About The Nature of Cities

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.

TNOC is an idea hive

TNOC’s Mission: “Of” is a key word in our name: it modifies the word nature to mean the character of cities, through a green, blue, and community lens. We believe the route to cities and communities that are better for nature and all people is through transdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration. We combine art, science, and practice in innovative and publicly available engagements for knowledge-driven, imaginative, and just green city making.

We work in three principal ways. First, we publish a virtual magazine and discussion site featuring, in multiple formats, the diverse work and ideas of our contributors around the world. Second, we pursue partnerships and special projects related to our mission, such as in the union of art, culture, education, and science. Third, we create innovative and interactive live and online events and conferences that engage diverse voices from multiple ways of knowing and modes of action into joined conversations focused on specific challenges. The most recent of such events was The Nature of Cities Festival.

TNOC is a nonprofit (501c3) in the United States; TNOC-Europe is a Regstered Charity in Ireland. 

The 100 world cities from which TNOC visits have most often come.

TNOC was founded in 2012 and is led by Dr. David Maddox (New York City), with thanks to and inspiration from Mike Houck of Portland, Oregon, USA. Write to us at [email protected].

We are read by at about 100,000 every month, totaling over a million visits per year, from over 3,700 cities and 100 countries. Our readers are as diverse as our writers.

Our intended audience is everyone interested in creating better cities that are resilient, sustainable, livable, and just — cities that effectively function as ecosystems and are better for both people and nature.

Why do we publish in English? One of the core purposes of TNOC is to share city-building ideas across disciplinary boundaries and geographic frontiers. For better or worse, English is the language that is more likely to be shared among city-builders around the world. Further, we have not wanted to narrow the reach of our essays by publishing regional versions only in that region’s language. The ideas need to be shared more broadly. We simply don’t have the money to translate all of our essays—and anyway, which language(s) would we choose?

We have responded with two imperfect solutions. First, Google Translate is embedded within the site, so readers can choose from their broad list of languages. This tool is improving, and it is certainly better than nothing. Second, we offer to all of our authors that they can provide a second version of the essay in a second language.

Intellectual property. All of the work and publications at TNOC and TNOC Festival remain the IP of the original creators: the authors of the essays, the photographers, the creators of the art. TNOC is a promoter of their work, and does not own or commercially profit from it. By publishing at TNOC, the contributors agree to their work being shown at TNOC sites in perpetuity (or as long as TNOC exists.)

Who We Are

David Maddox
, New York
Founder and Executive Director

David loves urban spaces and nature. He loves creativity and collaboration. He loves theatre and music. In his life and work he has practiced in all of these. After a PhD at Cornell he worked at The Nature Conservancy on climate change and stewardship, leaving in 1992 to be a theatre artist as a musician, director, playwright, and composer. In 2012, David founded The Nature of Cities, a transdisciplinary essay and discussion platform—1,200+ writers from around the world, scientists to activists, designers to artists. He has published over 60 journal articles and books chapters, edited six books (both fiction and non-fiction), and written 7 produced works of musical theatre, and created a poetry journal. Much of his storytelling and collaborative work in theatre directly influences the structure and actions of TNOC. He lives in New York City.

M’Lisa Colbert, Montreal
Associate Director, TNOC
TNOC Festival
M’Lisa works to assemble connections and collaboration between diverse groups in cities. M’Lisa is a social researcher by training with a B.A in Political Science and English from Concordia University, and an M.A in Global Development Studies from Queens University where she won a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship for her research. M’Lisa has worked around the world in North America, South America, and Europe as an editor, writer, researcher, in government relations and communications, in the private sector, and in diplomacy and government. She sees the world as an assemblage of many parts and believes we need to focus on knowledge gathering, collaboration, and a healthier human connection with the planet to survive and thrive in this century.

Claudia Misteli, Barcelona
Associate Director, TNOC-Europe
NetworkNaturePLUS / TNOC Festival
Social communicator, journalist, and social designer, interested in how design, communication, and social innovation can shape and reshape a more resilient and sustainable future. A strong believer that empathy, creativity, cooperation, and the force of landscape opens up infinite opportunities to build better societies, more connected to nature and people.

Bettina Wilk, Bilbao
Director of Projects, TNOC Europe
Bettina Wilk is a social scientist with a master’s degree in social and cultural anthropology from the University of Vienna, and a master’s degree in environmental governance from Utrecht University. She has extensive work experience in project management in culture and the arts, sponsoring, and event management (up to 20,000 attendees). As a researcher for the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, she worked on environmental policy integration, climate adaptation, and urban resilience with respective publications in these fields. Previously with ICLEI Europe — as senior expert for nature-based solutions and biodiversity — she coordinated the Horizon Europe project and multi-stakeholder platform NetworkNaturePLUS, which aims to accelerate the uptake of nature-based solutions along the policy priorities of the European Green Deal. Her areas of expertise are policy integration and mainstreaming of nature-based solutions, as well as their co-creation and co-governance.

Patrick LydonDaejeon
Arts Curator & Events

Arts & Culture Editor at The Nature of Cities, Patrick M. Lydon is an ecological artist, filmmaker, and director of City as Nature, a socially-engaged art and media lab based in Osaka and Seoul, that inspires empathic relationships between people and the living world around us. He has produced exhibitions, workshops, films, essays, natural gardens, and other award-winning projects in North America, Europe, and Asia, and co-directed the documentary film “Final Straw: Food, Earth, Happiness”. Patrick spent several years as a nomad in East Asia, learning from nature and wisdom traditions. He holds an MFA in “Art, Space & Nature” from the University of Edinburgh, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (Scotland), and previously studied in the Isao Suizu Project Lab, Aichi University of the Arts (Japan), and San Jose State University (United States). He also thoroughly enjoys learning from trees, soil, wind, the sea, as well as kids and elders.

