What does nature mean in urban area? A grove of trees in central park, a piece of lawn in the corner of busy street, or a squirrel passing by your window?
Planners and designers were trying so hard to squeeze little piece of nature into the urban fabric. However, will nature really stay the way we plan? If we assume rain water is nature, then it runs every streets in the city; If we assume wind is nature, then it flows every land in the city; If we assume sunshine is nature, then it lights up every corner in the city… Without noticing, nature is everywhere.
Landscape Architect Dan Kiley once said:” When we first came and grabbed all the land from the Indians, they didn’t think of land as being owned by anybody, with a line around it.” Then this raise the different perspectives to look at land in the natural and capitalist world. The meaning of land has lost its artistic and literary exploration after being defined by “owners” and “geologists”.
Maybe we should shift our thinking. Instead of bringing nature into city, we could pushing city into nature. When we think of ourselves just as one part of nature and the universe, it’s easier to respect the structure of nature before any human construction. Just like Olmsted planned the tremendous view to Mountain Rainer for our campus – an easy move, but profound meaning in reminding people of the absence of nature, and how we might inspire by nature. The intention and perspective really matters.
Speaking of the imaging of nature, it’s very likely that different scenes lie in different individuals with different cultural background. To be more specific, Western countries share the cognition of considering untouched, wild nature as the first nature, and agriculture as second culture; while different in Chinese culture, we define untouched nature as first nature, but aesthetic landscape(or traditional gardens) as second nature, which aiming to imitate the first nature in landscape design in a metaphorical way. These culture identities root in the conception of different style of landscape design. Then when we think of how to create a space giving people sense of nature within urban fabric, the first question comes to mind is the distinct identity of individuals. People find themselves within nature, in another word, the place should provide the sense of belonging, giving people the chance to release and relax mentally.
An interesting fact to consider is that, even if distinct identities root in different cultures, there is still one thing in consistency – city is the place that people escape from, and nature is where people always belong. I believe there are fairy tales all over the world talk about a mystery place isolated from the city, where the scenery is incredibly beautiful, and people live a happy and peaceful life…Before we think about nature in our city, maybe start by think of certain utopia in our mind.