Location: Mildam, the Nteherlands
Design: Louis Le Roy
Culture and nature, the city and its surrounding countryside have often been considered as two opposites. Not so in the eyes of Louis Le Roy. Le Roy was a famous advocate of so-called 'Wild gardening', a philosophy in gardening in which nature is set free to run its course and the gardener does nothing to intervene. This results in a ‘garden’ that is fully tuned to local soil and climate conditions, and thus is more complex and more sustainable.
Thirty years ago, Le Roy started his experiment known as the Eco-cathedral in the Frisian hamlet of Mildam, a project that was open-ended in terms of time. At the basis of this experiment was the three-fold question posed by Nobel Prize winner, Ilya Prigogine: Ilya Prigogine: 'What can nature do, what can living humans do, and what are living organisms capable of'? On a four-hectare site, Le Roy started planting in a completely random manner. The signing of a contract with the municipal government was followed by having road workers dump tons and tons of residual materials at the site for several years. Le Roy processed this material by hand without any outside assistance. The result was the building of assorted structures, low walls, pathways and towers. Meanwhile nature was allowed to intervene with these 'buildings', sometime more or less destroying them, but most of the times coming to a sort of equilibrium between artifact and nature. For thirty years this process in time has developed. A foundation (Stichting Tijd - Time Foundation) was set up that will ensure the continuing building of the ecocathedral until the year 3000.
Several lessons can be learned from this project. First of all that nature and culture can be fused into a complex, dynamic whole. They need not be opposites.
Besides that the project shows that working with the unpredictability of nature over time, can result in a system of high complexity. The more complex a system, the more autonomy can develop, and the more autonomy that is given, the higher the degree of order that is possible. This could also be said of the city. In this sense the eco-cathedral can be seen as a metaphor for a city that grows freely, a city where the free forces of nature (and economy) are kept in balance with human intervention.
And last the Eco-cathedral demonstrates the potential of human energy interacting with the forces of nature. Using such a method, a new habitat could take shape in which everyone could participate creatively in building a living environment without a ground plan and without the boundaries of private property. Le Roy started several of these participatory projects.
Nature Culture Fusion-Louis G. LeRoy's Ecocathedral, Rotterdam