Born in Ottawa, Illinois, Wilson grew up in Oakland, California. In 1977, he moved to Canada, where he lived and worked in Toronto, Ontario.
Wilson advocated restoring indigenous plant species to the urban landscape, thereby promoting urban biodiversity and reconnecting urban dwellers with the natural history of the place in which they live. He believed that combining ecological restoration and community gardening could be a way to nurture and improve not only urban ecosystems, but also social and economic relations. In his book, The Culture of Nature: North American Landscape from Disney to the Exxon Valdez (1991), he dealt with the ways in which culture informs and constructs our understanding of “nature”, and he examined the colonization and appropriation of nature by the city (particularly via the automobile).
Wilson established the Garrison Creek Planting Company with artist Stephen Andrews (his life partner) and horticulturist Kim Delaney. He also designed the landscaping for the AIDS Memorial, Cawthra Park, itself designed by Patrick Fahn. Following Wilson's death from AIDS-related causes, his own memorial plaque was added to the others in the park.
On an urban lot near his house Wilson created a reclaimed garden that, after his death, friends tried to buy and preserve. Though they were unsuccessful in that project they did find another downtown lot on which a garden was created and named in his memory, the Alex Wilson Community Garden, which opened in June 1998 at 552 Richmond Street West in Toronto.
Alex Wilson Community Garden
A plaque in the park includes a quoted passage from The Culture of Nature:
"We must build landscapes that heal and empower, that make intelligible our relations with each other and the natural world."Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Wilson_(writer)
The Culture of Nature: North American Landscape from Disney to the Exxon Valdez by Alexander Wilson
Paperback: 335 pages
Publisher: Between the Lines; First Edition edition (April 1, 1991)
Amazon: The Culture of Nature: North American Landscape from Disney to the Exxon Valdez
In this celebrated work, Alexander Wilson examines environments built over the past fifty years, as humans have continued to discover, exploit, protect, restore, and sometimes re-enchant a natural world in convulsion. Extensively illustrated.
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