Christina Maile

Christina Maile. Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) at a hydrant on Kings Plaza Station.

In 'Sewing the Landscape' (On Site 8: Sewing and Architecture), Christina Maile looked at the colonisation of hard urban surfaces by plants – resiliant, sturdy survivalists.  Since that article I have not ever passed by a stop sign, or a concrete median, or the gutter where the curb meets the pavement without looking for and finding a frilly green edge, or a sunny yellow flower, or now in November, lovely arrangements of seed heads and dried leaves.  Was there ever a text that changed my perception of the everyday city at the smallest scale so dramatically?  I don't think so.

Thinking of the city as a landscape that had been invaded by concrete is what actually happened, yet we perceive the opposite, that plants have re-occupied a landscape that never contained them.  Like the plants, we become guests in the city, rather than the city being an instrument that merely mediates the weather and facilitates travel in a much greater landscape.  If that larger landscape is under threat, as it is from enormous urban off-gassing, perhaps we need to reconceptualise our relationship to urban spaces, the landscape and to our own agency.  The mugwort, above, might be humble, but it is not self-effacing: concrete holds no terrors here. 

We have a call for articles right now for On Site 23: small things.  Looking at weeds on the sidewalk is a small thing.  Small things are seeds for larger ideas, for radical re-thinking.