Spontaneous Landscapes: Matthew Gandy’s ‘Natura Urbana’

 When: 6:15PM - 8:30PM, Thursday 1 September 

Where: Composite, 35 Johnson Street, Collingwood (Collingwood Yards)

Urban geographer Matthew Gandy's film 'Natura Urbana: The Brachen of Berlin' explores the spontaneous explosion of diverse wild landscapes in the abandoned urban spaces of Berlin during the post-war period. Emerging from war-time destruction, economic malaise, and geopolitical division, these empty sites evolved into laboratories for botanists, artists, and ordinary people seeking respite from the city.

For this special screening of the film, join the author and director himself and a panel including landscape architect, Alistair Kirkpatrick and artist, Sarah Lynch for a post-viewing discussion. Panelists will explore the role spontaneous plants play in the urban environment and find new perspectives on experimental responses to the climate emergency in a local context.

Our hosts Bookshop by Uro will have Matthew Gandy's associated book 'Natura Urbana: Ecological Constellations in Urban Space' available for purchase on the night and at a special discount for ticket holders.


Matthew Gandy

Matthew Gandy is a geographer, urbanist, and cultural critic. He was born in Islington, North London, and is Professor of Geography at the University of Cambridge. He previously taught at University College London where he was Director of the UCL Urban Laboratory. He has also been a visiting professor at several universities including Columbia University, New York; Humboldt University, Berlin; Technical University, Berlin; UCLA; and UdK, Berlin. He has published widely on urban and environmental themes including the prize-winning books Concrete and clay: reworking nature in New York City (2002) and The fabric of space: water, modernity, and the urban imagination (2014).

His film criticism includes essays on Antonioni, Haynes, Herzog, Pasolini, and Teshigahara. He directed and produced the documentary Liquid City (2007), which was premiered in Mumbai and shown at the London Documentary Film Festival.

Natura Urbana is his second film.

Alistair Kirkpatrick

Alistair Kirkpatrick is a landscape architect and university lecturer. He has had a varied career over the last 20 years, working in the disciplines of botany, garden design and ecology focusing on Melbourne indigenous vegetation.

"Creating beautiful green spaces that develop and change over time is one of the key factors that attracted me to the discipline of landscape architecture. The ability of the landscape to change people’s lives and behaviours is enduringly fascinating and to be an architect of those processes is incredibly rewarding. My extensive background in horticulture and ecology has left me with a passion for the plant world and I strongly believe the most exciting material with have to work with in any design always contains chlorophyll!"

Alistair graduated from RMIT with distinction in 2012 having explored urban weed ecologies for his Masters dissertation and has written and taught multiple subjects in tertiary institutions for the last five years investigating themes of terrain vague and urban ecologies. Through both teaching and practice Alistair has been exploring and testing ideas of vegetation as a space generator, distorting the current top down model of hardscape being the dominant element in built projects. In the article ‘The emperor’s new clothes’ in Landscape Architecture Australia, Alistair questions the role of current maintenance regimes in urban Melbourne’s streetscapes and invites the reader to explore the opportunities that spontaneous urban vegetation could provide as a greening strategy in urban spaces. These plants, if allowed, could then inform the hardscape that surrounds them. Generating an iterative and dynamic methodology of design. The future of Alistair’s design practice will be based around testing how iterative and dynamic design can manifest as built projects exploring the limitations and opportunities this approach offers.

Sarah Lynch

Sarah Lynch is currently based in Naarm (Melbourne) and works primarily across digital and analogue photography, video and installation. Lynch’s most recent work examines the diversity of the botanical world and the relationship between plants, people, and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Sarah Lynch has exhibited nationally and internationally at Artist-run initiatives and public institutions. Sarah holds a BFA (Honours) at the VCA and recently completed her Master of Photography at RMIT.

In 2022, as part of the solo exhibition Survival, at Rubicon ARI, she produced a series of online public programs, interviewing an eco writer and ecologist on spontaneous plants, supported by Regional Victoria and Creative Victoria. Additionally, she developed workshops for the Studio 15 art collective at Collingwood Yards, including ‘Spontaneous Plants of Collingwood Dérive’ for the Garden State Festival, supported by the City of Yarra Council.

This event has been supported and sponsored by the Yarra City Council and Yarra City Arts.