The Importance of Unintentional Nature in Cities

A new book argues in favor of spontaneous, informal natural spaces.

2 minute read

March 14, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Vacant Lot

Amy Gahran / Flickr

Bloomberg CityLab's Linda Poon interviews Matthew Gandy, author of Natura Urbana: Ecological Constellations in Urban Space. The book "explores the longstanding cultural and scientific fascination" with "the 'unintentional nature' that springs up in urban spaces and is often neglected by humans." Inspired by an "accidental garden" that sprung up in a bombed-out lot in his inner London neighborhood, Gandy makes the argument that liminal, marginal, 'accidentally natural' spaces in cities "not only serve as mini laboratories for studying urban biodiversity, but can also reveal as much about a city’s history and political tensions as ruins, or the intentionally built environment."

Gandy also highlights the importance of nature in central cities as an equity issue:

Poor neighborhoods or ethnic minority neighborhoods in cities are often much more poorly served by access to parks and public space than richer neighborhoods. And for people of color, some parks and public spaces do not feel very safe or welcoming, and often this is even more the case if people travel outside of cities to rural or non-metropolitan spaces of nature. Therefore, urban nature in the heart of the city is much more open to a diverse public.

A critical analysis of the human-nature relationship is urgently needed, says Gandy. "[S]ince more than half the global population now live in cities, if we don’t have a better relationship with and understanding of urban nature, how will we build different responses to environmental questions more generally?"

Thursday, March 10, 2022 in Bloomberg CityLab

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