Blurring Natural And Manmade System Cultural Studies Essay

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"The division that had taken place during the sixth century between natural philosophy, which considered the cosmos as a thing or process apart from man, and humanistic wisdom, which considered man capable of existing in a self contained world outside the cosmos" [1] 

A discussion on this dynamic boundary inevitably encounters ambiguous terminology; the most difficult word to define is 'natural' or 'nature'. What is artificial, what is natural? Is man part of the natural world, if so, could his edifices by extension not be regarded as nature. Charlesworth suggests that this polarisation is associated with western culture, with origins in ancient Athens. "The pristine city stood clearly apart from nature" Apollo was seen as the god of the polis, or order created out of disorder, high art and science, Dionysus's domain was outside the city walls, god of wine making, intoxication, ritual madness, the dangerous . Cronon also links the divide to western culture and the ancient world. "we learned our city country dichotomy from the 19th century romantics who learned it in turn from pastoral poets stretching back to Virgil"

The industrial revolution made physical this polarisation. A reaction to the resultant increasingly artificial habitat of man, many movements of the following decades purported a return to primitive 'nature'. Marxism called for a return to a more primitive condition were humans were reintroduced to each other and to nature. [2] "agriculture would be combined with manufacturing industry so that there would be a gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country" modernisation and progress was twinned with a retreat from the landscape to constructed environments [3] ."The 1960/70s saw us revise our values, and a renewed interest in the natural world [4] . The publication of Silent Spring in 1962 and the resulting DDT revelations coupled with the nuclear anxieties of the cold war suggested that blind pursuit of technological goals did not always correlate to an increasing quality of life. The genre of dystopian Sci-Fi emerged, along with it a fascination with technology and the artificial prompting the fall of mankind.

Silent spring also saw the emergence of ecology as a subversive topic. Natural Science had changed the world, reimagined our relationship with the synthetic as one of scepticism. The Kyoto agreement was the climax of an era of a collective goal of limiting our impact on the planet. What role can architecture play in responding the ever present demands for a reinvented city which responds to the environmental conscience? Tarfuri suggests that the economic base, capitalism has relieved architects of the responsibilities bestowed upon them by the enlightenment philosophers "They should express in built form, the ideologies of society" [5] He concludes that designers have lost this responsibility to imagine utopias. This resigns architecture to a container of 'sublime uselessness'. I reject that the architect has been excused of ideology. Architecture must illustrate our aspirations (order) rather than our reality(chaotic).



3) all natural phenomena and plant and animal life, as distinct from man and his creations

4) a wild primitive state untouched by man or civilization

5) natural unspoilt scenery or countryside

6) 5. Theology Humankind's natural state as distinguished from the state of grace.

Ecology - eco come from Greek oikos meaning house or dwelling. the study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment

Abiotic - (biology) of or relating to abiosis; non-living; non-biological

Biotic - of or relating to living organisms

Biosphere - the part of the earth's surface and atmosphere inhabited by living things

Metabolism - the sum total of the chemical processes that occur in living organisms, resulting in growth, production of energy, elimination of waste material,

Pastoral - of, characterized by, or depicting rural life, scenery, etc

Artificial- produced by man; not occurring naturally

made in imitation of a natural product, esp as a substitute; not genuine

pretended; assumed; insincere


Siting on 2% of the world's land, cities use 75% of resources and discharge similar amounts of waste. Urbanisation in itself is not the problem, proximity allows for efficient distribution of resources. Indeed The residents of Manhattan, New York City have 30% of the national carbon footprint. Since 2007 we became a predominately urban species [6] , what are the implications for our relationship to nature? The edge of the city as a place is a potent physical analogy for this duality, or perhaps coupling. The Irish people up until the middle of the 20th century extracted much of their needs from the land surrounding their homes. By the year 2030, out of an Irish population of 5,450,000 70% of Irish people will live in urban areas. As forces such as plentiful housing and employment draws our rural population (the highest in Europe) to the city [7] . The challenge of designing city growth must acknowledge the familiar Irish model of the surrounding land providing resources, energy, and recreation. The existing peripheral typology is one of isolation and indifference. "like almost everywhere in . . . the periphery of the city consists of the brutal juxtaposition of residential neighbourhoods , shopping centres, warehouses, and industrial buildings" This potential can be realised with a CONSOLING architectural intervention between rural and urban.

Table of contents

1Ecology: What is the ideal relationship between man in nature?

2Hinterland: How have cities in the past employed their hinterland to serve them.

