Dense living with the Nature

Every single part of Denmark has been touched by humanity. The landscape contains signs of human beings living and changing it; a denoted cultural landscape. The humans endless change of the nature creates a situation today where the state of the nature in Denmark is critical, 27 % of the Danish species are gone, threatened or exposed (Vincentz, Hahn-Petersen and Bro, 2013). The cities are the indicator of cultural landscape. They have not much left from the original landscape; coastlines, topographies and vegetation have changed and the biodiversity in the city decreases. The cities are a reality that will not change as a result, the city has to adept to the future, where the dense living and high biodiversity shall unite.

This study shows that the definition of the nature is a very individual thing, which makes the definition multifarious and indefinite. Before discussing the nature, it is therefore important to know what people think about when they talk about the nature.

What is nature?

The Danish philosopher, Hans Fink (1944-) postulates that the term nature is ambiguous. On one hand, the human beings are the opposite of the nature. The cultural idea of humanity says that man differentiates from nature because of the free will, consciousness, sense, science, technology, art, moral and religion. On the other hand, human are part of the natural system as mammals living from the resources the nature gives (Fink, 2003). Fink puts up seven different ideas of the nature; the untouched, the wild, the rural, the green, the physical, the earthly and everything. The first six present the idea of nature as something else than the human. Where the last sees the nature as everything. The first four tells the chronological development the nature has been through. The idea of the nature as the wild draws the line between the cultivated and uncultivated landscape. It is a definition, which introduces the discussion of nature versus nurture in the way of understanding the nature. The nature starts where the systematic and regular use of the landscape stops. The nature is in its original wild condition as before the agricultural revolution. Man uses this nature for hunting, fishing and collecting wood, fruit and fungi (Fink, 2003). The self contradictory of this wild nature is the fact that the human being uses many resources on nature management either to save the wilderness from the impact of the human life in the rest of the world or to preserve a fixed picture of the wild nature. Another way of understanding the term nature is to understand all the living things as nature whereas all non-living things such as mechanics are the opposite. This definition leaves a lot of nature in the world. All the green parks, trees and even potted plants are nature, which means lots of nature in the cities (Fink, 2003). Hans Fink defines the different ideas of nature in an objective way with a focus on the physical elements that becomes the borderline between nature and culture. His definitions mostly differences in the placement of this borderline. The British professor Kathryn Moore at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Birmingham City University says that landscape is more than the physical context.

“… it [the landscape] also reflects our memories and values, the experiences we have of a place – as citizens, employers, visitors, students, tourists. It is the material, cultural, and social context of our lives.”

(Moore, 2011:468)

In Moore’s definition, the nature is everything or nothing. She is agreeing with Fink at the aspect that the understanding of nature depends on many parameters such as the professional, cultural and social identity of a person. Where Moore expands the nature definition is by saying that nature also has a sensuous aspect. As the idea of the nature reflecting our memories, it becomes something telling about experiences a human has with the nature during a life. So when creating a nature, it is important to have this contextual nature experience in mind. In a Danish context, the soft rolling countryside is a common thing, which is often very close to the city centre. Its expression is systematic and regular, as a heavy farming machine. Research shows that there is a big difference between the mental impact of nature being lean and regular or wildish and manifold. The lean and regular nature activate the concentrated attention, which is used to capture the many impressions and the high tempo of the city give. On the other hand, irregularly nature that has a wild character stimulates the spontaneous attention of the humans. The spontaneous attention creates positive feelings, which give more energy and less stress (Vincentz, Hahn-Petersen and Bro, 2013). The Wadden Sea, the heath and the large forests are some of the places in Denmark, where it is possible to experience this wildish and manifold nature. The experience of these places are sensuous. The memories of these places reflect the smells, the colour, the air, the wind, the sounds, the atmospheres. In many ways, the experience of the nature is bodily.

The report “Global Biodiversity Strategy” from 1992 defines the biodiversity as the diversity of the species, between the species and between the ecosystems (Vincentz, Hahn-Petersen and Bro, 2013). The project introduces a nature, which seems uncultivated in the city. In many ways, this approach is self-contradictory, but on the other hand, humanity uses many resources preserving the wilderness. Instead of using the energy on conserving a fixed picture of the nature, use the energy to create a landscape that has the essence of the wild nature. It is 100 % manmade but created with a knowledge about natural systems, and thereafter treated as a system with endless processes and transformations. This project understand the landscape as a physical context, where the nature is both a physical and sensuous experience. The nature is mostly a feeling of freedom, where the atmosphere stimulates all the senses and gives a bodily experience. A report from the Danish Nature Agency introduces five architectural initiative that can increase the biodiversity (Vincentz, Hahn-Petersen and Bro, 2013).

