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Urban design and civic spaces: nature at the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris

[journal article]

Strohmayer, Ulf

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Abstract Transcending the dualism between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ has been one of the central aims of geographical knowledge during the last decade or so. The present paper adds to this growing body of literature by focusing on the construction of a key space of the French Second Empire (1852-1870), the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the newly created 19th arrondissement in Paris. The paper argues that the nexus between culture and nature-what has been described most fittingly as ‘social nature’ in the literature-can profitably be approached through the lenses afforded by a reformulated concept of labour. Taking cues from Don Mitchell’s conceptual notion of ‘dead labour’, the paper explores the impact of both technology and design on an emerging urban nature that was to be centrally implicated in the naturalization of many values within an emerging bourgeois, Western world with its emphasis on the commodification of increasing parts of everyday life. Ostensibly non-commodified urban park landscapes were implicated in this process precisely because they embodied a notion of ‘labour’ that was-and continues to be-both necessary and homogeneous and thus akin to the sense of labour developing in the world of commerce at the same time.
Document language English
Publication Year 2006
Page/Pages p. 557-576
Journal Cultural Geographies, 13 (2006) 4
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)