Projective Ecologies

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Projective Ecologies takes stock of contemporary ecological research and speculates on potential paths forward for design. Where is ecological theory going? What do current research trajectories suggest for future practice? How can advances in ecological modeling, social theory, and digital visualization inform more robust design thinking and production? This volume presents a range of perspectives from architects, landscape architects, scientists, theorists, and planners.

PROJECTIVE ECOLOGIES Chris Reed & Nina-Marie Lister

PROJECTIVE ECOLOGIES Chris Reed & Nina-Marie Lister

Contents 06 Foreword: Ecologies, Plural and Projective

Charles Waldheim 14 Introduction: Ecological Thinking, Design Practices

Chris Reed and Nina-Marie Lister


22 Parallel Genealogies

Chris Reed and Nina-Marie Lister 40 Ecology and Landscape as Agents of Creativity

(reprint, 1997) James Corner 66 DYNAMICS (curated drawings + commentary)


84 Designing Ecologies

Christopher Hight 106 Ecology and Planning (reprint, 1971)

C.S. Holling and M.A. Goldberg 126 Selections from Landscape Ecology Principles in

Landscape Architecture and Land-Use Planning (reprint, 1996) Wenche E. Dramstad, James D. Olson, and Richard T.T. Forman 134 SUCCESSION (curated drawings + commentary) ANTHRO-ECOLOGIES, HYBRIDITY

152 Selections from Discordant Harmonies (reprint, 1990)

Daniel Botkin 168 (Anthropogenic Taxonomies)

A Taxonomy of the Human Biosphere Erle C. Ellis

184 Cultural Landscapes and Dynamic Ecologies:

Lessons from New Orleans Jane Wolff

204 EMERGENCE (curated drawings + commentary) ECOLOGY, CITIES, AND DESIGN

218 Do Landscapes Learn? Ecology’s New Paradigm

and Design in Landscape Architecture (reprint, 1999) Robert E. Cook

238 The Flora of the Future

Peter Del Tredici 258 Flood Control Freakology: Los Angeles River

Watershed (reprint, 2008) David Fletcher 276 RESILIENCE (curated drawings + commentary) PATHS FORWARD

290 Design Thinking, Wicked Problems, Messy Plans

Frances Westley and Katharine McGowan 312 The Shape of Energy

Sean Lally 336 Combustible Landscape

Sanford Kwinter

354 ADAPTABILITY (curated drawings + commentary) 370 Contributors 374 Illustration Credits

Ecologies, Plural and Projective __________________________________________________________

Charles Waldheim _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________ ________________________

06 FOREWORD Peter Del Tredici

The Projective Ecologies project, as proposed by Chris Reed and Nina-Marie Lister in this publication, is the culmination of a multi-year research initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the GSD’s Department of Landscape Architecture that aspires to articulate the contemporary role and status of ecology across the design and planning disciplines. Building on the Ecological Urbanism initiative at the School, Projective Ecologies asks timely questions regarding the deployment of “ecological” as an adjectival modifier to urbanism. While these inquiries are relevant for the range of disciplines represented at the GSD, they are particularly pressing for landscape architecture. In the discourse around landscape urbanism and ecological urbanism, critical questions persist as to the role of ecology in relation to design. Which ecologies are invoked in those formulations, by whom, and toward what ends? Projective Ecologies addresses these varied readings and describes the plural and projective potentials of the biological model for contemporary design culture. In his essay in this volume, Christopher Hight claims that ecology is among the most important epistemological frameworks of our age. Hight’s assertion is based on the fact that ecology has transcended its origins as a natural science to encompass a diverse range of meanings across the natural and social sciences, history and the humanities, design and the arts. From its origins as a proto-disciplinary branch of biology in the nineteenth century, ecology developed into a modern science in the twentieth century and increasingly toward a multidisciplinary intellectual framework in the first decades of the twenty-first century. This disciplinary promiscuity is not without its problems, intellectually and practically. The slippage of ecology from natural science to cultural lens remains the source of quite a bit of confusion and limits communication within and across the disciplines of landscape architecture, urban design, and planning. Projective Ecologies sheds significant light on those diverse disciplinary valences and mobilizes the production of knowledge and projection of space through various ecological understandings.