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How to work with the nature?

The Canadian professor of Architectural Theory and Criticism at Harvard Graduate School of Design Sanford Kwinter postulates that working ecological means connecting the human and the natural with the aesthetics, which is where the challenges of the ecological praxis arise. On one side is the nature, which the humans often fallible believe is a set of resources to service the humans’ purpose. On the other side, the cities have become the most comfortable habitat for human beings. Humans are so detached from the nature that the metropolis seems as natural a habitat nowadays as the hunter-gatherer bands in the Stone Age. Kwinter means it is this detachment, which is the challenge of ecological thinking. The changes have to transform the imaginative and intellectual life (Kwinter, 2011).

Throughout the history of urban design the relationship between human and nature changes. The American architect, urban planner and founder of the Congress of the New Urbanism, Andrés Duany (1949-), presents three epochs from the history that differ in their way to approach the nature. Old Urbanism privileges socio-economic diversity. It is dense cities, which one has known since the Middle Age, but the Old Urbanism does not value the nature. It is maybe sustainable because of the densification, but it does not leave space for the nature and animals (Duany, 2011). Landscape Urbanism privileges the natural diversity, which creates a ruralisation with large green areas around the buildings. Duany means it created good conditions for the nature, but produced a lot of transportation through the ruralisation (Duany, 2011). New Urbanism values both socio-economics and natural diversity. The densely built smaller communities preserve a lot of space for the nature (Duany, 2011). New Urbanism is in many ways the Old Urbanism built again 500 years later. It has a lot of good ideas and intentions, but when the New Urbanism is realised it often become a feigned picture. The method to work with nature has to solve how to combine the qualities from the Old Urbanism and the Landscape Urbanism in a modern approach without a romantic picture of the cities and landscape of the past, as the New Urbanism uses.

Where Duany looks at the approach towards nature in a chronological way, the founder and Dean of the Graduate School of Landscape Architecture at Peking University, Doctor of Design Kongjian Yu presents two ways of working with the cities and the nature. To him it is not a question about the hierarchy of the nature, but a question of understanding the land as a living system. He compares todays cities with the rich Chinese girls that bind their feet to be able to marry urban elites. The way the cities are build is unhealthy, deform and with little functionality. Yu means, these cities are a path to death (Yu,2011). The cities pollute its own resources and build enormous dams to keep the water out of the cities. Yu postulates that a paradigm shift is on the way of planning the cities. The cities have to be planned as a part of the natural system (Yu, 2011). One has to start working with the nature instead of against it.

As Yu, the Danish landscape architect C. Th. Sørensen (1893-1979) sees the methods to work with the landscape as timeless. For him, it is simple, a question of professional competence, technology, processes and transformation.

”From this perspective it is not a matter of reproducing the image of the lost landscape, but of creating a landscape that offers solutions to architectural problems of today and tomorrow. It should be kept in mind that character of our landscape will be altered under any circumstances as a consequence of climate changes, industrialisation and globalisation of the agricultural production, and technological advances.”

(Hauxner, 2011:283)

References

Duany, A. (2011). A General Theory of Ecological Urbanism. In: M. Mostafavi and G. Doherty, ed.,Ecological Urbanism, 1st ed. Karlsruhe, Germany: Lars Müller Publishers, pp.406-411.

Fink, H. (2003). Et mangfoldigt naturbegreb. In: P. Agger, A. Reenberg, J. Læssøe and H. Hansen, ed.,Naturens værdi – vinkler på danskernes forhold til naturen, 1st ed. [online] Copenhagen: Gad. Available at: http://www. byplanlab.dk/sites/default/files2/Et_mangfoldigt_naturbegreb_ Fink.pdf [Accessed 6 Nov. 2014].

Fink, H (2006). Three Sorts of Naturalism. European Journal of Philosophy, 14(2), pp. 202-221.

Kwinter, S. (2011). Notes on Third Ecology. In: M. Mostafavi and G. Doherty, ed., Ecological Urbanism, 1st ed. Karlsruhe, Germany: Lars Müller Publishers, pp.94-105.

Moore, K. (2011). Nature Culture. In: M. Mostafavi and G. Doherty, ed., Ecological Urbanism, 1st ed. Karlsruhe, Germany: Lars Müller Publishers, pp.468-471.

Vincentz, R., Hahn-Petersen, P. and Bro, L. (2013). Biodiversitet i byer – forslag til synergier mellem biodiversitet og byudviling. Naturstyrelsen.

Yu, K. (2011). The Big-Foot Revolution. In: M. Mostafavi and G. Doherty, ed., Ecological Urbanism, 1st ed. Karlsruhe, Germany: Lars Müller Publishers, pp.282-291.

 

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