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Nature and Cities: The Ecological Imperative in Urban Design and Planning

Monday, November 21, 2016

New Lincoln Institute book urges blending natural elements into city-building and infrastructure

For immediate release
Contact: Anthony Flint 617-503-2116 anthony.flint@lincolninst.edu / Will Jason 617-503-2254

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (November 21, 2016) – A new book published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy calls for the integration of nature in urban design and planning to make cities and urban infrastructure truly green, sustainable, and resilient.

In a richly illustrated collection of essays by leading international landscape architects, architects, city planners, and urban designers, Nature and Cities: The Ecological Imperative in Urban Design and Planning, edited by Frederick R. Steiner, George F. Thompson, and Armando Carbonell, suggests that ecologically based urban designs and plans have become economically and environmentally critical as the world urbanizes and the effects of climate change grow more severe.

The authors include a range of practitioners and scholars—from young leaders such as Chris Reed, Nina-Marie Lister, and Kristina Hill to veteran pioneers like Laurie Olin, Anne Whiston Spirn, and Elizabeth Meyer—who explore the economic, environmental, and public health benefits of integrating nature more fully into cities. The book builds on traditions by leading thinkers during the last century such as Aldo Leopold, Ian McHarg, and Patrick Geddes and the premise of Ecological Design and Planning, also edited by George F. Thompson and Frederick R. Steiner.

Harvard professor Charles Waldheim summarizes advances in the emerging field of landscape urbanism, showing how New York City’s High Line, designed by chapter author James Corner, and Chicago’s Millennium Park transformed derelict infrastructure into public amenities that “convene community, catalyze development, and remediate environmental conditions for a newly conceived public realm.” Landscape architect Kate Orff describes the restoration of oyster reefs in New York Harbor to purify water and create a living breakwater to mitigate sea level rise. And Susannah Drake calls for a U.S. infrastructure upgrade—a WPA 2.0—to renovate failing highways and other public works so they soak up water and perform other ecological functions to build resilience.

“Each author in Nature and Cities offers a sense of direction, purpose, and model for how landscape architecture, architecture, and planning can . . . be engaged in community life at every scale and in every city and town in the world,” the editors write in the introduction. “This may well mean that a new generation of practitioners will need to become instruments of enlightenment and change in occupations still very much in need of such care: notably, engineering, transportation, utilities, agriculture, resource industries, and commercial development—which, with too few exceptions, remain behind the times.

“Imagine engineers embracing the tenets of ecological design and planning as they create roads, parking lots, interstates, impoundments, and other basic infrastructure. Imagine those engaged with municipal management as well as agricultural, industrial, transportation, and utility sectors abandoning single-purpose thinking and embracing something grander and more impactful in providing benefits than does a single endeavor. Imagine a young adult being able to swim in clean waters in Rio’s Guanabara Bay, a utility company finding a safe and not just the shortest path for the transfer of power and natural gas, a corporation building parking lots that percolate and repurpose runoff, a citizenry knowing that all human life begins and ends with nature, the source of all life. Imagine that.”

Advance Praise for Nature and Cities:

“Yes, lightning can strike twice. Expanding on the discourse they ignited almost 20 years ago with Ecological Planning and Design, Thompson and Steiner (joined by Carbonell) have assembled another collection of timely, illuminating, and thought-provoking essays that is essential reading for both students and professionals.”

—Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, FAAR President + CEO, The Cultural Landscape Foundation

“Daniel Burnham famously counseled an earlier generation of landscape architects, ‘Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.’ The authors here have followed that advice; this book overflows with imaginative insights and proposals to guide the ongoing urbanization of our planet.”
—Bruce Babbitt, Former United States Secretary of the Interior

“Nature and Cities places ecology at the crosshairs of a rapidly evolving urban world—not merely as an applied science but as a systemic way of thinking toward building a healthy and resilient future.”
—Ignacio Bunster-Ossa, FASLA, LEED AP Landscape Architecture Practice Leader (Americas), AECOM

“This interconnected collection of essays is a stirring manifesto for sustaining beauty and a new public works agenda based on resilient infrastructure—and a call to action for landscape architects to inform and inspire decision makers.”
—Adrian Benepe, SVP and Director of City Park Development, The Trust for Public Land; Former Commissioner, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

“Nature and Cities summarizes all that we have learned about how natural systems shape cities since Ian McHarg’s Design with Nature was published in 1969. It illustrates how design professionals, ecologists, and citizens can strike a new balance between human settlements and nature in designing the cities and regions of the emerging Anthropocene epoch.”
—Robert Yaro, Professor of Practice, University of Pennsylvania; President Emeritus, Regional Plan Association

“The beautiful photographs and lush design of Nature and Cities mask a radical and revolutionary set of ideas from some of the world’s most insightful and intelligent landscape architects and urbanists. Brilliantly curated and edited, these essays offer fresh ideas about how to integrate our understanding of the human condition and the health, vitality, and sustainability of the planet.”
—Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

Contents

George F. Thompson, Frederick R. Steiner, and Armando Carbonell | The Landscape Today and the Challenges Ahead

James Corner | The Ecological Imagination: Life in the City and the Public Realm

Richard Weller | The City Is Not an Egg: Western Urbanization in Relation to Changing Conceptions of Nature

Anne Whiston Spirn | The Granite Garden: Where Do We Stand Today?

Charles Waldheim | The Landscape Architect as Urbanist of Our Age

Kongjian Yu | Creating Deep Forms in Urban Nature: The Peasant’s Approach to Urban Design

Elizabeth K. Meyer | Sustaining Beauty: The Performance of Appearance Design

Jose Alminaña and Carol Franklin | Creative Fitting: Toward Designing the City as Nature

Forster Ndubisi | Adaption and Regeneration: A Pathway to New Urban Places

Danilo Palazzo | The Role of Utopia in Ecological Planning and Design

Susannah Drake | WPA 2.0: Beauty, Economics, Politics, and the Creation of Twenty-First Century Public Infrastructure

Timothy Beatley | New Directions in Urban Nature: The Power and Promise of Biophilic Cities and Blue Urbanism

Kate Orff | Gardening the Bay: Participatory Frameworks for Ecological and Economic Change

Nina-Marie E. Lister |Resilience Beyond Rhetoric in Urban Design

Chris Reed | Projective Ecologies in Urban Design and Planning

Kristina Hill |Form Follows Flows: Systems, Design, and the Aesthetic Experience of Ecological Change

Laurie Olin |Water, Nature in Cities, and the Art of Landscape Design

Frederick R. Steiner, George F. Thompson, and Armando Carbonell |Afterword: Prospects for Urban Ecological Design and Planning

About the Editors

Armando Carbonell is chair of the department of Planning and Urban Form and a senior fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Frederick R. Steiner is dean of the School of Design and Paley Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. George F. Thompson is the founder of George F. Thompson Publishing and the author and editor of seven books, including Ecological Design and Planning, with Frederick R. Steiner (John Wiley, 1997; 2007), and Landscape in America (Texas, 1995).

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is an independent, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to help solve global economic, social, and environmental challenges to improve the quality of life through creative approaches to the use, taxation, and stewardship of land.

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Photo courtesy of DLANDstudio
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