Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Natura Urbans, Natura Urbanata: Ecological Urbanism, Circulation, and the Immunization of Nature

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Natura Urbans, Natura Urbanata: Ecological Urbanism, Circulation, and the Immunization of Nature

Article excerpt

Abstract. While 'ecological urbanism' promises the introduction of a new generation of apparatuses, exacting control ever more deeply within the social whole, the logic by which such networks of power operate has remained largely unchanged since the 19th century. This paper will demonstrate the persistence of this logic by placing ecological urbanism within a genealogy of the concept of urbanization. Looking at the work of Spanish civil engineer, Ildfonso Cerda, I will examine his remarkably prescient theory in which he proposed to replace what he saw as the 'anachronistic' ciudad (city) with the 'modern' figure of the urbe--a generic, scaleless template of territorialization engulfed in expansive urbanization. The first part of the paper focuses on Cerda's concept of vialidad (roughly, 'circulation'), which formed the basis of his theory of urbanization and provided its origin in 'nature' itself. Urbanization was an effort to free mankind from political domination and recover it's 'natural' destiny by unifying a latent global society in a single, interconnected global urbe. However, not only did Cerda's theory introduce a new, far more pervasive technological relationship of power between government and population; it also set free to circulate what was previously fixed in the space and form of the city: the apparatus. In the second part of the paper I reexamine ecological urbanism with regard to the founding relationship between urbanization and nature. Now, because it is nature that has become pathological to humanity, it is nature which must be immunized. Ecological urbanism thus reinvigorates the capacity of the urban to stave off the end of the world, not only by rhetorically reaffirming the natural origins of urbanization but also by inverting this relationship: ecological urbanism proposes to reconstruct nature as urbanization.

Keywords: nature, circulation, infrastructure, urbanization, ecological urbanism, immunization, urbe, vialidad, Cerda, apparatus, state, private property, pharmakon

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In February 2011, the office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA's) (Rem Koolhaas) research studio, AMO, along with the WWF and Ecofys, published The Energy Report (WWF et al, 2011), a comprehensive 'roadmap' which would see the world transition to a coordinated network of renewable energy by 2050. As a point of departure, the report makes its first claim in appropriating Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Map of 1943 to depict the Earth today. Flattened to its two-dimensional projection and oriented vertically, the Dymaxion Map provides the perfect neutrality through its technical 'correctness' while cleverly centering the world around perhaps the most contested political and geographical void in the world: the North Pole. Throughout the report, the Dymaxion Map serves as the template for displaying various forms of information. However, it is in the two most conclusive images of this publication where the map begins to speak beyond the gravitas of fact-deluge. The first is an attempt to reimagine statehood in terms of regional energy and resource specificity. The second proposes a new global energy grid, linking all of the world's energy 'region-states' into a singular network (figure 1).

While such imagery may appear somewhat facile in its content, it reveals far more than the simple narrative carried on its surface. In fact, it is precisely the simplicity of these images that is significant. For they mark an endpoint in a certain collective imagination where it is now possible to envision the entire globe parceled into functional, apolitical blocs joined together as a single, interconnected union of network confluence. Lines that once politically divided the world into territories will now unite it in universal circulation--the technoneutrality of urban planning made global. What is implied is twofold: on the one hand, we can now fully imagine the world reduced to a single, unified, human population--a global society, in Hannah Arendt's (1958) terms, whose homogeneous needs are to be organized and satisfied through the administration of services. …

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