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04/15/2021 @ 8:30 am - 6:30 pm

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.[1] 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,[2] 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 will facilitate such processes. A morning keynote and a closing roundtable bookend three panels that convene experts from landscape architecture, science, and policy.

Goals of the symposium include:

  • 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



Introduction and Welcome Remarks

8:30am – 9:00am Central Time

  • Conor O’Shea, Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Kevin Hamilton, Dean, College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • David L. Hays, Professor and Brenton H. and Jean B. Wadsworth Head, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

Morning Keynote

9:00am – 10:00am Central Time

  • Gavin Van Horn, Creative Director and Executive Editor, Center for Humans & Nature

Panel 1: Collaboration
10:30am – 12:00pm Central Time

In order for landscape architects to design for wildlife with some degree of reasonable success, close collaboration with experts in fields such as ecology and biology is required. In this panel, professional landscape architects will discuss working with scientists and other experts to design for wildlife.

Panel 2: Speculation
1:00pm – 2:30pm Central Time

Speculative design suspends real world constraints to allow designers to prototype new worlds, critique the status quo, and inspire change. In this panel, participants will discuss works of contemporary landscape architecture and design that imagine novel ways of designing with urban wildlife.

  • Aroussiak Gabrielian, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture + Urbanism, School of Architecture, University of Southern California; Co-founder and Design Director, Foreground Design Agency; Director, Landscape Futures Lab  
  • Sarah Gunawan, Associate, CO Adaptive; Adjunct Professor, School of Architecture, University of Waterloo
  • Janette Kim, Assistant Professor, California College of the Arts; Principal of Design Practice, All of the Above
  • Richard Weller, Myerson Chair of Urbanism, Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture at the Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

Panel 3: Policy
3:45pm – 5:15pm Central Time

Municipal policy that promotes habitat for biodiversity can have cumulative effects across large swathes of urban areas. In this panel, participants will discuss the translation of design and science into policy.

Closing Roundtable

5:30pm – 6:30pm Central Time

Participants and guests will reflect on the themes of the day.




For more information about this event, please contact Prof. Conor O’Shea. For more information about other events in our Spring 2021 series, please contact Department Head David L. Hays.

[1] Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis, Island Press, Washington, DC.
[2] Abigail Derby Lewis et al., “Does Nature Need Cities? Pollinators Reveal a Role for Cities in Wildlife Conservation,” Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7 (2019),


8:30 am - 6:30 pm


Department of Landscape Architecture