Fourth Natures: Mediated Landscapes conference at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture

In Garden Perfections: The Practice of Garden Theory (2000), the landscape theorist John Dixon Hunt elucidates three categories of landscape first defined during the Renaissance: “first nature” being wilderness, “second nature” being the cultivated landscape, and “third nature” being the garden, a combination of nature and culture.

One might argue that over the course of the 20th century, a “fourth nature” has been evolving which expands both the scale and complexity of our landscapes.

From the territorial to the nanoscale, mutant environments which fuse natural and artificial, technologic and infrastructural have been proliferating. Natures are monitored and controlled, ecologies are amplified or manufactured and interior landscapes are conditioned, with the intent of augmenting performance, controlling the flow of resources, monitoring data or redressing environmental imbalances. In the current scenario, the dialectic is no longer nature versus city, or natural versus artificial, but positions within a spectrum of mediation and manipulation of nature, landscape and built environment.

The built and natural environments are increasingly defined by the infrastructures that sustain or monitor them, and more often than not these systems are seen as being “unnatural” and imposed upon the built landscapes. Yet, it can be argued that it is necessary to view augmenting our environment as a merging of artificial efficiency and natural logic. With that, there has been a rise in architects, landscape architects, urbanists and ecologists offering infrastructures as catalysts for organizing and defining the constructed environments, proposing scenarios in which the boundaries of built and unbuilt, mediated and natural are growing ever more complex and ambiguous.

Taking place at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture from February 4-5, 2011, the Fourth Nature: Mediated Landscapes conference brings together scholars and practitioners working at the disciplinary intersection of architecture, infrastructure, landscape and environment to present research and projects that propose emerging models for understanding “nature” – in its various scales and guises, in the 21st century.

The conference will be structured around three panel sessions:

Fourth Nature/New Contexts – will examine the historic context and legacies of a mediated nature that has emerged over the course of the 20th century, in the wake of cultural shifts, regional networks and infrastructures and new technologies.

Fourth Nature/New Disciplines – will raise questions as to how we might evolve emerging understandings of terms such nature, ecology, and environment in the context of new disciplinary practices.

Fourth Nature/New Practices – will present works and practices which redefine the nature and performance of these increasingly mutant environments which exist between nature and the constructed, whether it be at the scale of the building, the city, or the territorial.

Speakers include François Roche, Ila Berman, Martin Felsen, Lydia Kallipoliti, Janette Kim, Sean Lally, Liat Margolis, Christine Macy, John J. May, John McMinn, Andy Payne, Alessandra Ponte, Cary Wolfe and Lola Sheppard.

Detailed information about the conference schedule and speakers can be found at