3Tangible Infrastructure: At the point of contact with this hinterland, can this role of ideal relationship be articulated in the architecture of this infrastructure?

4Stable edge: Does the sprawl ever stop growing to allow a stable edge to be designed, and if so where and when?

5Open Space: What role does this peripheral open space occupy in the hierarchy of open spaces across the city?

Irish Edge: What typologies collide at the Irish rural edge, and what are their origins? How do they inform my idea of the ideal city edge for an Irish city?


The Irish population is projected to grow to Seven million by the year 2050. As the population grows obtaining a sustainable supply of resources; food, water and energy will be vital to maintaining quality of life [8] . "for a long time a mechanistic world view dominated urban design. in this view the world appeared as a vast endless resource [9] "In the year 1972 the first international environmental conference was held. Entitled 'limits to growth' it was instigated by the international think tank, 'The Club of Rome'. The reports concluded that without aversive action the limits to growth on the planet would be reached in less than 100 years. As discussed in the PREFACE these decades saw a revolution in how we see our planet. The year 1973 saw the birth of the deep ecology movement, the fundamental concept of this school of thought placed the human as a part of the global ecology rather than an independent element. [10] Ecology or the study of our home (Oikos) in Greek revealed cyclical movements of nutrients and energy in ecosystems. When this cyclical model of consumption and waste is compared to our existing cities they often reveal a linear flow. However in the natural world every output becomes an input. The biosphere has a limited capacity as a sink for our residues, and a mine of resources. If we do not begin to design for these cyclical exchanges we will exhaust our environment. "the built environment must be analysed using the ecosystem concept . . biotic and abiotic components, their interactions as a whole, and the flow of energy and materials through the system" [11] 

In an age where humanity is contemplating the term 'finite' the seemingly infinite continuum of ecosystems is an alluring model for the environments we construct. Architecture is increasingly designed to facilitate a cradle to cradle cycle. A recent utopian vision applies this concept to the city. A line is drawn around the urban region, agriculture, or energy production for example is then stacked in multi-storey structures. This closed loop city is a physical analogy for the man/nature dichotomy. An withdrawl of humans from the landscape is the obvious conclusion of an environmentalism which champions wilderness "If we allow ourselves to believe that nature, to be true, must also be wild, then our very presence in nature represents its fall" [12] In the subsequent chapters it shall become apparent that this model for living is in fact my antithesis.

BOX OF PIPELINE (After pessimistic section)

Surprisingly for a country known for its heavy rainfall, our capital, Dublin is struggling to supply our appetite for water "The Dublin region, which encompasses parts of Kildare and Wicklow, uses about 540m litres a day, but is only able to produce 518m litres


"thousands of miles beyond its influence was felt out, far out, away in the snow and shadow of northern Wisconsin forests, axes and saws bit at the bark of century old trees stimulated by this cities energy" [13] Cronons descriptions of Chicago depict a gateway city, exploiting a wilderness. Lumber, livestock and grain were extracted from an expansive hinterland using an ever growing network. Goods were assimilated and consumed. The threshold of this metropolis was marked by vast slaughter houses, and chimneys billowing clouds of orange and black smoke. When the natural entrances of the city were deemed inadequate for the flow of goods new perimeter landscape was imagined. Railways spread west to the horizon and the 'shallow mucky harbour' was bypassed with new canals and piers. His conclusion, that the city and its hinterland were the products of each other, they could not exist independently. [14] But extensive exploitation was limited by technology and transport. The emergence of cheap, efficient transport has made every corner of the earth the hinterland of any given city. In the 21st century natural resources are highly mobilised, and subject to the whim of distant cities. According to Girardet this break between proximity and supply is ultimately unsustainable. [15] 

"cities grew and prospered by assuring supplies of food and forest products . . harnessing the fertility of their local hinterland" [16] 

Girardet depicts the Medieval European city as a sustainable model. Similar to nineteenth century Chicago in that the surrounding countryside provides the inputs to the city. Michel Desvignes also cites spatial sequence of the medival city to fields in his remedy for the contemporary edge. He depicts a hierarchy of outdoor spaces from dwelling to courtyard, garden, kitchen garden, orchard and finally open countryside with the larger spaces were shared. Desvigne laments how this has been replaced by an indifference to surroundings.

