Nature & Architecture

ETH Zürich | Philip Ursprung

Published in "Natural Metaphor: An Anthology of Essays on Architecture and Nature", 2007

At the latest since not only ecological activists and romantic outsiders, but also politicians and film producers are talking about the threatened nature; since even airlines and car producers claim to be contributing to the protection of the climate, has it become clear that the distribution struggle concerning the intermediation of the resource named nature is in full flight. Terms such as “sustainability“, “balance“ and “bio” are on the advance, gas stations are painted green, and garbage is separated in airport malls. “Nature“ as a commodity has massively come in demand. The present high esteem nature as a subject registers offers an occasion to study its history. The notion of “nature“, as it was established in the 18th and 19th century, has altered radically through the 20th century.[1]


Fig.1: Joseph Paxton, Crystal Palace, London, 1851.

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[1] This text is based upon my essay “Double Helix and Blue Planet: The Visualization of Nature in 20th Century“ in the catalogue Nature Design, edited by Angeli Sachs, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich (Baden: Lars Müller, 2007).
[2] Robert Smithson, “A Museum of Language in the Vicinity of Art” in: Art International, March 1968, reprinted in: Robert Smithson – The Collected Writings, edited by Jack Flam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996) pp 78–94, here: p 85.
[3] J.D. Watson and F.H.C. Crick, “A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid“, in: Nature 171, 25.4.1953, pp 737–738.
[4] See the critical account of the energy crisis in Midnight Oil: Work, Energy, War, 1972–93, edited by The Midnight Notes Collective (San Francisco: Semiotext, 1992).