Ever since humans used branches and polished stones as weapons and tools, and made containers with clay, they had begun to get civilized apart from the wildness. With fossil energy and mechanical technology, cities, farmlands, and gardens have been constantly displacing the nature, and the wildness is disappearing. Human beings lost their instinct of wildness, lonely and dispirited. Nowadays, it is time to call for the return toward wildness. Urban wildness exists both in wildscapes and the human-intervention-free natural process or wild creatures. It is key to sustaining a healthy urban ecosystem as it can work with the laws of nature and the internal deep order as a natural ecosystem. Inspired by the aesthetics of urban wildness, humans explore the unknown world by their instinct. For me, the Fengshui forest and courtyard pond in my childhood and the relics in Yuan-ming Yuan were all unforgettable wildness. Today’s ecological civilization enters a new era that embraces wildness, and defending urban wildness is the only way for humans to move toward a higher level of civilization.
Urban wilderness is the remnant nature existing within the cracks of urban context, which can provide habitats for wildlife and natural recreation areas, with significance in optimizing urban ecological resilience. On the one hand, the unprecedented urbanization processes and the public’s negative hypotheses on the concept have caused continuous reduction of urban wilderness; on the other hand, opportunities are seen in reconstructing and activating urban wilderness when natural processes return to dominate the idle lands resulting from industrial recession and urban shrinkage, and the rewilding concept and techniques develop gradually. With ecological civilization construction, the initiative of a systematic management of the mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, lakes, and grasslands, and the advance of adopting Nature-Based Solutions in China, it is the best time to acknowledge urban wilderness in depth, identify its connotations and values, construct identity recognition, and carry out practices of conservation and restoration.
The process of urban sprawl, restructure, and shrinkage provides the possibility for the formation and evolution of urban wildscapes. Physically, urban wildscapes refer to the urban spaces where the ecology is basically dominated by natural processes and similar to the natural wilderness in appearance and functions. The existence and persistence of wilderness fragments in cities often result from the reduction of human management and with minimal intervention on the nature. Due to the different interactions and confrontations between natural processes and social processes, the wildness of urban wildscapes varies. The unique and irreplaceable values of urban widlscapes in ecology, culture, aesthetics, economy, and well-being have gained multi-disciplinary attention and been widely recognized. This paper defines the concept of urban wildscapes, reviews the conceptual development of its connotation, and analyzes the multiple benefits of urban wildscapes on the basis of value recognition research. It hopes to provide a value recognition framework for empirical studies, helping urban residents, planning designers, and managers identify, appreciate, experience, and sustainably manage natural resources and urban ecological network, and providing scientific guidelines for ecological urban development.
Fragments of wilderness dominated by natural succession exist in urban environments, and play a critical role in protecting biodiversity, supporting urban ecological processes, and connecting human beings with nature. Urban vegetation rewilding is a key approach to restricting urban wilderness by restoring the species composition, community structure and functions, eventually towards a self-maintained vegetation community. This paper, taking wildflower meadows as a reference, establishes a technical framework of urban vegetation rewilding by leveraging ecological flows and adopting quasi-nature design with minimum interventions. The framework covers 5 aspects, namely self-design, micro-topographic design, quasinature design, collaborative symbiosis design between plant community and keystone animal species, and design with natural materials. Studying the green space along the northwest lakeside of the Shuangguihu National Wetland Park in Liangping District, Chongqing, this paper provides a scientific guidance and technical paradigm for vegetation rewilding and urban wilderness restoration in the complex context of natural–artificial urban landscapes.
Natural plants would see a free growth in an idle land after an absence of management, leading to spontaneous biological processes that form the wildscape. Such vegetation demonstrates the characteristics of the ecological self-restoration. This paper studies the spontaneous species found on a site in Beijing Forestry University, inventories and analyzes the species, site conditions, possible maternal plants of them, and discusses the changes and characteristics of the community in its early establishment. The results show that several spontaneous plants sprout early, and cover nearly 1/3 of the site 3 years later. Most of spontaneous plant species are native, more of which are herbaceous, while little difference is found between the number of woody communities and that of herbaceous communities. Their distribution is obviously affected by soil conditions when the light is sufficient. This paper concludes that once the human disturbances are stopped or reduced, ecological self-restoration can occur rapidly with essential conditions for growth (light, soils, and seed sources), even poor as urban environment. At the early stage of ecological self-restoration, native plant species dominate obviously. It is worthy of attention to and further study on the spontaneous native woody communities as they emerge rapidly.