"This terrible break between the built environment and the farmland is the product of technocratic regulatory systems" [17] 

"The city has evolved . . to one that depends upon an economy driven by global business and communications technology, . .part of a system of global city regions" [18] .Despite its peripheral location Ireland has emerged as the most globalised economy in the EU, enabled by 21th century communication, the internet. Cities depend on each other for resources also, why abandon these connections? Fear or suspicion of our neighbours? Mumford cites Plato in his argument that war is the result of international resources grab, which he describes as greed and excess "the desire for luxuries not found in the immediate countryside" Lmumford 172/3


The city edge is the site of many exchanges between urban and rural. Morrish & Brown in reference to the utopian designers such as le Corbusier, state how infrastructure was edited out of their urban visions. The ugly workings of the city are hidden allowing the zoned residential areas to take on a park like character. Zoning represents the suburban 'not in my back yard' attitude, incompatible zones are buffered by now massive transport infrastructure. This 'room with a view approach' relies on low density to isolate 'natural' from utilitarian. They conclude that it has failed. "today the infrastructure .. has crept into the front yard, destroying a (suburban) landscape supposed to be a comfortable refuge from the city" Is there an unease about our modernisation that demands residential be spared the sight of our newest constructed typologies.?

What if we look for this secretive Infrastructure, what values does it communicate? The masses of landfill waste that the western world produces predominately ends up in landfill. The gigantic structures we create with this waste are monument to a dominantly linear movement of resources. What if these detrimental exchanges with the environment were suddenly become visible in the public domain? The city of Naples was the site of just such a confrontation during the strikes of 2010, see fig.?? On the streets of Mumbai India, the waste does not simply disappear. The slum of Dharavi is acclaimed for its role in up cycling waste. "it (Dharavi) represents the veritable lungs, liver, kidneys of Mumbai" (image size) Freshkills Landfill NYC. (See case study &Egypt?). "we underutilise the unexpected opportunities afforded by eco practices as well as the location, functions and daily operations of maintaining our cities" [19] 

Mostafavi(2011) cites the 16th century Rome water network as an example of infrastructure as embodying aspirations of a city. The plan was to link supply of water to the gardens of the wealthy with the distribution of water for masses via wall fountains. The movement of the water across the city was often celebrated in elaborate public displays of ingenuity. Today it seems we are oblivious to the waters source, path or final destination. [20] From these examples it is clear that beyond provision of utilities, infrastructure must act as a public amenity, expression of place, and a mediator between nature and man. The character of these new roles supports my thesis of an infrastructural edge. If the city edge presents a vivid analogy for our contact with the natural elements, then Infrastructure is the physical reality of these connections and burdens on our world. "The city, suburb and the hinterland whose natural resources sustain it. Infrastructure can and should make these lines of connection clear and vivid".


The role of the city edge will depend on the overall green network of any city. This section evaluates open space inside the city. Toronto adopted plans for a green belt emulating London's' green ring along with many other commonwealth cities. The implications of Toronto's imposed urban form are the subject of analysis by Amati 'urban green belts in the 21st century'. The phenomenon of 'leap frogging' taken place outside the un-serviced green belt was the problem identified. This open land must then be crisscrossed by expensive new service links and transport routes, jeopardising the ecological, agricultural and recreational productivity. Thus it becomes a large grain element in the city which if over proportioned can be an obstacle to the creation of a compact settlement. Jane Jacobs purports a small urban grain, and is against the creation of large expanses of lawn in the city, which pushes buildings further apart using central land inefficiently and ultimately contributing to sprawl. This small grain matrix lends itself to planning mixed uses also, the proximity it affords allows for beneficial relationships between functions. The creation of vast voids in the urban fabric is therefore undesirable, be they oversized parks or jeopardised greenbelts as they undermine density and their ecological value is limited by their isolation. DENSITY IS KEY. EDGE IS BEST.


Are there stretches of city edge that are permanent enough to design for? Where and when should the sprawl stop? "The control of city growth by orderly colonisation, repeated as oftern as numbers demanded" [21] Lewis Mumford commends the Greek city of Delphi ability to stop growing their old cities and send their excess population out to establish colonies elsewhere.

