Contrasts between city and wilderness

One of the major reasons why people go to the wilder, more natural areas is to escape from the daily life of the city. As societies become more urbanized, and as people tend to work less in industries such as agriculture or forestry, they tend to lose the sense of connection with the land that such work brings. The life of a city dweller, culturally rich as it may be, tends for many people to be stressful in some way, dominated by timetables

of transport and work. The city is crowded; this is not always a negative situation, given the gregariousness of the human species, but personal space is often limited. The city is also almost completely a human construction. In large metropolises, there may be very little remaining of the natural landscape that once existed. The layout of many cities is based on a giant grid. Landform, old tracks, small streams and former agricultural areas are ignored by this layout, which is relentless in its taming of nature. It is a reflection of the world view dominant since the Age of Enlightenment in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, under which humans consider themselves above nature and destined to tame it and bend it to their will. This view has caused major consequences for the exploitation of the world’s resources, and only recently has it had any kind of sustained challenge. Many people now believe that it is important to be able to escape from the city in order to reconnect ourselves with our roots in the wilderness, the forest, or the natural and semi-natural landscape of the countryside.

As the city represents order, control, the geometric grid, noise, pollution and overcrowding to many people, they perceive its antithesis in the outdoors. The converse qualities of chaos, lack of control, absence of geometry, quietness, cleanliness and solitude are very important. They provide cues for the kind of landscapes and facilities that designers should consider.

At one extreme, parts of the ‘wild’ landscape of the English Lake District were spoiled by geometric gridded plantation forests, which seemed to reflect the philosophy of human domination over nature by creating ‘factory forests’ in natural places.

At the other extreme in terms of scale is the urban style of car park, complete with concrete kerbs, white lines and ornamental shrubs in a remote moorland setting. This reduces the sense of contrast between the city and the outdoors, and removes the illusion that such landscapes are wild and unspoiled.