Daily practice - Finding Awe in the City

As my current research and project development relate to awe (or lack there of), nature deprivation and hypernatural environments, I decided to run two daily experiments in parallel.

First, I would attempt to find awe in the city, I didn’t know if awe-inspiring sights would end up being natural or man made, but I tried to pay more attention to my environment beyond the mindless morning commute and shoegaze wandering. Second, I tried to artificially insert awe into scenes of my daily life using inspiration from my travels and natural sights that left a lasting impression on me.

As I somewhat suspected, finding natural awe in the city is a very difficult task. The little green hidden in the otherwise concrete jungle is tame, orderly and scaled as to no interfere with the going-ons of the city. Trees are equidistant and manicured, bushes are lined around lawns and pavements, and nature is reduces to mere decoration - hardly an awe-some sight, and quite the opposite, In my search was left with a longing for the wild and ranging mountains I saw when I traveled in New Zealand, Japan and Germany.

I did however find awe and wander in the remarkable architectural achievement situated in the city, from the One World Trade Center, to the adjacent Oculus hall and spreading wings, Empire State building and Grand Central’s main concourse - I even got a chance to see NY’s beautiful skyline from New Jersey’s waterfront.

It is striking though how urban and manufactured these views and structures are, and how the city interferes with the nature that surrounds it. Light pollution blanks the starless skies and the water flows slowly through the lined rivers. I tried to imagine an alternative in which the city blends into nature rather than erase and obstruct it, by simply photoshopping Washington Square Park and NY’s downtown skyline with a bit of natural wander. I have to say that after viewing the (somewhat sloppy) results, I wish I was closer to nature every day.