Urban by Nature: Seattle and the Making of the American Environmental Metropolis


ACLS Fellowship Program


History and Environmental Studies (joint app't.)

Named Award

ACLS/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Junior Faculty Fellow named award


Urban by Nature combines environmental, social, and cultural history to analyze why Americans see cities and nature in conflict. Contrary to current attitudes, 19th-century Americans considered urbanization as a process for improving nature. Trained experts, from engineers to landscape architects, believed that finishing nature through public works projects released its regenerative properties to advance reform. As a result, they created an environmental metropolis, a fusion of artifice and nature that could be manipulated to produce both consumer goods and civic unity. But while these changes benefited some, they also spawned ecological instability and social inequality, triggering resistance from poor and minorities in Seattle that ultimately split nature from urban life.