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Greening the City

Greening the City: Urban Landscapes in the Twentieth Century

Dorothee Brantz
Sonja Dümpelmann
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Greening the City
    Book Description:

    The modern city is not only pavement and concrete. Parks, gardens, trees, and other plants are an integral part of the urban environment. Often the focal points of social movements and political interests, green spaces represent far more than simply an effort to balance the man-made with the natural. A city's history with-and approach to-its parks and gardens reveals much about its workings and the forces acting upon it. Our green spaces offer a unique and valuable window on the history of city life.

    The essays inGreening the Cityspan over a century of urban history, moving from fin-de-siècle Sofia to green efforts in urban Seattle. The authors present a wide array of cases that speak to global concerns through the local and specific, with topics that include green-space planning in Barcelona and Mexico City, the distinction between public and private nature in Los Angeles, the ecological diversity of West Berlin, and the historical and cultural significance of hybrid spaces designed for sports. The essays collected here will make us think differently about how we study cities, as well as how we live in them.

    Contributors: Dorothee Brantz, Technische Universität Berlin * Peter Clark, University of Helsinki * Lawrence Culver, Utah State University * Konstanze Sylva Domhardt, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich * Sonja Dümpelmann, University of Maryland * Zachary J. S. Falck, Independent Scholar* Stefanie Hennecke, Technical University Munich * Sonia Hirt, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University * Salla Jokela, University of Helsinki * Jens Lachmund, Maastricht University * Gary McDonogh, Bryn Mawr College * Jarmo Saarikivi, University of Helsinki * Jeffrey Craig Sanders, Washington State University

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3138-8
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Dorothee Brantz and Sonja Dümpelmann

    “A City! It is the grip of man upon nature. It is a human operation directed against nature, a human organism both for protection and for work. It is a creation.”¹ This quotation poignantly expresses a principal paradigm of modernity—that human creation stands in stark contrast to nature. The city, primarily understood as a man-made built environment, stands as a material embodiment of this contrast. But this quotation also inadvertently illustrates a deep-seated ambiguity in the relationship between cities and nature because its author, Le Corbusier, also happened to be one of the twentieth century’s leading proponents of the...

  5. Part I Constructing Green Urban Spaces

    • Integrating City and Nature: Urban Planning Debates in Sofia, Bulgaria
      (pp. 17-36)
      Sonia Hirt

      Modern city planning emerged as a profession to amend the deplorable conditions of the nineteenth-century Western city, appropriately labeled “the city of dreadful night.”¹ Conceived over a relatively short period of time as the unavoidable off spring of the Industrial Revolution, this city offered its inhabitants not only the promise of employment, but also crowding, dirt, smoke, noise, and darkness at nightmarish levels that were unknown to the inhabitants of preindustrial settlements, whether urban or rural.

      Of course, humans and all their artifacts, including cities—no matter how dreadful they may have been at certain historic periods—have always been...

    • Green and Modern: Planning Mexico City, 1900–1940
      (pp. 37-54)
      Alfonso Valenzuela Aguilera

      During the early decades of the twentieth century, a group of visionary planners undertook the physical transformation of Mexico City. They reinterpreted the concepts of nature presented in Ebenezer Howard’s garden cities, Jean Claude Forestier’ssystèmes de parcs,and Patrick Geddes’s regional planning ideas in order to provide green public spaces and comprehensively enhance the quality of life in the city. In Mexico City in the twentieth century, the concept of nature continued to evolve, with the Científicos—a circle of scientifically oriented politicians and intellectuals during the Porfirio Díaz regime—linking the “greening” of the city with their aspirations...

  6. Part II Nature and Urban Identity

    • Mediterranean Reflections: Reconstructing Nature in Modern Barcelona
      (pp. 57-74)
      Gary McDonogh

      Among the most striking transformations of contemporary Barcelona, in both urban culture and urban nature, is the city’s “return” to the Mediterranean. Barcelona long has been a port city whose commerce, politics, and culture have depended on the Mediterranean. Its early links to Carthage and Rome were followed by its medieval and early-modern status as the capital of a maritime empire, and its nineteenth-century renaissance as a commercial industrial metropolis tied to Havana, Manila, and New York. Over the centuries, artists, journalists, scientists, planners, and politicians have invoked the sea and its littoral ecosystem in both pragmatic activities and abstract...

    • German Ideologies of City and Nature: The Creation and Reception of Schiller Park in Berlin
      (pp. 75-94)
      Stefanie Hennecke

      Today public parks are an essential part of every big city, and it is hard to imagine city life without them. Often they are described as a retreat from the urban jungles of today’s postindustrial cities. Many of these public parks were established in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A park provides evidence of the social conditions and cultural values of its time, and its layout even today can reveal how the relations between city and nature were envisioned by contemporaries. This essay reconsiders the creation and reception of Schiller Park, planned in 1907 in the north of Berlin...

