Conclusion

A point made more or less in passing in the Introduction and Section 1 is that the built environment can be considered as a quasi-natural phenomenon. As a consequence, it was suggested the concepts and methods used to probe and investigate the built environment are not sensibly limited to those from only one or the other of the natural or cultural spheres. One could go further and reply that the distinction between the natural and the cultural is in any case misplaced. Humans are just one of many species that have emerged from an evolutionary process that we are beginning to see operates across a range of phenomena. One way or the other, the challenge is to select the concepts and methods that allow the common principles to show through and avoid naïve and overly specific analogies drawn from ‘traditional’ scientific disciplines on the one hand, and restrictive cultural paradigms on the other.

The further challenge presented by the normative impulse as discussed in the Introduction seems to reinforce the idea that we are dealing with something that defies containment in categories labelled natural or cultural. On the one hand, the normative impulse we cannot escape our human – animal – nature in the judgements and choices that we make about our own habitat. On the other hand, the results of those choices in aggregate are not like those of a singular intentional artefact such as a mural or a building. When we want to find out about the processes common to cities ...

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