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Artikelen | Representing nature

late twentieth century green infrastructures in paris

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Saskia de Wit, Representing nature,
summary

The  appreciation  of  green  infrastructures  as  ‘nature’  by  urban  communities  presents a critical challenge for the green infrastructure concept. While many green infrastructures focus on functional considerations, their refinement as places  where  concepts  of  nature  are  represented  and  where  nature  can  be  experienced and understood, has received little attention in research and praxis.

Contemporary urban societies entertain varied and distinctive ideas on nature and their relationship to it, themes explored in contemporary urban park and garden  design.  These  projects  can  provide  insights  into  the  representation,  comprehension and experience of nature in green infrastructures.

This article expands  on  contemporary  conceptions  of  nature  in  urban  parks  and  urban  gardens such as those realised in Paris between 1980 and 2000. The projects all display articulated expressions of conceptions of nature, reflecting both a return  to  the  classical  garden  tradition,  as  well  as  elaborations  of  nature  via  the  sensorial,  ‘abundant  nature’  and  nature  as  process.  

These  conceptions  can be positioned within the theoretical framework of three forms of nature – first nature (wilderness), second nature (cultural landscape) and third nature (garden). In Paris, contemporary parks and gardens not only express new forms of nature, they also form part of a green infrastructure network in their own  right.  As  a  series  of  precise  moments  connected  by  rivers  and  canals,  this network differs markedly from prevailing green infrastructure models. The network of parks and gardens in Paris represents a green infrastructural network  made  up  of  a  layering  of  historical  and  contemporary  elements  connected  in  compound  ways.  The  completeness  of  representations  and  elaborations of nature – gathered in the three natures – can be dissected and spread out over different constructed landscapes in the city, and it is up to the green infrastructure to unite them.

In Nijhuis S. Jauslin D. Van der Hoeven F. eds Flowscapes. Designing infrastructure as landscape. Research in Urbanism Series Volume 3. Delft Delft University of Technology 2015 pp. 205-228. In samenwerking met Rene van der Velde.