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Greenroofs: Phytomateriality and Ecotopia

Dickson, J; (2015) Greenroofs: Phytomateriality and Ecotopia. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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With growing concerns over human relations with respect to Nature within the Anthropocene increasingly expressed in terms of changing climates, the agentive relations between humans and the world come more sharply into anthropological focus. Cities, often described as devoid of Nature, are currently being recognised as one way to govern the twin problems of managing a changing climate and an increasingly compact city form. There are currently, 700 green (deliberately vegetated) roofs in place in London. This thesis examines the material culture of greenroofs, through a re-evaluation of J J Gibson’s Affordance Theory. Materials and plants in combination provide the conditions for agentive action, not only for flora and fauna but for people. I propose that these resulting socio-biological capacities be described as phyto-materiality. This phyto-materiality becomes central to flexible and ongoing classificatory practices which, in turn, enables greenroofs to become incorporated into a palimpsest of policymaking at the local and city levels and facilitates the mainstreaming of greenroofing practice. During a greenroofing project, phyto-materiality becomes central to achieve movement across geographical and organisational boundaries re-shaping the governance of London’s built environment and the working practices of professionals. However the material effects of greenroofing become problematic as imagined future plants become a source of concern for leaseholders or current flora and fauna escape the roof, revealing tensions and fractures in greenroofing practice. The thesis is informed by more than a year’s participant observation within a local authority and a network of greenroof designers, builders, ecologists, policymakers and ecological activists. Greenroofing comes out of an engagement with British environmental discourses and in making greenroofs and greenroof policy-making people remake themselves as greenroofers. For these respondents, phyto-materiality becomes both the ends-in-sight vision of, and the methodology for, ecotopia.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Greenroofs: Phytomateriality and Ecotopia
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Greenroof, ecotopia, phytomateriality, London, Nature
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1467990
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