakeholders

  • Szombathelyi Szépítő Egyesület (historic civic NGO focusing on public spaces)
  • Dési Huber primary school
  • Szombathely School District
  • Kámoni Arborétum (botanical garden)
  • Nyugat Dunántúli Ingatlanfejlesztési Kft (residential real estate developer)
  • SZOVA (municipal asset management).