This paper investigates the idea of cultivated wildness at the intersection of landscape design and artificial intelligence. The paper posits that contemporary landscape practices should overcome the potentially single understanding on wilderness, and instead explore landscape strategies to cultivate new forms of wild places via ideas and concerns in contemporary Environmental Humanities, Science and Technology Studies, Ecological Sciences, and Landscape Architecture. Drawing cases in environmental engineering, computer science, and landscape architecture research, this paper explores a framework to construct wild places with intelligent machines. In this framework, machines are not understood a layer of “digital infrastructure” that is used to extent localized human intelligence and agency. Rather machines are conceptualized as active agents who can participate in the intelligence of co-production. Recent developments in cybernetic technologies such as sensing networks, artificial intelligence, and cyberphysical systems can also contribute to establishing the framework. At the heart of this framework is “technodiversity,” in parallel with biodiversity, since a singular vision on technological development driven by optimization and efficiency reinforces a monocultural approach that eliminates other possible relationships to construct with the environment. Thus, cultivated wildness is also about recognizing “wildness” in machines.
The Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) Conference is one of the highest-level global academic conferences on ecosystem service (ES) research. Focusing on the research and practice of ES worldwide, ESP Conference offers an important way to grasp the cutting-edge knowledge for scholars and professionals. Currently, ES evaluation indicators and evaluation methods have been integrated the research and practice of landscape planning and design. This paper sorted out the break-out session themes at the 10th ESP Conference related to landscape planning and summarized the research presented in each session. It analyzed and summarized the research and practice hot spots from 3 perspectives: multiple landscape types, the application of ES in planning and management, and ES mapping and modeling. Finally, the paper offers insights on future interests of the application of ES research into landscape planning, including 1) exploring ES evaluation for multiple landscape types; 2) exploring the theoretical and practical frameworks for integrating ES Science into landscape planning; and 3) exploring integrated ES modeling and mapping tools for landscape planning and management.
The concept of wilderness (荒野) has multiple characteristics and values relating to three principal areas: biological, socio-economic, and iconic. To provide clarity of concept, the term was included in the IUCN’s list of Protected Area Categories in 1992. More recently, a current and fashionable expression “urban wilderness” has emerged. For those who believe in the critical importance of natural wilderness areas to the future health and wellbeing of our planet, and who work to protect these areas, the term “urban wilderness” causes much consternation. It is very possible that such usages will create confusion in the mind of urban dwellers—now the majority of the global population—as to what “real” wilderness is. By definition, cities cannot be “wilderness” technically. However, elements of wilderness can and should be present in and around urban areas to enhance human health and quality of life. Rather than calling this urban wilderness, however, the term should be “urban wildness (野境).” This paper presents a rationale for using “urban wildness” to replace “urban wilderness,” citing some of the characteristics and benefits of urban wildness; provides case studies of urban areas that are working successfully with the concept; elucidates the role and challenges of wild animals (especially predators) in urban areas; and finally, gives an example of an engagement and educational methodology connecting urban dwellers to wild values and benefits.
Wilderness is a cultural construct that is deeply rooted in many societies. For landscape architects and their predecessors, wilderness has long been important as a contrast to artificial garden elements, as an inspiration for naturalistic plant designs, or today as a timely contribution to reconciling cities and their inhabitants with the natural world. Since cities and wilderness have traditionally been seen as opposites, new approaches are necessary to better address the opportunities and challenges associated with wilderness in urban regions. From an ecological perspective, urban wilderness can be defined as an area characterized by a high degree of self-regulation in ecosystem processes where direct human impact is negligible. This allows two main types of wilderness to be distinguished: “ancient wilderness” represented by natural remnants in many cities, and “novel wilderness,” which arises in artificial urban-industrial sites. The two types require different approaches in designing and managing green spaces. Ancient wilderness is a traditional object of conservation and restoration, and offers inspiration for naturalistic plantings. In contrast, the emergence of novel wilderness has long been associated with neglect and socio-economic decline. Since the 1980s, however, early pioneer projects in Germany have started to integrate novel urban wilderness into the green infrastructure. The results are unprecedented green spaces that combine novel wilderness with design interventions. These places are attractive to visitors, contribute to biodiversity conservation, and support many ecosystem services. This article aims to illustrate the opportunities and challenges of integrating wilderness components and processes into the urban green infrastructure—a timely way to reconnect cities with nature.
