Lisbon, Ocupart/Portuguese Chamber of Architects, November 2018


Today, we live in environments that become our ‘natural’ surroundings although they are not natural at all. Many of them are not even suited for proper human living; e.g. when you think about the recent situation in urban agglomerations, or about our increasing dependency on internet-based mediated environments which we need and which became quite natural for us. Yet these are neither natural, nor do they present the normal, ‘natural’ environment of human beings for most of the time of their history. Consider the bulk of logistic and junk landscapes at the fringes of our cities, topographies which became a normal environment for us. We even have entire landscapes which seem natural but which have been designed for touristic use, faking a natural environment.

To become aware of the unnatural nature of our so-called normal environments we got used to conceiving them as ‘natural’ – it could be worth the effort for the sake of a better living, and for activities related to that.


The normal and therefore natural surrounding is one aspect of, or perspective towards an artificial nature. Another perspective relates to dreams and to hopes: an artificial nature always related also to some kind of paradise, or utopia. An artificial nature is one made – an arte factum, something constructed by means of technical art, and not ‘naturally’ grown, neither by nature nor by history. It shall serve for human belongings as an encompassing new environment, providing a second nature, some kind of artificial environment for humans. It is an environment with the aim of perfection, of representing an ideal space. Ideal both in the sense of a space imagined (idea, eidos) and of a space perfected, thus providing a perfect surrounding for human beings: for instance, a carefully designed English Landscape Garden, or the beautifully molded cityscape of an ideal city; or recently, the world of the Internet.

The city also becomes an important topic for the future: for the first time in human history more people will live in cities than in the countryside.

City and Utopia

Based on our Western understanding of a general human condition, the human being essentially is a zoon politikon (Aristotle), an animal owning culture and living in the Polis, the city. This is the genuine, ‘natural’ environment of human beings. How does it relate to utopia? The utopia is the ou-topos, the “non-place”, in a quite ambivalent meaning: it can denote a place we wish and are longing for, not being present now.  It denotes a place that is not inhabitable for humans if they want to stay human. Looking at today’s urban agglomerations and the majority of their population, the second meaning of ‘utopia’ becomes predominant.

How to tackle it? This will be illuminated in our workshop, accompanied by an exhibition presenting several artificial natures.