Aller au contenu - Aller au menu principal - Aller à la recherche
English summaries edited in

Numéro 74 Mars 1997

Natures en villes

Augustin Berque
Of roofs and stars

Nature, as opposed to culture, evokes
what transcends mankind both around
and inside him. As the main representation
of each society’s relationship to the
earth’s expanse, landscapes are the link
between nature’s physical dimension
and its powerful symbolic aspect. But
modern Western cities have turned their
backs on the world, seeking rather to
flee it in their protected parks and gardens.
However, the contemporary
concern for form leaves hope that cities
will confirm their urban nature, that the
countryside will be rustic again, and that
forests will remain untamed.

Christian Calenge
On the nature of cities

Paradoxically, the desire for nature has
increased in our urban societies with the
erosion of rural life. The environment
and the greening of our cities have
become the impetus to take action, which
is reassuring for an anxious society that
has lost its bearings. However, the desire
for contact with nature gets diluted in
metaphorical language. Cities, the environment
in which contemporary man
lives, give nature renewed meaning
rather than going against it.

André Micoud
The size and duration of nature in cities

Ecology is the new concept in urban planning
that has replaced the parks and gardens
stemming from the hygienics of the
last century. Does this semantic change
indicate new concepts and policies with
respect to nature? Having once imported
bits and pieces of nature into industrial
cities, current urban planning is now
taking natural resources into account with
respect to such issues as material, information,
size and duration. Parks no longer
adjoin cities because city-dwellers
are now looking after their own « earthly
gardens » and becoming conscious of the
strong impact on their descendants’lives.

Pierre Donadieu, André Fleury
Does agriculture count as nature in cities ?

Long pushed back by urban industrialization,
rural areas are now being reintegrated
into cities as part of their heritage
and environment. But agricultural
spaces in peripheral urban areas don’t
always fit in with city-dwellers’ideas
about nature. Associating farming as an
urban leisure activity involves using
symbolic mediation in which landscapes
play a firsthand role.

Ann-Carol Werquin, Alain Demangeon
How vegetation and urban planning become intertwined

Modern cities have introduced vegetation
into their midst. Walks and boulevards
lined with trees, as well as parkways,
link up the four cardinal points of
a metropolis, weaving a green network.
Garden cities and workers’gardens have
given nature wider social and spatial
meaning in cities. Despite automobile
pollution, contemporary investment in
vegetation is updating nature’s role as
a socializing force in cities.

Michel Conan, Juliette Favaron
How villages became landscapes

Long considered unworthy of attention
due to their poverty and backwardness,
villages in France suddenly became
landscapes that were quite sought-after
by urban tourists at the end of the last
century. There are two important
moments in the history of this discovery.
First, there was the progressive
spread of hygienics, which encouraged
planting flowers in public places in villages.
During the course of this century,
the idea of local aesthetic traditions was
revived, which contributed in making
each village the nostalgic symbol of a
culture resisting the passage of time.

Anne-Marie Van Leeuwen-Maillet
Nature in the city of Rome : between perception and landscape

Since its very beginnings, vegetation in
the city of Rome has survived in the
chinks in the landscape close to builtup
areas. Agreat variety of trees, plants
and animals stretches out along ecological
corridors that cross the city and its
ancient vestiges. Since antiquity, nature’s
presence in the city has been experienced
as a form of visual and spiritual
recreation that facilitates encounters between
people. But how can the economic
dynamism of a modern metropolis
be reconciled with the cult of a glorious
past recalled by these protected spaces?
Local authorities are looking for solutions
by improving neglected peripheral
areas and by involving the private sector
in managing green spaces, which can
be the medium for lucrative activities.

Cynthia Ghorra-Gobin
American cities : from pastoral ideal to creating artificial natural environments

Contrary to the tradition in Europe of
separating cities and nature, urbanization
in North America maintained an
organic and ethical link between city
and country from its very beginnings.
But as the economy and transportation
have grown over the course of this century,
extensive urban development has
created an artificial natural environment
to the detriment of the pastoral ideal.
Today the central functions of the megalopolis
have been transferred to the suburbs.
Anew debate concerning the need
to get back to the cities in order to preserve
social harmony has replaced the
one held in the last century about nature’s
role in human fulfilment.

Gilles Sénécal
The Mountain’s boundaries : the appropriation of the Bois de Brébeuf in Montreal

Mont Royal and the St. Lawrence River
are the determining images of nature for
the city of Montreal. The Mountain is a
natural environment in the heart of the
city that is more or less preserved as a
park ; today it is suffering damage from
tourism and automobiles. Since 1989,
its future has been considered as a symbol
of local democracy. A project to
expand a business school into the Bois
de Brébeuf has become the focal point
of the conflict between those demanding
redress for this insult to nature and
those who want to control and develop
nature. Quite flexible in political terms,
the theme of nature winds up being a
trap for its most zealous defenders.

Bénédicte Florin
On gardening know-how : public green spaces and small private gardens in Cairo

From public parks to private gardens,
the use of green spaces in Cairo is very
important socially. In addition to the
enjoyment they provide, the small gardens
in the old social housing complex
of Ain el Sira are useful in regulating
relations between neighbours. In the
new housing estate of Masaken el Zelzel,
where earthquake refugees have
been relocated, gardens are a means of
building up hope again. Defending
nearby green spaces against outside
encroaching is also a way to defend
one’s honour and integrity.

Nathalie Cadiou, Vincent Fouchier
Vegetation in the new town of Evry : a variety of uses

In this new town, greener than most, the
abundant vegetation eases some of the
tension created by the proximity of
social groups with varying lifestyles.
Those who own their housing are more
active than tenants in maintaining their
terraces and small gardens, while young
people play and meet in green areas not
intended for such activities. The various
inhabitants have taken over natural
areas, in their different private and
public forms, with the aim of distancing
themselves from the town and such
undesirable social proximity.

Élisabeth Pasquier
Gardening in the city

In the borough of Chantenay on the
outskirts of Nantes, there is a natural
derelict area tied up by a highway project
that keeps getting delayed. Inhabitants
from the surrounding area,
mostly immigrant workers, have turned
it into garden plots. The author of
this chronicle, an ethnologist turned
gardener, gives a day by day account of
her integration into the precarious gardeners’local
microcosm. Her account
of this rite of passage also tells of
migration, mutual aid and urban

Yaël Haddad
Rows of trees in cities : at stake for multiple partners

Whether massacred or protected, rows
of trees in cities have become one of the
stakes in complex technical and political
strategies. Ignorance and oversights
concerning the changing nature of vegetation
are a source of numerous maintenance
problems. Trees in the heart of
a city create the most conflicts between
elected officials, technicians, dealers in
equipment and the local population.

Ph. Clergeau, A. Sauvage, A. Lemoine, J.-P. Marchand, F. Dubs et G. Mennechez
Birds in the city

In Rennes, the presence and diversity
of birds vary little between the city
centre and its outskirts. Yet, people
living in the centre see fewer birds than
those who live on the outskirts. Inhabitants
of suburban housing estates are
divided between those who welcome
the feathered creatures and those who
hunt them down. Farther away, out in
the country, people are more attentive
to the existence and diversity of birds.
Untameable animals, city birds are fed,
enticed or rejected, reflecting the ambivalence
of city-dwellers.