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Geography, Geology and the Environment


Eric Godoy

Mentor Department



Alec Foster

Co-Mentor Department

Geography, Geology and the Environment


Urban parks are often developed from degraded or cast aside areas which a city then transforms into a central space for various recreational activities and enjoyment. The transformation of land into a communal and public space has instigated debate over the idea of ridding an area of its naturalness to accommodate features purely associated with anthropocentric functionality and interests. Environmentalists and philosophers debate the meaning of the concept of nature and attempt to define whether anthropogenic activities are considered within the realm of nature. Drawing from recently published literature in the fields of environmental philosophy and urban studies, I argue for the restoration of nature, in the context of urban parks, to still be viewed as a form of nature. I conceptually analyze the present debate on nature and human-nature interaction to conclude nature is everywhere and in everything. Our human influences on an area, such as restored or developed urban environments, should not be considered unnatural because we too are a part of nature. The 24.5-acre area Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois, was previously a series of rail lines and parking lots along the lakefront and considered to be an eyesore. Park designers Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett considered the railroad's control of the area to be so untouchable that plans for a neighboring urban park were specifically made around the property in their 1909 Plan of Chicago. It was not until 1997 that Mayor Richard M. Daley began redevelopment of the area. Transformation of the area spanned over seven years and exceeded the initial budget of $150 million; however, today Millennium Park is internationally recognized and draws many tourists to gaze at the beauty of 'city nature'. Features such as Cloud Gate and the Lurie Garden add to the park's aesthetics, revealing how humans may sculpt an area's image to enhance its naturalness. Human action in the redevelopment and incorporation of urban planning and design has not excluded Millennium Park from being a form of nature in the city.

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