A ruderal meadow in Telavi, Kakheti. The gravel soil supports a diversity of wildflowers and grasses, while the remnant paths from an unfinished park project delineate this meadow near the Matsantsara River. These lines are intersected by “desire lines” created by people crossing from forest across the riverbed and site to the highway.

Ecologists use the term ruderal, from the Latin rudus (rubble), to describe disturbance-adapted species. Ruderal species embody the unruly, tenacious, and opportunistic qualities of vegetation. They are metaphorically paradoxical: indexing catastrophe and abandonment, yet conversely representing resilience and renewal. Ruderal species and processes are engaged in a range of contemporary works of art and landscape architecture. In these works, ruderal species perform ecological, spatial, visual, and metaphoric work. In my essay, “Ruderal Aesthetics” (published for the ACSA Conference in 2017) I draw together and critique examples of how an aesthetics of the ruderal is constructed, both physically and metaphorically. This article outlines the development and projection of ruderal aesthetics in three parts: a review of recent literature on “the ruderal problem” in landscape architectural and ecological theory, an outline and critique of ruderal works in contemporary art and landscapes architecture, and speculation on the future use of ruderal species, forms and processes in post-industrial cities.

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