Tommy Thompson Park in the city of Toronto, Canada was originally a massive landfilling project that extended 5 kilometers out into Lake Ontario. It was constructed from construction rubble and harbor dredge from the 1950s through the late 1970s, when the project was halted due to changing economic conditions. Left to its own devices, the landfill spontaneously evolved into a “nature preserve” when innumerable plants from around the world established themselves and hundreds of migrating bird species descended on the site for nesting and feeding. In the 1990s, the city of Toronto took control of the site and transformed it into a park—Tommy Thompson Park—after a carefully planned design and construction process. The design interventions enhanced public accessibility, wildlife and habitat diversity, and ecological functionality. Tommy Thompson Park is an ideal case study for examining the dynamic interaction between spontaneity and design and for how, over time, these seemingly contradictory processes can come together harmoniously.
The ability of landscape architectural projects to mitigate the worst effects of climate change will depend upon designed ecological systems. These systems will be built with plants. Despite the recognition of ecology as an essential driver of landscapes, the professionals of landscape architecture too often lack the knowledge and practical skills to create robust vegetative systems. New approaches and tools are required. This article outlines principles and methods for designing biodiverse plant systems for urban sites. Planting methods that increase species richness, functional diversity, and spatial complexity are emphasized as a way of developing more resilient plantings. Selecting species with similar evolutionary adaptions to stress, disturbance, and competition—as well as creating multi-layered compositions of diverse plant morphologies—allows designers to create compatible, long-lived plant mixes. To balance the increased visual complexity of diverse plant mixes, the article explores design techniques to make plantings more appealing to the public. The strategies explored here are based on the projects, experience, and research of Phyto Studio, a Washington, D.C. based studio. The methods build on work described in the author’s book, Planting in a Post-Wild World, an exploration of how to create designed plant communities.
One of the core values of urban wilderness construction is to restore the structures and functions of biological communities in fragmented urban habitats, and enable the stability and ecological succession of native communities with low human intervention. The paper discusses the design principles and technical methodologies in active urban rewilding by the example of Shanghai Urban Biodiversity Education Base project. Aiming to restore urban biodiversity and enrich the technical and theoretical research of urban wilderness construction and Nature-based Solutions, this project conducted habitat division, native species introduction, natural community construction, ecological benefit assessment, etc. In a year and a half, 260 native plant species, 255 insect species, 7 amphibian and reptile species, 71 bird species, and 6 mammal species were recorded within the 1.7 hm2 project site, showing higher biodiversity and density of animal populations than unrestored consructed forests surrounding. Along with the spontaneous progressive succession of the plant communities, the project has achieved good results. The technical approaches proposed in the project can be broadly applied in design and construction of country parks, wildlife habitats, ecological corridors / networks, and environmental education bases.
City as Nature is an ecological art and media studio based primarily in Kitakagaya, a former shipbuilding district on the outskirts of Osaka, Japan. Working with local and international practitioners, and public and private organizations across multiple disciplines and sectors, they produce ecological art projects that re-connect people, process, and place with the ecosystems in which we dwell. Two narrative project studies in Kitakagaya are presented here: 1) The Branch Osaka, a physical ecological space built inside a typical wood-and-earth row house in an 80-year-old marketplace—rebuilt by City as Nature, using locally recycled materials, it now serves as a residence and ecological art space, with a natural garden and donation-based programming; 2) City as Nature Festival, an ecological neighborhood “happening,” taking place in multiple local public and privately-owned spaces. The festival explores urban relationships with the nature through art-driven dialogs between practitioners, the general public, and the urban space itself. From these projects, City as Nature hopes to explore approaches to cultivating relationships—individual, meaningful relationships between designers, executives, civic leaders, citizens, and the communities of ecosystems in and around our cities. Through an ongoing, truthful dialog with the environment, people might just discover the possible city, an equitable place for all beings.
Wild places remind us of the adaptability, resilience, and fragility of plants and humans alike. The urban environment is awash in plant life, often taking root in remnants of industrial infrastructure in poetic ways—along roadsides and chain-link fences, between cracks of pavement, and within vacant lots, rubble dumps, and highway medians.
Future Green Studio’s investigations into spontaneous urban plants have aspired to engage people with their neighborhood environments—streets, walls, lots, and tree pits—through a series of walks, talks, citizen science participation, and the publication of a book, SUP: Weeds in NYC. This work continues to feed planting concepts behind many of the studio’s designed landscapes, which seek to capture the rugged vision of urban wilderness. Species for the studio’s projects are selected for their ability to tolerate the proposed habitats created on sites and are often drawn from local plant communities, such as oak barrens and shrublands; the plants and ecologies of project sites are a frequent source of inspiration. The studio does not see uncultivated plant growth as the specter of disinvestment, but as an asset to the performance, health, and well-being of its inhabitants, human or otherwise, which demonstrates the ability of the city to support the evolving ecologies of the future.