Essays Archive

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.
April, 2023

17 April 2023

A picture of a tiny white moth perched on a person's thumb
Urban Biodiversity Justice
Scott Kellogg, Albany

According to modernist philosophy, cities are “human only” spaces built by and for the exclusive use of homo sapiens ― clean, sterile, artifacts of human imagination that symbolize humanity’s separation from nature. Aside from cultivated garden plants and a handful of companion or work animals whose presence is tolerated, non-human...

11 April 2023

A picture of a map with the colors going from cooler to warmer as they get closer to the center
Explaining the Housing Crisis with the Theory of Constraints
Mathieu Hélie, Montréal

How economic flows and bottlenecks affect urban growth When we encounter a contradiction, it’s very likely that we are facing an unresolved “problem of organized complexity,” to paraphrase Jane Jacobs. Such is the situation with the crisis of urban home affordability and NIMBYism, where everyone agrees that the supply of...

3 April 2023

An illustration of a person wearing VR googles with space and the earth behind them
What Futures for Nature in Cities?
Perrine Hamel, Singapore

Over the last few months, the metaverse has captured the attention of many professionals, including urban planners. While some may fear a Spielberg-like scenario where we stop caring for our physical world, we can also think of the metaverse as a gateway to inclusion ― where most people could help...

March, 2023

27 March 2023

A picture of a cover of a book depicting several photos of people, buildings, and the NYC skyline
Naming Gotham: What I Learned About the Place Names of New York City
Rebecca Bratspies, New York

I spent the last few years working on and off on a book that I tentatively titled Who Was That Major Deegan Anyway? That title reflected the book’s origin story. My husband Allen and I used to get stuck in traffic on the Major Deegan every time we tried to...

18 March 2023

Paying Attention to Make Art: Twenty-nine Reflections on the Harrisons
Chris Fremantle, Ayrshire, Scotland Anne Douglas, Aberdeen

The Harrisons (Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (1932-2022)) are widely acknowledged as pioneers in bringing together art and ecology into a new form of practice. They worked for over fifty years with biologists, ecologists, architects, urban planners, and other artists to initiate collaborative dialogues. The works they made...

13 March 2023

Two side-by-side pictures of a grassy field, one in infrared to show heat signatures
The Tale of Lawns: The Story of Class, Deserts, and Potential
Alicja Wójcik, Brussels

What connects all upper-middle-class houses, public institutions’ buildings, stadiums, and golf fields? A hint: it is aesthetic, it is high-maintenance, and it is a prime example of a single species use. The answer is ― the lawn. The history of lawns goes back to the late Middle Ages, and is,...

6 March 2023

A picture of a sidewalk with people walking, cycling, and moving potted trees
Greening the Streetscape: Tactical Urbanism in Munich
Leoni Vollmann, Brussels

Due to urban densification processes and increasing confrontation with climate change, cities face the need to organize their public space in efficient and sustainable ways that take current needs as well as those of future generations into account. The Green Infrastructure (GI) concept is a widely used concept, introducing various...

February, 2023

27 February 2023

A picture of the side of a building with several metal staircases and fire escapes coming down with greenery around them
A Balcony Greenhouse: Food and Wellbeing in the City
M'Lisa Colbert, Montreal

Urban building codes and design standards play a crucial role in how a city adapts to contemporary challenges, like climate change and urbanization. I live in Montréal where, like many cities in the world, building codes largely came into force on account of two big urban phenomena: fire and disease....

20 February 2023

Eight pictures of groups of people doing various activities
From Monopoly to Commonspoly: How Communities are Changing the Game
Lorena Zárate, Ottawa Sophia Torres, Barcelona

  Playing games is a serious thing. Animals and humans learn how to relate with each other and with the world through games involving bodies and minds. Games provide a simplified way to understand complex issues, while at the same time broadening our perception of reality through multi-sensorial experiences. Playing...

13 February 2023

A picture of people relaxing on a small beach with blue umbrellas and a walkway next to the water
Ça Marche: Walking is Paramount to Human and Liveable Cities
Francois Mancebo, Paris

Sometimes — for a day, a week, or a month — Paris turns into the very kingdom of walkers. That is, during transit strikes, when subway trains and buses stop running. Millions of walkers flood the streets, as the Métro and bus network release the load of crowded bodies it...

