There is a novelist who advances the idea of the city as a new form of nature.
A moment's reflection makes us realize that we stand on the premise that it is only natural for human beings to create cities. Demographers predict that before the close of the century, more people will be living in cities than in the countryside, worldwide. Thus the Scenes we encounter in our daily lives will become more and more urban. Eventually, the city itself could become a sort of “nature” for those born and raid in the city.
The “Urban Oasis” project, being pushed by Fujita Corp, envisages setting tip a symbiotic support system-totally different from the formation of environment based on conventional ideas, force of habit and sheer faith in technology. It is far removed from the concept of benevolence held by humans alone. In other words, the project attempts to bring about a new form of “nature” based on a new sense of value. So far it has given concrete form to a number of remarkable ideas. For example, a system for supplying clean air by using microbes in the ground to purify exhaust fumes generated in underground parking lots; a system for raising algae and fish by recycling rainwater and effluent from buildings and using the excrements of the algae and fish as fertilizer for plants; and a system for dispersing sunlight to provide natural lighting to shaded areas. With the establishment of a symbiotic relation between technology-that double-edged sword which tends to make human beings arrogant-and the life cycle of organisms, all material elements – trees, earth, water, fish and birds, and even the energy produced with the help of science- are made to play equally important roles in forming and supporting the city.
But here the principle of survival of the fittest, which in the natural world of organisms is out in the open, remains invisible. This scene, where everyone has become so good and docile, perhaps stems from that sense of urban ethics which always regards a clear sky as the best weather. We know that the Earth we live on is a “green spaceship” and also a “watery spaceship.” But neither man in general nor the city is so fragile as we might believe. We must be fully aware that fragility would make it impossible to keep up with the rapid changes taking place in this new “nature,” the city.
In all ages, as a new sense of value becomes dominant, there will always be those who will vacillate like weathercocks. And none of us can say with any certainty that we are not of that type. We cannot allow this new “nature,” which includes new values, to end up being a mere experiment or fad, much less be used as corporate propaganda.
Those passing through the new urban scene created by the new symbiotic systems exude an air of ennui, as if they were indifferent to what's unfolding around them.
Can the city really become an oasis for human beings?
Text by Hiroshi Innami 1993/7