Similarly Howards utopian garden city had a capped population of 32,000, allowing for a permanent edge. Today highly mobile populations mean population fluctuations, growth and contraction. Ian McHarg wrote the seminal work on architecture sensitive to existing ecologies, Design with nature. He states that the form of the city must respond to natural process. McHarg compiled a scale of landscape sensitivity, from surface water to flatland. Applying this method to a careful inventory of the hinterland can project an appropriate growth pattern. Melbourne 2030 is such a plan, adopting a pattern of 'green wedges'. Expansion is permitted along infrastructure corridors, yet valuable natural resources are protected. Significantly, Permanent boundaries have been erected, surrounding water sources, prime agricultural land, important habitat and scenic/recreational amenity. Between these preserved 'wedges', fingers of growth radiates. If all the boundaries were restricted the constraint of the city would lead to housing shortage and price inflation as documented in London in the Barker Report on housing supply. However certain land types are unsuitable for urbanisation, here the edge is stable. "Nature should provide the order and underlying structure of the metropolis ridges, bays, rivers, agriculture and mountains form the inherent boundaries of our regions" [22] 

The land beyond these 'stable edges' must justify its existence with a layering of functions.

"The only way open land can be maintained against growth pressure is function"

'Urban Green Belts' projects the future of the urban hinterland; the new priorities are recreation and ecology. Limited access to the green belt from neighbouring metropolitan areas is their greatest criticism. Tony Garniers Cite Industrial embraced the value of land adjacent to the agrarian plain, a hospital, sports and recreational areas were given the priviledge of this location such that the population might benefit. Medical Science is only now establishing the benefit of exercise in organic environments [23] .This vision of the periphery as a potential playground for the people of the city begins to conflict with the agricultural goals. If the land is ever to realise its potential as a communal space it must first engage and endear communities. Facilitating this multitude of functions is a design challenge, in a zone under constant pressure to prove its value against development.

The term CPUL or Continuous Productive Urban Landscape was coined in 2004 by Andre Viljoen to describe his manifesto that a linked series of green spaces could provide food for the city. While the notion of a linked green network is certainly valuable in terms of biodiversity and mobility I believe that this new land use conflicts the need for neighbourhood parks and could only contribute a negligible amount to the overall consumption. This, the 'waste' ground he suggests we commandeer is generally of ecological value, this coupled with the long dormant season in Ireland leads me to question whether this could be executed without compromising the limited existing greenspaces.


"Today it seems almost impossible to define a contemporary peripheral condition, . .this very elusiveness ensures it's attraction for debate"

The word Suburbia originates from a combination of suburb meaning outside or under the city and Utopia. The low density life promised the best of rural and urban lifestyles. " . . implanted the idea of suburbia as a calm, orderly and beautiful utopia. Accessible to every man" The suburbs often fall short of this goals and can become socio economically stratified, becoming ghettos of anti-social behaviour. Zoning, see section ? created homogenous monotonous districts, but allowed the. However we must adjust to the Frampton cites a recent report by the British government which states that 90% of what will exist 20 years from now has already been built. "Thus aesthetics and urbanism in the 21st century bring one back to all the unanswerable questions of the previous century [24] "If we consider the roughly concentric growth of cities over time, in series of bouts of growth then it's study can be compared to dendrochronology. The values and ideologies of each time can be read from the architecture, as growth traditionally occurs at the edge. We first encounter the formal rows of Victorian terraces arranged in an efficient geometry. Further out, toward the end of the 19th century, the 'housing estate' became the typology we are familiar with, influenced by the romanticist tastes of art and landscaping began resemble a scattering of buildings in a park. This retreat to nature was subsequently leapfrogged by haphazard Celtic tiger developments. This further growth left suburbia isolated from rural and urban, and lacking any public space of its own.

.The Most recent typology to emerge at the outer ring is the 'big box'. These corporate offices, industrial/commercial estates convey a technocratic disregard for landscape in pursuit of economic growth. However the nature of our capitalist economy demands that cheap land be available for sprawling new developments. These Industrial and residential estates are facilitated by substantial new ring roads. Other than zoning, infrastructure is often the reason for concentration of these industrial sheds high volume links of power and water are required. In Tafuri's 'l'architecture dans la boudoir', large multinational corporations override even the city planner. He suggests that the employment and associated wealth generated locally make them impossible to refuse. "How could any city refuse them permission to build even on land zoned already for something else?" [25] The principle of zoning emerged in 1920's new york.

