On April 15, 2021, our Department of Landscape Architecture hosted the symposium WILD ZONES: DESIGNING FOR URBAN WILDLIFE AT THE INTERSECTION OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, BIOLOGY, AND PUBLIC POLICY.
The premise: North American urban areas are less compact and less polluted than they were a century ago, resulting in a sharp rise in the presence of urban wildlife. As development fragments or displaces existing habitat, resident and migratory species seek new homes. In Chicago, coyote sightings are now a regular occurrence, peregrine falcons nest and breed in New York skyscrapers, and raccoon mania has swept Toronto. Still, worldwide biodiversity is on the decline. According to the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the current species extinction rate is up to one thousand times higher than the rate of the past millennium, and the projected future rate is more than ten times higher. As distinctions between urban and non-urban areas dissolve and take on new forms, it is imperative to design new strategies for integrating urban and natural systems. Counterintuitive as it may seem, urban areas contain a wide variety of habitats for wildlife to utilize, but those are poorly understood, and design prototypes for communities interested in supporting wildlife are severely lacking.
For landscape architects to rethink urban environments through the lens of urban wildlife, it is critical to collaborate with policymakers and scientists to take stock of the current situation and chart out future paths. While landscape architects are adept at projecting radical futures, these visions must be refined through dialogue with scientists and finally communicated to policymakers who can translate them into real-world changes.
This day-long symposium facilitated such processes. A morning keynote and a closing roundtable bookended three panels that convened experts from landscape architecture, science, and policy.
Goals of the symposium included:
- Envisioning new ways to increase biodiversity in urban environments with input from designers, scientists, and policy makers
- Hearing from professional landscape architects about successful built projects that intentionally accommodate urban wildlife
- Discussing what designers can learn from high-profile spontaneous wildlife events
- Exploring the relationship between speculative design and policy proposals
For more information about this event and its participants, please click here.