Today, the built environment and the urban are often perceived to be synonymous. Societies the world over – so we are taught in surveys and exhibitions – are constantly attracted to the metropolis. In the near future, we hear, almost all humans on the planet will live in cities. The grand narrative of the urban has replaced the grand narrative of progress, which dominated the 20th century. At the same time, this new grand narrative becomes questionable as “nature” enters into the focus of our attention by way of global climate change, frequent natural disasters, and ever more popular destinations for domesticated natural beauty, retreat, and recreation. What is meant by the “urban” and “nature” however, remains largely up for debate. How can we resist this dualistic and teleological way of thinking? Can the concept of “urban nature” help us focus more clearly on the interrelation between the human and the non-human? Can it help explain pervasive fascinations with the zones of transition, the wastelands between the urban and the natural? Can it serve as a platform of exchange between different fields of knowledge such as architecture, urban planning, biology, history, and anthropology?
For most inhabitants of Zurich, New York is the very emblem of the urban. New Yorkers, on the other hand, might identify Zurich with the pastoral and thus with “nature.” In reality, New York is at the forefront of an urban “green revolution,” and the emergence of public spaces like the High Line are emblematic of this transformation. Conversely, Zurich is witnessing the most rapid building boom in its history — and turning grey. New York is regularly hit by natural disasters, while nature in the environments of Zurich is completely domesticated. What can we learn from these dynamics? How do the urban and nature, or more generally, the human and the non-human, relate to each other? Which are the implications of this interaction for design, for historical research? Explore some answers in this interdisciplinary discussion, challenging our notions of "urban" and "nature."
Philip Ursprung and Mark Wigley: Opening remarks: The Concept of “Urban Nature”
D. Graham Burnett: Leviathan and the Young Republic
Laura Kurga, Respondent
Emily E. Scott: Exploding the Garden-as-Usual: Manhattan, c. 1969
Kate Orff, Respondent
Christophe Girot, Respondent
Günther Vogt: Nature of the City
Jannette Kim, Respondent
Response to the morning session by Elisabeth Bronfen and general discussion
Laura Kurgan: Urban Datafication: Data Naturalization
D. Graham Burnett, Respondent
Christophe Girot: Next Natures and Other Topologies
David Benjamin, Respondent
Janette Kim: What Happens When You Sit Still for Too Long
Günther Vogt, Respondent
Kate Orff: Rebuilding Eco-Infrastructures
Emily E. Scott, Respondent
Discussion moderated by Philip Ursprung and Mark Wigley
End of conference
Zürich Meets New York: A Festival of Swiss Ingenuity, May 16-23, 2014, highlights the contemporary relevance of visionary movements and ideas born in Zurich and their impact on American culture. Building on the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Dada movement and Zurich’s role as a 21st-century hub for artistic and scientific innovation, the festival features 25 events at venues across the city, and is presented by the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York, the City of Zurich, ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich (UZH).
This symposium is a program related to The Swiss Touch in Landscape Architecture exhibition on view at the Center for Architecture in the spring of 2014.
Presented by ETH Zurich, in partnership with the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), Columbia University, and AIA New York Chapter | Center for Architecture.
This program is presented as a part of NYCxDESIGN 2014.