Representing nature. Late twentieth century green infrastructures in Paris


  • Rene van der Velde TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment
  • Saskia de Wit TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment



green infrastructure, conceptions of nature, three natures, urban gardens, urban parks, sensorial, context, natural processes


The appreciation of green infrastructures as ‘nature’ by urban communities presents a critical challenge for the green infrastructure concept. While many green infrastructures focus on functional considerations, their refinement as places where concepts of nature are represented and where nature can be experienced and understood, has received little attention in research and praxis. Contemporary urban societies entertain varied and distinctive ideas on nature and their relationship to it, themes explored in contemporary urban park and garden design. These projects can provide insights into the representation, comprehension and experience of nature in green infrastructures. This article expands on contemporary conceptions of nature in urban parks and urban gardens such as those realised in Paris between 1980 and 2000. The projects all display articulated expressions of conceptions of nature, reflecting both a return to the classical garden tradition, as well as elaborations of nature via the sensorial, ‘abundant nature’ and nature as process. These conceptions can be positioned within the theoretical framework of three forms of nature – first nature (wilderness), second nature (cultural landscape) and third nature (garden). In Paris, contemporary parks and gardens not only express new forms of nature, they also form part of a green infrastructure network in their own right. As a series of precise moments connected by rivers and canals, this network differs markedly from prevailing green infrastructure models. The network of parks and gardens in Paris represents a green infrastructural network made up of a layering of historical and contemporary elements connected in compound ways. The completeness of representations and elaborations of nature – gathered in the three natures – can be dissected and spread out over different constructed landscapes in the city, and it is up to the green infrastructure to unite them.

Author Biographies

Rene van der Velde, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

René van der Velde is an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands)

Saskia de Wit, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

Saskia de Wit an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands)


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