The history and inspirations to embrace the wild even in the city: from practical experiments to the words of landscape architects Nigel Dunnet, Antonio Perazzi and Marco Bay

We saw it during the lockdown: streams of water that return to clear, unmowed meadows where wild flowers, fawns and wild boars that stroll around the city bloom. Where man loosens control, nature regains its space.

What is rewilding?

With global warming looming, it is increasingly urgent to create strategies of care and respect for the planet. One of these is rewilding , a process in which large ecosystems are restored by reintroducing large herbivores and carnivores and removing human traces until nature reaches the point where it can. to govern itself.

What if they told you that in order to restore a watercourse, wolves must be introduced? As humans it comes naturally to us to think about building dams and mechanizing wells. Yet, one of the symbolic cases of rewilding is precisely that of the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone park the interconnections and cascading relationships on the ecosystem are very clear in the popular documentary How Wolves Change Rivers.

This experience brings with it a basic awareness: we need to rethink a new relationship between man and wild nature.

In Italy: Rewilding Apennines

According to the National Forestry and Carbon Reservoir Inventory, in Italy the wooded area - increased in 10 years by approximately 587,000 hectares - would occupy 36.7% of the territory, of which over 3.5 million hectares of forest area falls within protected areas.

An Italian example of a return to the wild is Rewilding Apennines which, also strong of studies and exchanges within the Rewilding Europe network, is experimenting with a plan for the protection of Marsican brown bears in danger of extinction and creation of corridors for wildlife linking the main national parks of the Central Apennines.

The impacts recorded so far look very carefully at the relationship between local communities and the animal world, also promoting trekking and wildlife watching experiences in search of new models of respect for nature.

And in the cities?

If structuring models of re-fermentation of forest areas remains complex, there is still a tendency to relegate these projects to places that are strongly disconnected from urban areas.

Certainly we will not try to insert wolves or bears in the cities but we must ask ourselves if the cities that are more ready to welcome and appreciate wild nature are not an important step not only to make cities more liveable and bring measurable benefits to man but also to make us feel less masters of the world and more in synergy with the environment.

There are now several experiments in which portions of urban space are dedicated to the wild: in London work has begun on the Heritage Forest, edited by SUGi according to Miyawaki method between the districts of Chealsea and Kensington.

In Rome we have an example of how nature has regained possession of the former SNIA industrial area, now making it the city park of Lago Bullicante appreciated and used by the community.

In Milan one observes with extreme curiosity the wild nature of the Scali Ferroviari left uncultivated.

In Paris the landscape architect Michel Desvigne 30 years ago designed the luxuriant forest of 100 birches today for the social housing complex in rue de Meaux designed by Renzo Piano.

Nigel Dunnet: Cities need rewilding

"The city is a very unnatural environment for humans!", Says the landscape architect Nigel Dunnet, strongly linked to the manifesto of the landscape architect Gilles Clément and author of the Olympic Garden in London and the very recent garden of the Barbican Center. "We evolved in a totally different environment and all our instincts and behaviors are adaptations to that natural environment."

According to Dunnet creating 'green spaces' or 'open spaces' is not enough: "because they are often quite sterile, devoid of natural content. We must instead aim for diversity and complexity. These aspects do not only create greater visual interest and satisfaction for people.

But complex and diversified systems also have greater ecological properties and work better in terms of supporting biodiversity, managing rainwater, cooling cities. We have to create places with the power to communicate strongly to people, reaching the depths, attracting our innate connections with the natural world".

Marco Bay: the opposite of building is needed in the city

"In the city, I can afford alternative landscapes, while keeping my feet on the ground", says landscape architect Marco Bay, author of numerous (and highly celebrated) urban and non-urban green spaces. "Considering climate, soil, smog and environment, it is possible to create different worlds where vegetation takes you far, observe the variability, the surprise effect of biodiversity and where to give new identity and recognition of places ".

In the city, according to Bay, it is necessary to do the opposite of building: "we are used to erasing the vegetal and generous earth to cement, it could instead be an educational discourse set up the project starting from where the plants are instead of tear them down and replant them after finishing the buildings.

I dream of garden forests, with a large density of trees that make the forest a priority and where the approach to the garden serves to make it accessible and hospitable: a place created by man but where nature is free and in connection with the gentle hands of the inhabitants gardeners".

Antonio Perazzi: we need places to let go of control

According to the gardener and landscape architect Antonio Perazzi , one of the themes of the future is to ask if there is a culture of urban nature or if there is an urban culture of nature. On the wild, Perazzi founds his manifesto - as can also be read in his new book The invisible gardens - a botanical manifesto published by UTET. And, faithful to it, is carrying out an experimentation on temporary botany in the regenerated spaces of Manifattura Tabacchi in Florence.

"We must cultivate a relational and empathic intelligence that is created when there is an agile dialogue with nature, a dialogue that observes the wild which includes the native, the exotic and not afraid of the invasive, "he says.

"We have learned that the places where nature expresses itself freely are fundamental yet often too artificial parks are designed where plants are only a corollary.

The wild that enters the city takes possession of the empty forgotten places which become cradles of fascinating biodiversity, which self-generate and maintain. Man could combine his planning with that of nature in reflecting on how to use these places and declaiming the beauty of weeds and the weeds that manage to make their way through the concrete. We need places that are genuinely different from our society: places to let go of control".

What steps to take to rewild the city?

Returning to inspiration from Nigel Dunnet: "I think that, often, our relationship with gardens and planting is rather 'passive'. We have areas with planted flower beds, and we look at the plantation as observers. a wilder garden, with a truly immersive character, we become participants, not observers.

We are actors in it. We are surrounded by it and it is not just what we see, it is what we smell and feel, the movement and all the other living beings around us.

In a wild garden, people and nature meet, in a safe space, interacting, mixing, creating new ideas and energies. Creating a garden, living it, cultivating it, contributing to it, learning from it, participating in it and being part of it, is the ultimate and most engaging expression of the relationship between people and nature".