In the last 25 years, the field of ecology has moved from a classical reductionist concern with stability, certainty, predictability and order in favor of more contemporary understandings of dynamic systemic change and the related phenomena of uncertainty, adaptability, and resilience. Increasingly these concepts of ecological theory and complex systems thinking are found useful as heuristics for decision-making generally, models or metaphors for cultural production broadly, and for environmental design in particular. This places the environmental design professions in a unique disciplinary and practical space, equally informed by ecological knowledge as an applied science, as a construct for managing change, and—within the context of sustainability and building with change—as a conceptual model of design (Reed and Lister, 2013*). This emerging contemporary model of design reflects an explicit commitment to legibility: the ability to make visible the invisible, and to reveal essential systems phenomena, based on the premise that what we cannot see and recognize, we cannot name nor value.
This track will explore the diversity of contemporary ecological research and theory as it relates to the science of uncertainty, resilience and adaptation to change, and speculates on potential paths forward for design practices and applications, as well as the reciprocal nature of theory and practice. Questions to be explored in the papers sought for presentation include: What do current trajectories of ecological and systems research suggest for future practice? How can advances in environmental research and modeling inform adaptive design thinking and practice? How do ecological systems and related research affect and add to the complexity of the social-cultural or built environment? What are the possibilities for and nascent forms of representation of complex ecological phenomena, and how might improved legibility of these better inform design research and practice? How can knowledge of ecology—and in particular, ecological frameworks for decision-making—be extended beyond the traditional domain of science and into the realm of planning and design? In turn, how are planning and design affecting ecological theory and science? Is the new ecology and its broader paradigm—beyond science into the design milieu—leading to a transformation of “sustainability,” from what it meant a decade ago to what it might mean today?
This track will embrace a plurality of ecological theories and applied environmental research underpinning contemporary understandings of socio-cultural and natural living systems. We will encourage a variety of the specialized areas of environmental and ecological research that have emerged over the past decades and continue to inform our thinking about the various interrelationships between the ecological, economic and cultural world in which live. In particular, this track will foster the growing alignment between these ideas and contemporary theories about the complex, unpredictable, and emergent nature of the world—a world which is increasingly recognized as a hybrid of culture and nature, where old dualisms are being supplanted by transdisciplinary thinking, uneasy synergies, complex networks and surprising collaborations.
About the Track Chair:
Nina-Marie (MCIP RPP Affiliate ASLA) is an associate professor of urban and regional planning at Ryerson University and visiting associate professor of landscape architecture at Harvard University. A Registered Professional Planner and ecologist, she is the founding principal of plandform, a creative studio practice exploring the relationship between landscape, ecology, and urbanism. Her research, teaching and practice focus on the confluence of landscape infrastructure and complex ecological processes within metropolitan regions. She is co-editor of Projective Ecologies (ACTAR, 2013), and The Ecosystem Approach: Complexity, Uncertainty, and Managing for Sustainability (Columbia University Press, 2008) and author of more than 30 professional practice and scholarly publications.