Re-placing soil in cities

Dr Sarah Robertson1

1RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia


What role does soil play in sustainable residential designs and how does it reconfigure place-based human-nature relations in cities?  In design and planning practice, place-focused efforts promote human connection to place as important for human health, wellbeing and sustainability outcomes in cities. However, the challenges facing cities are more-than-human. In response to broad calls to decentre humans conceptually and in practice, a growing body of work in geography and the social sciences is drawing attention to the non-human or other-than-human beings and things that inhabit cities, and the relationships that define more-than-human entanglements. Much of this scholarship has focused on animals and more recently plants. Yet, in both theory and practice, the place of soil in cities has received much less attention. Given soil’s role as a foundational entity for life and as a foundation from which design-development processes depart, there is room for further work on its place in more-than-human cities and in interventions that aim to make cities more socially and ecologically sustainable. Drawing on empirical qualitative work on sustainable design and dwelling, this paper discusses the potential of human engagements with soil in cities as micro interventions that may help to reconfigure human-nature relations in urban realms.


Sarah Robertson is Research Fellow in the Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University. Her interdisciplinary research emerges from cultural and urban geographies and examines sustainable interventions at the residential scale.



The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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