As the world urbanizes and the effects of climate change grow more severe, it is critical to integrate nature in urban design and planning to make cities and urban infrastructure truly green, sustainable, and resilient. So write leading international landscape architects, architects, city planners, and urban designers in Nature and Cities: The Ecological Imperative in Urban Design and Planning, a new book published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and edited by Frederick R. Steiner, George F. Thompson, and Armando Carbonell.
A collection of richly illustrated essays, Nature and Cities builds on traditions by leading thinkers during the last century such as Aldo Leopold, Ian McHarg, and Patrick Geddes. 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.
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.
“Imagine engineers embracing the tenets of ecological design and planning as they create roads, parking lots, interstates, impoundments, and other basic infrastructure,” the editors write in the introduction. “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.”
Prior to the official launch of the book yesterday, Nature and Cities drew extensive advance praise. Former US interior secretary Bruce Babbitt said the compilation “overflows with imaginative insights and proposals to guide the ongoing urbanization of our planet,” and Adrian Benepe, former New York parks commissioner and currently at the Trust for Public Land, called it “a stirring manifesto for sustaining beauty and a new public works agenda based on resilient infrastructure.” Charles A. Birnbaum, president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, said Nature and Cities was “essential reading for both students and professionals.”
Image courtesy of DLANDstudio