Organic City Project : Moving into a Culture of Sustainability
  Home About us Contact us Forum

Architecture & Urbanism

The City as an Organism

There is no city without nature. Without air, water, and food the city cannot exist. Even if we wanted, we could not produce air or water out of nothing. Nature contains the city and provides the means of its existence. Destroying nature, therefore, amounts to self-destruction. A comparison at the human scale would be a man actively destroying his own body. No sane organism seeks self-destruction; it contradicts the principle of life whereby every living being strives for survival and expansion.

This recent SeaWiFS overpass of Bolivia
shows obvious human habitation in the
forms of deforestation and urbanization.

We have been accustomed to the notion that the city is opposed to nature, and that exploitation of natural resources is a necessary evil. Like a mad organism, the city destroys its surroudings a little more everyday. This lack of consciousness of the bigger whole, has brought cities to extinction in the past, and will again in the future if nothing changes.

At the center of the Mayan civilization, between AD 900 & 1500, the city of Coplan died out because it did not manage its resources in a sustainable way. A widely accepted theory suggests that over farming caused the collapse of Coplan. The land was not given fallow time to rest and regenerate itself, as a result it was producing less crops every year until there was just not enough to sustain the needs of the population.

To an extraterrestrial visitor looking at earth from above the city would appear as a parasitic organism feeding itself of nature. “Developed” cities do not merely exploit their immediate natural surroundings, but rather rely on complex global networks of trade and consumption. The millions of hectares of genetically modified corn fields in the American Midwest feed the megalopolises of the Northeast. Cheap t-shirts and sneakers consumed in New York City are produced in Chinese sweetshops. Suburban wooden houses are made of Amazonian trees. Indeed, everything is interconnected, and the resources consumed in cities are too often the result of a destructive exploitation of natural resources in another part of the world.

Being conscious of where our resources come from and at what price for the environment is a first step towards sustainability. We cannot wait for the adverse effect of the city’s exploitative relationship to nature to hit us to react, because they are absolutely non-reversible. After reaching a certain threshold, global warming will change the ecosystem for ever, leading to the disappearance of certain vegetal and animal species and to the spread of others. Even if after that point, the temperature was to cool down again these species would not reappear.

Cities do not need to be parasite to nature. One the contrary, we believe that more energy and well being can be generated through a symbiotic integration between human settlement and the environment. Our consciousness allows us to rise above exploitation and self-destruction. Humans are not finite and self-sufficient, but rather belong to much larger social and natural wholes. OrganiCity presents sustainable urban practices and aims at demonstrating that cities can exist and grow in symbiosis with nature.


Food & Consumption
Architecture & Urbanism
Culture & Society

Do it yourself
» Organic City
» McDonough's E-House
» Green Spaces
» Nassau Ice House