Nature should be integrated into urban design and planning to make cities and urban infrastructure truly green, sustainable, and resilient, according to a new book published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
The 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 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.”
To view the book’s table of contents and find out how to purchase a copy, visit the Lincoln Institute website.