A city can be seen as a complex organism in which each element has its own seemingly official purpose and rules: residential areas, commercial and industrial territories, recreational areas, streets and sidewalks, power lines, and railway tracks. All of these elements act as components of a common urban system, while also creating the social environment around us. However, in every city, it is possible to find “gray urban areas”, as they were no man’s land with no defined purpose, and also difficult to access. These territories usually exist on the outskirts of the urban environment, as if cities ignore their presence. They are often disguised with trees, fences, and garages, thus being hidden from the eyes of the people.
One of such areas is the city’s streams. The riverbeds, their valleys, and the outline of the landscape are still a little-known element of the city. Although there are factories, garages, apartment buildings, cultural heritage sites in the vicinity of these streams, buses are running nearby and people going to work, but few would imagine that these areas could also be found deep inside residential areas.
There are more than 15 small streams in Kaunas (excluding many smaller springs and brooks). They did not establish themselves in the urban network of the city, became untapped and underestimated natural resources, although you can observe social, ecological, and cultural factors interacting in these areas with natural and urban elements bordering each other. As the city grew and became industrialized, stream beds were drained, landscapes changed, and the valleys became ditches. These areas, which do not have their own identity, were directly allocated for residents and industrial enterprises, without taking into account the social value of these areas. Riverbeds were changed, banks were fenced, landscapes littered with construction waste.
In the autumn of 2020, Kaunas residents were invited to natural exploration expeditions along the small streams to get acquainted with these urban corners of the city. In total, six expeditions were organized within the city limits, which stretched along the riverbeds and their valleys. During the hikes, the participants not only admired the wild and little-seen views of the city but also collected various natural and human activity objects (artifacts) found in the rivers, which reveal the relationship between the city, people, and nature.