Cities are alive — with people, trees, critters, and all the diversity of life. Like all living creatures, cities consume oxygen, transform food and fuel into activity, and create waste. They can be healthy or ill, sprawling or spare, bustling with life or eerily devoid of activity.
Cities make up just 2 percent of the Earth’s surface, but they house half of the world’s people and consume 75 percent of its resources. Cities have a voracious appetite for energy, materials, water, food, and more. When we over-consume those resources, we don’t merely harm the natural environment, we affect the quality of our own lives, as well as those thousands of miles away.
How do we keep urban metabolisms healthy and safe? Think of your own body: It takes awareness and vigilance to refrain from illness, disease, and danger. It takes balance — nutritionally, physically, and emotionally. It takes resilience to regain equilibrium after being stressed. So, too, with cities. An unhealthy city risks the dangers of deficiency and excess. It is a life out of balance.
Cities have a lot to learn from nature: how it produces its own food, uses only energy from the sun, provides heating and cooling, protects itself to severe weather, and generally creates conditions conducive to life. Nature can teach us how to design buildings that require no air conditioning, even in hot climates. It can teach us how to clean water without harsh chemicals. It can teach us how to live abundantly while creating zero waste.
The lessons are there, if we just listen to the Earth — the wisdom that Nature has attained during her more than 3 billion years of life.
The Nature of Cities Exhibition
Allora & Calzadilla