Monday, March 30, 2009

Given the impending conference on Ecological Urbanism I thought I'd take my college Ecology textbook out from under my computer (it currently serves as as excellent computer stand) and try and find a decent definition of Ecology. Ecology has always been an ill defined term to me. Before trying to tackle the definition of Ecological Urbanism I imagine it would make sense to gain a better understanding of the word Ecology.

According to Ecology, Fourth Edition, by Robert E. Ricklefs and Gary L. Miller, "Ecology is the study of the natural environment and of the relations of organisms to one another and to their surroundings." It's a pretty standard text, so I think the definition is a worthwhile one.

Based upon this definition, is ecological urbanism an urbanism in which the natural environment is emphasized and relationships between organisms and their surroundings is valued? Relationships and nature. Sounds pretty vague to me. Each of those words is loaded with layers of meaning and is tremendously problematic, perhaps to the point of meaninglessness.

The appeal of looking to the sciences for new methods of understanding urbanism is appealing, but is such an ill defined science such as ecology the best one to pick? Is it useful? Is it new? To be determined this weekend...In the meantime I wonder about other what other forms of urbanism might be worth pondering - geological urbanism? hydrological urbanism? neurological urbanism? Trendsetters, look out for organic chemical urbanism!


  1. how about topological urbanism? I don't think ecological urbanism would so much emphasize the 'natural' as the relation of the city (product) and nature (a work). To me, cities are becoming less like a work (ie artful and coherent cities like venice) and are becoming more like products, where we care less about creating and more about product-comsumption. Thus an ecological urbanism should be one that is autochthonous in nature, that is an urbanism that becomes indigenous to its place, and the natural environment becomes intertwined with the urban environment, and one feeds the other.. e.g. small farm plots producing food for our consumption and creating habitats for animals to inhabit cities with us instead of us fighting them away. It should be specific to its geographic place instead of a universal 'solution'. Of course should this and should that doesn't really get us anywhere and maybe all of that is just more ill defined ramblage.

  2. Sounds interesting. Now how is that different from Landscape Urbanism?