“We view the landscape much as the Victorians viewed women: as either saints or whores. If an open space is green, it is considered a saint. If it is built, concreted or asphalted, it is a whore.” – Martha Schwartz, Schwartz Partners

One of the projects I am working on at my office is at a college in Oxford. Part of our proposal will take away a seeded square and replace it with a paved one. I feel discombobulated by this. We will be imposing yet more hard landscape onto the earth.

As I meander through the streets of London I feel a complete disconnect with nature. The only actual plant life I see is the occasional half dead tree. When I take in a deep breath I feel nothing. I’ll goto Regents or Hyde Park in hopes of being able to take a deep breath and feel the life around me, but I always feel nothing. In architecture, we promote the ideas of density. The ideas of the pedestrian and keeping things more together. Cities like Mumbai, London and New York are prime examples of cities that are developed much better than sprawl cities such as Houston or Dallas. However, I can stand anywhere in Houston and when I breath in, I can feel the nature that encompasses me. I feel pine, oak, jasmine and rose as it fills my lungs. I feel the life that thrives. Through this sprawled nature of hopping developments we have created patches of life that helps breath throughout the city. In this sense, London is a whore and Houston is a saint. But could those roles exist in any other context?

About pettydesign

James Petty is an American architect experiencing and contributing to the Yale School of Architecture.