6 February 2023

A picture of a group of people in a library standing around a table
Caring in Public: Testing Our Framework with Different Social Infrastructure Sites and Systems (Part 2)
Lindsay Campbell, New York Robin Cline, Chicago Laura Landau, New York Georgia Silvera Seamans, New York City Ben Helphand, Chicago Paola Aguirre, Chicago Sonya Sachdeva, Chicago Natalie Campbell, Washington D.C. Nora Almeida, New York City

As part of The Nature of Cities Festival, on 29 March 2022, a team of practitioners and researchers at NeighborSpace, Borderless, and the USDA Forest Service – Northern Research Station organized a seed session, entitled “Caring in Public,” to explore the building blocks of social infrastructure with a group of...

6 February 2023

A picture of a woman and a child painting a flowerbed
Caring in Public: A Framework for Social Infrastructure Visibility in Community-managed Open Space (Part 1)
Lindsay Campbell, New York Robin Cline, Chicago Ben Helphand, Chicago Paola Aguirre, Chicago Sonya Sachdeva, Chicago Michelle Johnson, New York City Erika Svendsen, New York

A team of practitioners and researchers at the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks, NeighborSpace, Borderless, and USDA Forest Service – Northern Research Station met from September to November 2021 to discuss research on social infrastructure and urban green spaces, with the goal of translating academic literature into practical...

January, 2023

30 January 2023

A picture of a hand scooping dirt from the ground
A Nonprofit Organization Creates Mini-forests in Public Schools in São Paulo Using the Miyawaki Method
Rafael Ribeiro, São Paulo

Formigas-de-embaúba carries out environmental education programs to plant native mini-forests in public schools together with school communities.  If you asked someone if they could imagine growing a forest from scratch, they would most likely say no. If you then asked them if they could grow a mini-forest of 500 m²...

23 January 2023

A picture of a gate covered in signs with a road leading through a forest behind it
The Nature of Heritage: Rethinking Patrimonial Notions Towards Greener Urban Futures
Fábio Gouveia, Brussels

Urban green spaces often become entangled in notions of heritage. Multiple factors explain this convergence, from the historical origins of so many major urban green spaces, to the range of values (cultural, spiritual, etc.) that are tied to these places (see Feng & Tan, 2017; Forrest & Konijnendijk, 2005) and...

16 January 2023

A picture of a fallen log covered in mushrooms
Partnering With Fungi and Soil for Better Futures
Toby Query, Portland

Fungi, that bizarre kingdom that includes yeasts and mushrooms, can be partnered with for healthier outcomes in urban natural areas and landscapes. Fungi, which are not plants and are more related to animals, are masters of chemistry. Enzymes created by fungi have been found to digest cigarette butts, DDT, and...

8 January 2023

Am aerial shot of a park with pathways, benches, and people walking
The Baltic Green: A Case Study of Children’s Access to Outdoor Play and Urban Nature in Liverpool City Centre
Alice Sparks, Brussels

“This is a crucial and much-neglected topic. If children are not designed into our cities, they are designed out. This means that they are deprived of contact with the material world, with nature, with civic life and with their own capacities.” George Monbiot (Arup, 2020, 15) 1 Where do children belong...

5 January 2023

Highlights from The Nature of Cities 2022
David Maddox, New York

Cities should be collaborative creations, no? Various professions, ways of knowing, modes of action, governments, and the people that live there, work together (we hope) to build their city from their shared and often contested values. And we need to find greener routes to built cities for them to be...

2 January 2023

Highlights from Ten Years at The Nature of Cities
David Maddox, New York

The Nature of Cities was launched 10 years ago, in June 2012. I believe it has been a success, with over four million reads and around 1,000 contributors. I believe it has been valuable in framing and propelling dialogue in its promotion of collaboration and transdisciplinarity that are essential to...

December, 2022

20 December 2022

An aerial view of a river with an island and a boat
L’approche conceptuelle du Plan directeur de conservation, d’aménagement et de développement du parc Jean-Drapeau
The Conceptual Approach of the Parc Jean-Drapeau’s Conservation, Planning, and Master Plan

Jonathan Cha, Montreal

Read in English. Retrouver le sens perdu et affirmer l’identité du parc Les parcs sont aujourd’hui une collection éclectique de strates de paysages aménagés et construits issus de multiples époques[1]. Autant pour ceux qui réalisent des parcs que ceux qui les conçoivent, il est à propos de se questionner sur...

5 December 2022

A picture of apartment buildings with green plants on balconies and in a courtyard in front of the buildings
Urban Greening Factor Gains Momentum
Gary Grant, London

What is it? City authorities around the world are looking for policies and tools to facilitate urban greening ― in particular, the process of bringing more soil, vegetation, and water into the built environment through the development planning system. In the UK, authorities are looking at the Urban Greening Factor...

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