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Edra45 New Orleans Track 08: Ecologies at the Margin
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This track explores the origins and evolution of entanglement between urban and natural systems as they are realized at the urban margins and speculates on new paradigms for planning and advocating for flexible and resilient cities.


Track Chairs: Natalia Echeverri and Ivan Valin 


Keywords: urban margin, urbanization and nature, edge ecology, informal settlement

Albert Pope, observing the rapid suburbanization of the North American city, suggested that a society’s relationship with nature was embedded in its margins - these “urban horizons” - constructed the interface between the city and its environment. In the ten years since Pope wrote these words, the idea of understanding the relationship between a city and its natural environment has become increasingly important. At the same time, the margin of the city has become less clear: the compact, centralized city has been overrun by expansive, peripheral urban patchworks. The urban margin, once a simple edge delineating the extent of the city (walls, greenbelts, or jurisdictional boundaries), has become multiplied, internalized, enmeshed, interrupted, or dispersed. Participants will contribute to an examination of the socio-cultural, ecological, and economic dimensions of margins in the contemporary city. Ultimately, this track will explore the origins and evolution of entanglement between urban and natural systems at the margins of cities and will speculate on new paradigms for planning and advocating for flexible and resilient cities.

Participants in this track will explore issues of marginality within one of three major lenses. The first will examine the urban margin in an ecological context. Cities are being increasingly understood through ecological concepts, complicating traditional notions of boundary against a hinterland and nature in general. In that way, then, how might the urban margin function as an ecotone or membrane that facilitates transactions of energy and material? From the violent but voluminous floodplains of typhoon-prone Taipei to the gradually resurgent marshlands of boom-bust suburban Florida, ecological functionality can both erode and protect. The second lens will examine the patterns and textures of everyday life shaped within the urban margins. What are the roles and stories of these actors and communities as they negotiate alliances and conflicts in an unsettled, changing urban/natural environment? Poldering practices in the Netherlands evolved into social contracts and a landscape that still exists today—what are the parallels in the deltaic communities of Lagos, Bangladesh, or Karachi? The third will describe the political or economic systems that regulate the transformation of urban margins. How are margins created, maintained, and connected by states and enterprises and to what end? What are the models for intervening in these frameworks? How do we, as designers, developers, planners, engineers, sociologists, and activists collaborate in the space of the margin, and what hybrid practices will emerge from attending to its issues?


About the Track Chairs:

Natalia is a lecturer and assistant coordinator of the urban design program at the University of Hong Kong. She received master’s degrees in both architecture and city planning from the University of California, Berkeley where she was awarded the J.K. Branner Traveling Fellowship to research the impact of speculation in cities at the onset of the 2008 global crash. Her current research interests investigate the consequences of the urban transformations occurring at an unprecedented pace and scale in Asia. Before joining the faculty, Natalia developed a multidisciplinary approach to design through a hybrid practice of architecture, urban design and landscape architecture.

Ivan is an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Hong Kong. He received master’s degrees in both architecture and landscape architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also the recipient of the J.K. Branner Travelling Fellowship for research into urban waterfronts. His current work is focused on strategic landscape planning practices in the developing world and on exploring the role of nature in the urban fabrics of low-lying deltaic cities in Southeast Asia. Ivan’s design and research work related to these tracks has been exhibited in Berkeley, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen.


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