The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design

The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design

The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design

The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design

Excerpt

Nature pervades the city, forging bonds between the city and the air, earth, water, and living organisms within and around it. In themselves, the forces of nature are neither benign nor hostile to humankind. Acknowledged and harnessed, they represent a powerful resource for shaping a beneficial urban habitat; ignored or subverted, they magnify problems that have plagued cities for centuries, such as floods and landslides, poisoned air and water. Unfortunately, cities have mostly neglected and rarely exploited the natural forces within them.

More is known about urban nature today than ever before; over the past two decades, natural scientists have amassed an impressive body of knowledge about nature in the city. Yet little of this information has been applied directly to molding the form of the city -- the shape of its buildings and parks, the course of its roads, and the pattern of the whole. A small fraction of that knowledge has been employed in establishing regulations to improve environmental quality, but these have commonly been perceived as restrictive and punitive, rather than as posing opportunities for new urban forms. Regulations have also proven vulnerable to shifts in public policy, at the mercy of the political concerns of the moment, whereas the physical form of the city endures through generation after generation of politicians. In the United States, the Reagan administration of the 1980s reversed the environmental policies of the 1970s, dismantled the institutional framework that had been constructed to implement those policies, and undermined the achievements of the previous decade. Regulations controlling the emission of air pollutants may be altered, but the urban form designed to disperse those pollutants will continue to do so regardless of changes in policy.

This is a book about nature in cities and what the city could be like if designed in concert with natural processes, rather than in ignorance of them or in outright opposition. It reviews comprehensive strategies for sweeping change most readily implemented in rapidly growing cities, as well as incremental solutions more appropriate to the gradual rede-

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