    • Race, Recreation, and the Conflict between Public and Private Nature in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles
      (pp. 95-112)
      Lawrence Culver

      The growth of modern Los Angeles was inextricably connected to its promotion as a place of outdoor recreation. During the late nineteenth century, L.A. and Southern California utilized tourism as a strategy to foment regional development. Tourist leisure served an important economic function, but as tourists became resident recreationalists, leisure took on profound social and cultural meaning. In Southern California’s regional resorts, such as Palm Springs, Santa Catalina Island, and Santa Barbara, leisure was usually contained within a private realm. In Los Angeles, leisure often occupied public space. In a city notorious for privileging private over public, recreation was one...

  7. Part III The Function of Nature in the City

    • Nature, Sport, and the European City: London and Helsinki, 1880–2005
      (pp. 115-132)
      Peter Clark, Salla Jokela and Jarmo Saarikivi

      Across most of Europe, from the harvested forests of Finland to the shepherded uplands of the French Pyrenees, the natural landscape is a social construct, the outcome of man’s ongoing, increasingly pervasive interaction with the ecological world. No more so than in European cities, where green spaces—from parks and villa estates to cemeteries, playing fields, hospital grounds, allotment gardens, wasteland, and brownfield sites—are the product of a matrix of factors including economic development; municipal policy; cultural, ecological, and aesthetic discourses and strategies; and changing leisure fashions. In this last connection, one of the most important developments transforming nature...

    • From the “Functional City” to the “Heart of the City”: Green Space and Public Space in the CIAM Debates of 1942–1952
      (pp. 133-156)
      Konstanze Sylva Domhardt

      In 1952, the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) published a book entitledThe Heart of the City: Towards the Humanisation of Urban Life.¹ As the principal publication of the eighth congress of the organization in 1951 and bearing the same name, the book acknowledged “a civic landscape of enjoyment of the interplay of emotion and intelligence,” and furthered the claim that “CIAM does not ignore the great movement of social renewal that, under different aspects, occupies all the peoples of the world.”² This publication advocated a city space with new qualities that the urbanite would experience spontaneously, creatively, and comprehensively;...

  8. Part IV Ecology and the Urban Environment

    • Property Rights, Popular Ecology, and Problems with Wild Plants in Twentieth-Century American Cities
      (pp. 159-180)
      Zachary J. S. Falck

      For more than a decade, cities in the United States have been making new places for their old flora. At Tifft Nature Preserve in Buffalo, New York, botanists mapped “native” plants and protected their habitat.¹ The Chicago Park District established neighborhood “nature and wildlife gardens” where milkweed, goldenrod, dock, and other wildflowers were cultivated in patterns appropriate for home gardens.² In Lincoln, Nebraska’s Pioneers Park, the Prairie Legacy Garden featured scores of the region’s shrubs, grasses, and herbs.³ In St. Louis, Missouri, revitalizing the 1,293-acre Forest Park included creating small savannas and prairies with “natural vegetation” and a “diversity of...

    • Building an “Urban Homestead”: Survival, Self-Sufficiency, and Nature in Seattle, 1970–1980
      (pp. 181-203)
      Jeffrey Craig Sanders

      Amidst the 1970s energy crisis, Jody Aliesan, a seasoned political activist, converted the private realm of her Seattle home to public display. As a participant in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Appropriate Technology Small Grants Program, Aliesan dubbed her home the “Urban Homestead.” Over 4,500 strangers milled around her kitchen, examined her furniture, and marveled at her vegetable gardens. In her open houses and in subsequent weekend columns she wrote for theSeattle Times,Aliesan illustrated how urbanites could live more self-sufficiently by reconnecting the city to nature.Timesphotographs featured her in a beekeeper suit gathering honey from rooftop...

    • The Making of an Urban Ecology: Biological Expertise and Wildlife Preservation in West Berlin
      (pp. 204-228)
      Jens Lachmund

      In 1973, a number of institutes and departments of the Technical University in West Berlin merged into a single Institute of Ecology. This was one of various attempts to formally institutionalize the environmental sciences in Germany.¹ Focusing on the complex relations of living beings and their natural environment, ecology seemed ideally suited to tackle the environmental crisis that had become a public concern. It was expected that ecology would provide a more rational basis in particular for practical domains such as nature conservation, environmental planning, and the control of industrial pollution. This practical orientation also characterized much of the research...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 229-232)
  10. Index
    (pp. 233-246)