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.