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Visions of nature: conflict and compatibility

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Landscape and Urban Planning 56:35-51


Although various disciplines have developed "objective" principles and practices for landscape restoration in recent decades, the concept of restoration itself often rests on subjective questions of cultural value. Issues related to restoring the naturalness of urban open spaces were explored in a planning effort for an area of parkland along Chicago's lakefront. Four different "visions of nature" emerged through dialogue with stakeholders, each emphasizing a different set of characteristics related to the landscape's perceived structure and function as well as its human values and uses: (1) nature as designed landscape, where the concern was to restore the original 1938 naturalistic design for the site by a noted landscape architect; (2) nature as habitat, where individuals sought to restore a hedgerow created during the 1950s that has since become a magnet for migrating birds; (3) nature as recreation, where a variety of interests sought to balance nature restoration goals with the preservation of established recreational activities occurring on and adjacent to the site; and (4) nature as pre-European settlement landscape, where individuals sought to restore the site as a reflection of the regional landscape as it may have existed before development of Chicago in the 1830s. It became clear during the course of the effort that the landscape features some individuals sought to restore had attained an iconic status, symbolizing for them meanings and values deeper than what might be discerned by those not intimately knowledgeable of the site and its social context, and that the preservation and enhancement of these features needed to be a central part of any final plan for the site. Trying to maintain these icons in accommodating the various visions of nature did give rise to some conflicts, but stakeholder negotiations also showed how the visions were compatible and how iconic features might "nest" within each other as a result of different scales and locations of concern. Implications for landscape design and management are discussed.


Gobster, Paul H. 2001. Visions of nature: conflict and compatibility. Landscape and Urban Planning 56:35-51

Last updated on: August 11, 2006