Ecological Sustainability in City Form

“As humans multiply and their technology comes to dominate the earth, the conscious organization of the land becomes more important to the quality of life.” – Site Planning (p.12)

In Site Planning, written to serve as a reference book for students and practitioners, Lynch instructs that acquiring an understanding of the land and its ecosystem is the first step in any planning process. He even goes so far as to declare that “no one should engage in site design who does not a have passion for the land.” He called for a “learning ecology”, where humans learn to sustain the environmental systems they inhabit, as well as their cultures and their values. “The good city,” he writes in Good City Form, “is one in which the continuity of this complex ecology is maintained while progressive change is permitted” (p.116).  Lynch saw the ecology of a place as integral to its means, and that every site “has a biological, social, and psychological impact that goes far beyond its more obvious influence on cost and technical function.” (Site Planning p.2)

At DUSP, the work of Alan Berger and Anne Spirn stand out as torchbearers to this legacy. Berger founded and directs P-REX, The Project for Reclamation Excellence (www.theprex.net), a multi-disciplinary research effort at MIT focusing on the design and reuse of waste landscapes worldwide. How these sites are cleansed, valued and designed for adaptive reuse at local and regional scales is Berger’s main area of interest. His work emphasizes the link between our consumption of natural resources, and the waste and destruction of landscape, to help us better understand how to proceed with redesigning our wasteful places for future productive uses and more intelligent outcomes.[1] Anne Spirn has an international reputation as the preeminent scholar working at the intersection of landscape architecture and environmental planning. Her path-breaking scholarly research and writing in books such as “The Granite Garden” and “The Language of Landscape” applies ecological principles to urban settings. Since 1987, she has directed the West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP), in an inner city community near the University of Pennsylvania. The WPLP links landscape design, community development, and urban stormwater management through an action research program integrating research, teaching and community service.[2]

[1] Text from http://web.mit.edu/aberger/www/ (accessed 4.20.13)

[2] Text from http://architecture.mit.edu/faculty/anne-spirn (accessed 4.20.13)

Past Winners:

Randolph Hester (2011)

Richard M. Daley (2005)

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