Urban Nature Seminar | 23 June 2016

Urban Nature

Since modernity, human progress has been measured in terms of their domination of nature, rather than the redefinition of the nature of their relationship (Dunlap and Catton, 1979). Since then, humans have suffered through their estrangement from this natural processes.

Throughout the history of urbanism, the notion of ‘urban’ and ‘nature’ often intersects. Nature has been subjugated, consumed, commodified, reproduced and also to great extent idolized, in the creation of human’s built environment. But what is nature in relation with urbanism? How can we engage the concept of urban-nature as an alternative lens to understand the process behind the development of our built environment? How do our cities reflect the way we relate with, perceive and desire to dominate and adopt nature?

Nature or natural, as it turns out, is a non-straightforward concept. Scholars such as Macnaghten and Urry, claimed that nature is not simply a natural construct, but also social and cultural (1998). Nature is invented. It was born out of particular social and cultural practices. There are, therefore, many natures, not only one. Nature is produced and consumed, and to understand its concept now, we need to examine the relationship between nature and society. And it is this exact social dimension of nature that has been largely under-examined due to the strong distinction between nature and society since modernity, according to Macnaghten and Urry.

“It is the abstraction of a singular nature from the multiplicity of lived experiences that was to prove so critical for subsequent human responses to the physical world. …the ways in which nature has historically been made singular, abstract and then personified proves key insights as to how people thought about themselves, their place in the world, their relationships with each other and with the land, and their sense of general power and powerlessness in shaping their lifeworlds.” (Macnagthen and Urry, 1999)

Through this seminar, we want to create a contemporary multidisciplinary discourse on the concept of urban nature in 21st century Asian Cities, by inviting distinguished speakers from different disciplines to present their conceptual reflection on the issue, and eventually engage in a debate that will be held on June23rd, 2016 in Singapore.

The debate includes, but not limited to, the following:

What does nature/natural actually mean in an urban context?

What are the social and cultural processes behind the creation of its meaning?

How does the representation of nature’s image influences the development of the built environment?

How do Asian and Western conceptions of nature differ?

How is this urban-nature concept is reflected in various scales  from a larger territorial scale to an architectural scale?

Where do disciplines of architecture, urban planning, sociology, biology, history and anthropology play a role or intersect in exploring this urban-nature concept?