Carmen Bouyer, Paris
TNOC Europe, Arts Curator
Carmen Bouyer is a French environmental artist and designer based in Paris. Her recent work involves environmental art education, community events in relation to urban agriculture and stewardship, riverside ecosystem restoration, and researches on Neolithic life way transitions in Mesoamerica and Mesopotamia. Carmen’s artistic works have been presented at Palais de Tokyo and Park in Progress in Paris; The Istanbul Art Fair and Halka Art Center in Istanbul; The Maquis Projects Gallery and Port Izmir 3 Triennale in Izmir; The Salone Satellite in Milan; and Pioneer Works and Flux Factory in New York City. As a designer, Carmen created sustainable and environmental designs and community programs for Till Design, landscape architecture studio; Pioneer Works, center for research and experimentation in contemporary culture; and the New York City Urban Field Station, a research partnership between the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the USDA Forest Service.

Emmalee Barnett, Spokane
Editor: Essays, Roundtable, Fiction, Poetry, Comics
Co-Director: NBS Comics
Managing Editor: Sprout Eco-Poetry Journal
Emmalee loves the impact the smallest gestures can make in life. She believes a simple word or idea can grow into something spectacular and world-changing if put in the right hands. Emmalee has a Bachelor’s in Literature from Missouri State University and currently resides in Spokane, MO. She is interested in the editing and publishing world since it’s the final step between the creator and the consumer.


Chris Fremantle, Ayr
Curatorial Research Associate: UFS Arts
Chris Fremantle is a producer and research associate with On The Edge Research, Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. He produces ecoartscotland, a platform for research and practice focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers.


Marta Delas, Barcelona
Resident Artist, TNOC-Europe
Marta Delas is a Spanish architect, illustrator, and videomaker. Concerned about urban planning and identity, her artwork engages with local projects and initiatives, giving support to neighbourhood networks. She has been involved in many community-building art projects in Madrid, Vienna, Sao Paulo and now Barcelona. Her flashy coloured and fluid shaped language harbours a vindictive spirit, dressed with her experimental rallying cries whenever there is a chance. Together with comics and animations, she is now building her own musical universe.


Peter Morgan Wells, Devon
TNOC-Europe, Special projects
With backgrounds in arts, anthropology, and permaculture design, Peter specialises in creating public food forests and applying art as a fulcrum in landscape-scale regeneration projects. Currently based in Devon, UK he has previously led post-quake regeneration projects in Christchurch, NZ, as well as roles in marine research, organics governance, and arts funding.


Christina Freeman, New York
Exhibits Curator
Christina Freeman (she/her) is an artist and curator whose conceptual practice emphasizes process and collaboration. Freeman’s work has been featured in Artforum, Vulture, Hyperallergic, Art F City, Frieze, and Observer. Her projects have received support from The Bronx Museum (2023), Creative Time (2019), Queens Museum (2018-2019), Culture Push (2018-2019), National Coalition Against Censorship (2018-2019), Danish Arts Foundation (2018), ABC No Rio (2017-2023), NEA (2017 + 2018), New York State Council on Arts (2017-2020), New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (2017-2023), Andy Warhol Foundation (2017), and Red House, Sofia, Bulgaria (2012). Freeman teaches at Hunter College, CUNY for the Department of Art & Art History and the Department of Film & Media.

RL Martens, Philadelphia
Special Projects: Reverberations
RL is a conceptual artist and transdisciplinary scholar. They perform historical, place-based, and often idiosyncratic research, producing ceramic objects that act as mnemonic devices and tools for thinking, in addition to text, images, and video.

Board of Directors:

Pippin Anderson, Cape Town
Marcus, Collier, Dublin (also TNOC Europe)
Marta Cecilia Fajardo, Bogotá
David Haley, Walney Island
Mike Houck, Portland
Robin Lasser, Oakland
Gilles Lecuir, Paris
David Maddox, New York (also TNOC Europe)
Siobhán McQuaid, Dublin (also TNOC Europe)
Mary W. Rowe, Toronto
Chantal van Ham, Brussels

Former members of the Board:
Thomas Elmqvist, Stockholm
Valerie Gwinner, Washington & Vaison au Romaine
Rodolpho Ramina, Curitiba
Huda Shaka, Dubai
David Tittle, London

Board of Directors, TNOC-Europe

Marcus, Collier, Dublin
David Maddox, New York
Siobhán McQuaid, Dublin

Legal status: 

The Nature of Cities® is a 501(c)3 Public Charity (as recognized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury), a nonprofit corporation registered in the State of New York. The Nature of Cities® is a registered trademark. TNOC Europe is a registered Charity in Ireland.

If you find value in what TNOC does, please consider supporting us with a one-time or recurring gift.

Design History: Our site is currently designed and maintained by Patrick Lydon. The TNOC site launched on 12 June 2012, originally designed by Pure+Applied. The site was extensively redesigned in 2014 by Juan Pablo Gomez at jupago.com and by Karen Tsugawa in 2021.

Citing TNOC: To cite content from TNOC, use the following format:
Author last name, first name. Year. Title of articleThe Nature of Cities. Publish date. Web: URL of content.

Interested in contributing to TNOC? Write us and tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things you want to write about.

©2012-2024 The Nature of Cities®. The Nature of Cities is a registered trademark.
All rights reserved.