At the same time as we traverse a city, from core to periphery it instigates a parallel journey through time. What would the early 21st century new ring look like? "Visions of a city's future can be plotted on this partially spoiled land" [26] 


"It (the landscape) is always heavily marked by the practices and natural structures that exist or that existed" [27] This description of a hybrid landscape or third nature with layers of influence by humans is especially relevant when applied to the Irish landscape. Whelan & Stout in their Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape [28] , depict a topography which has been manipulated by man for millennia, rich with human intervention, a marriage of ecology and agriculture. WALLS QUOTES. Yet we perceive this contrived landscape as the epitome of natural, an original state. What we consider nature is in fact a complex relationship between human and non-human, organisms have found niches within the new landscape we have formed. So intertwined is man in the Irish ecology that a retreat from the landscape would actually be detrimental to our wildlife. "no other species had been faced with th e task of consciously managing it's own ecology [29] ".Consider the nesting of swallows, barn owls and bats. The Chough now rare depends upon regularly grazed coastal grasses to provide food, similarly the flora and fauna of the burren, Co. Clare relies of frequent grazing, (man). The landscape of Ireland is a human construction, our native and non-native flora and fauna accommodate niches within this manipulated ecology. Beside the term 'natural' (4) a wild primitive state untouched by man or civilization) the terms native and non-native lose meaning in the Irish context. Some of our most enigmatic species are in fact introduced, the pheasant, the rabbit, scots pine, white thorn. Another undermining of native Irish fauna came with the recent reintroduction, of golden eagles, and white tailed sea eagles, to our only two 'wilderness' areas, Glenveagh and Kilarney national parks. "we now understand that we live in a pluralistic worldof give and take [30] "To withdraw from this hybrid landscape might not be a valid environmental aspiration, rather we must design to retain our links and encourage the symbiotic.

"The usual catastrophe of the city outskirts is embodied in that terrible line separating the housing environment from the vast swathes of land that were created by the consolidation of lots and are used for extensive farming."


The intricate web of ancient field divisions speaks of an Irish obsession with ownership of the land. The carefully maintained matrix of enclosures represents a series of defined individuals, - the single unit repeated. Perhaps this is why we have taken so readily to the suburban model of a wall surrounding a rear and front garden, in which we construct the dwelling. In Garniers 'Cite Industrial', the quintessential utopia in nature the erection of boundaries would be forbidden. This is a product of the schemes socialist motivations, with the emergence of NAMA this contesting of public and private property and indeed capitalism has evident in Ireland. The landscape of both suburbia and the more ancient field boundaries illustrate a landscape divided up and granted into the ownership of individuals, there is no room for ambiguity. Suburbia allowed the Irish to avoid the shift in perception of territory from individual to communal. The suburbs offer a retreat from the participation, contact and confrontation of urban life. In this cellular plain where is the public space? Where do people meet each other? The automobile and the Internet which facilitate this dispersed settlement pattern, have increased communication, but reduced contact. As depicted in 'The Tain' pre-Christian Irish held great significance in the boundary as place of meeting and confrontation. In a territorial culture still evident on the island the liminal space between private domains must offer the best opportunity for a public domain. What If the existing grain or boundaries were to accommodate new a new access network? Then the hedgerows and dry stone walls would have their meaning subverted from that of exclusion and the individual to become one of access and communal society. This new notion of territory must inform any design for a population facing the shift from rural to urban.


Irish rural completely at odds with new urban model, if withdraw from countryside be shite.

Ireland dispersed population expensive infrastructure more ESB or roads per person than any other eu country.

-weak metropolis, what is the place of city in this matrix of bungalows? Broadacre city- contact with landscape privilege, City must present an attractive alternative. SuperUrban present the idea of the sustainable one off house symbiotic relationship with the landscape, apply this to the city. (Radial masterplan). Edge can embody the spirit of a new urban age for Ireland.

For accommodation we must look inward to low density areas and brown fields. For resources we must look outward to the green belt.


"Cities ultimately cannot be self-regulating super organisms without maintaining stable linkages with the hinterland from which they draw their resources and into which they currently discharge their wastes"

-Ideal relationship between man and nature sees man as part of the ecosystem not totally isolated or parasitic, but enjoying mutual benefits and opportunities.

-The hinterland is the most appropriate area for the city to attain energy, resources and recreation

While corridors for growth are important to sustain our economies, the sprawl must stop in the wake of valuable stretches of land or water.

In wake of the densitication of the city and suburbs, the periphery will become an important regional park. Benefit of Facilitating exercise in a pastoral setting. Mental beneficial.

The Irish landscape supports the ecological movement principle of man being an active member on an ecosystem. The onus for the designer then is to facilitate symbiosis (see point 1)


Infrastructure needs to be reintegrated and redefined as a sophisticated, instrumental landscape of essential resources, processes and services that collectively underpins and upholds the on-going, unfinished urbanisation of the 21st century.

Landscape urbanism, mostavi and adriaan KNOW!!