Although we tend to think of our cities as concrete jungles, our post-new urban environment is awash in plant life. Wild urban plants have taken root along roadsides and chain-link fences, between cracks of pavement, and within vacant lots, rubble dumps and highway medians. Spontaneously propagating, these resilient plants find distinctive niches to thrive in and inhabit our most derelict landscapes. The environmental benefits of these “weeds” go widely unrecognized when, in fact, reframing this often invisible urban ecology as a beneficial amenity can offer a fresh perspective on how cities perform.
Spontaneous Urban Plants (SUP) is a research project that investigates the role of weeds in the urban ecosystem. The intent is to stimulate a discourse between ecologists, designers, artists and the general public that explores societal perceptions of weeds and questions the stigmas that surround them. Leveraging principles of urban ecology and environmental aesthetics, we are encouraging an objective debate of the value of wild urban plants and thereby challenging contemporary cultural perceptions. We invite key players from the field of urbanism, art, and ecology to discuss the role of weeds in our future cities. What is the ecological value of weeds? How does the status of weeds change in the face of climate change and resiliency planning? What role can art play in fostering appreciation for underutilized spaces?