Nature 3.X Symposium Asks, Where is Nature Now?

graphic from Minnesota landscape architecture symposium 


The University of Minnesota convened a two-day symposium in April called Nature 3.X  where broad amalgam of artists, writers, landscape architects, urban planners, other creative thinkers and activists were invited to speculate upon emerging ideas of nature in a post-industrial world that some refer to as the Anthropocene*.


Architect magazine reported on the symposium in an article entitled “Designing the Post-Natural Built Environment” in their Mind & Matter column on April 22. The writer, Blain Brownell, describes the symposium as a “forum for discussing our changing relationship with nature and the need for a paradigm shift in our design thinking.”


The shift in our design thinking he is referring to is that comprehensive, regenerative (rather than “sustainable”) design of the sort referred to in the symposium (and gaining traction throughout the world) demands that the still-pervasive practice silos (architects do this, landscape architects do that) is a lingering model that limits innovation and is biased in its pursuit of new opportunities that rely on a deeper understanding of natural processes than any single discipline encompasses.


Classical architecture meets green roof at Chicago City Hall 


From our perspective at CDF, there is unlimited potential to restore and drastically improve livability, prosperity, ecological health and vitality of all places through a regenerative approach (rather than merely sustainable one). As the symposium participants emphasized, most of the occupied places in North America (and other places in the world) have been impacted, altered, and are actually in a state of ecological decline absent of positive human intervention. New modes of human intervention such as restorative design and long-term management, offers the opportunity to improve the built-places where we live, work, learn and play. We concur with Mr. Brownell that a close collaboration between landscape architects, engineers, ecologists, architects, and others is an essential design paradigm to begin to tap into the incredible healing power of the planet.


*Wikipedia defines the word Anthropocene as chronological term for an epoch that begins when human activities have had a significant global impact on the Earth's ecosystems. The term has been widely popularized by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen, who regards the influence of human behavior on the Earth's atmosphere in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological epoch that some say started with the industrial revolution, while others link the term to earlier events, such as the rise of agriculture. However, the term has not yet been officially accepted by the scientific community.


We invite the symposium presenters and attendees to continue the conversation on this forum. To read the original Architect article, go to:


Visit the Symposium’s website for upcoming events:




Tags: regenerative design, restorative design, practice silos, sustainability, urbanism, green building

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