The publication does so in three ways. First, the essays and projects collected here begin by unapologetically defining ecologies in the plural. Second, the publication advocates for the projective potentials of the ecological framework by illustrating fluency across a spectrum of disciplinary formulations. Finally, the projects, drawings, and diagrams included here articulate a robust representational paradigm for the ecological in contemporary design culture. Following Henri Lefebvre, we can postulate that the effects of urbanization are effectively planetary in scope. If so, what are the implications for thinking about the relation between ecology and urbanization? The theoretical frameworks, analytical tools, and projective practices of the urban arts have been developed on a presupposed distinction between the urban and the ecological. For much of their history, each of these terms has been conceived in opposition to the other. The origins of urbanism in architectural culture and a preoccupation with the architectonic form of the city have contributed to this collective blind spot. The classical definition of ecology as the description of species in relation to their environments, absent human agency, is equally problematic. Taken together, the cumulative effect of describing ecology as outside the city, and the urban as external to ecology, continues to have a profound impact on our thinking across the urban arts. Projective Ecologies questions those old oppositions in favor of multiple readings of ecology understood simultaneously as model, metaphor, and medium. The Projective Ecologies initiative begins with the enduring understanding of ecology as offering a model of the natural world. This most fundamental definition is evident in the work of Richard Forman, Eugene Odum, and others referenced in this volume. Reed and Lister invoke a point of tangency between the production of scientific models (through testing and falsification) and the symmetrical activity of design (through model making and matching). While the historical chasm between the habits of mind and methods in the sciences and design persists, Projective Ecologies articulates a plausible relation between


Charles Waldheim

ecology as a model of the world and the agency of design in the shaping of that world. In addition to its status as model, ecology has come to be an equally effective metaphor for a range of intellectual and disciplinary pursuits. References in this volume to the work of Gregory Bateson, Giorgio Agamben, and FĂŠlix Guattari, to name but a few, illustrate the fecundity of ecological thinking. This metaphorical understanding of ecology has been particularly significant for its subsequent absorption into the discourse around design. While landscape architecture and urban planning have historically tended to view ecology as a kind of applied natural science, architecture and the arts have received ecology as a metaphor imported from the social sciences, the humanities, and philosophy. The Projective Ecologies project aspires to articulate and integrate those diverse disciplinary antecedents within the discourses of design. It does so by invoking a third reading of ecology as medium. Projective Ecologies proposes a synthetic understanding of ecology as a medium of thought, exchange, and representation. Reed and Lister invite readers to embrace the breadth of that medium and to project an equally broad range of alternative and better futures through design. __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________

PROJECTIVE ECOLOGIES Image: Tomรกs Folch and Chris Reed

Chris Reed & Nina-Marie Lister

“Oekologie is the comprehensive science of the relationship of the organism to the environment.” Ernst Haeckel, Generelle Morphologie der Organismen (1866)

“We are not outside the ecology for which we plan—we are always and inevitably a part of it. Herein lies the charm and terror of ecology.” Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972)

“Ecology must stop being associated with the image of a small nature-loving minority or with qualified specialists. Ecology in my sense questions the whole of subjectivity.” Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies (1989)

Ecological Thinking, Design Practices


Chris Reed and Nina-Marie Lister

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The past two decades have witnessed a resurgence of ecological ideas and ecological thinking in discussions of urbanism, society, culture, and design. In science, the field of ecology has moved from classical determinism and a reductionist Newtonian concern with stability, certainty, and order in favor of more contemporary understandings of dynamic systemic change and the related phenomena of adaptability, resilience, and flexibility. Increasingly these concepts of ecological thought are found useful as heuristics for decisionmaking generally and as models or metaphors for cultural production broadly, and for the design arts in particular. This places landscape architecture 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—as a conceptual model of cultural production or design. But ecology is not simply a project of the natural sciences. Many researchers, theorists, and social commentators have used ecology as an overarching idea or metaphor for a set of conditions and relationships with political, economic, and social implications—or even redefined the term “ecology” to include these realms as broader context. Félix Guattari, writing in The Three Ecologies, for instance, argued that ecology is as much bound up in issues of social and economic power, demographics, and political struggles and engagement as it is operating in relationship to environmental forces. Reyner Banham, in a new architectural and urban history text for Los Angeles in 1971, outlined a combination of “geography, climate, economics, demography, mechanics, and culture”—made evident only via movement on the city’s characteristic roads and freeways—that constitutes four organizational “ecologies” for metropolitan Los Angeles (Surfurbia, The Foothills, The Plains of Id, and Autopia).1 Kazys Varnelis referred to the “networked ecologies” of Los Angeles as “a series of codependent systems of environmental mitigation, landuse organization, communication, and service delivery.”2 Ecologists themselves have for some time now addressed the implications of an emerging scientific discourse: Canadian ecologist C.S. Holling, writing about new ecological research and models in 1970, spoke as much of the planning and management implications of this new line of thinking as he did about the science behind it, while Eugene Odum drew direct connections to energy and economics in his 1977 paper “The Emergence of Ecology as a New Integrative Discipline.”

Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha. Airport Crossing. From SOAK: Mumbai in an Estuary. 2009.




Acknowledgments Projective Ecologies grew out of a colloquium titled “Critical Ecologies” conceived and organized by Chris Reed in the spring of 2010; it was sponsored by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and its Department of Landscape Architecture. Presentations by Richard Wrangham, Sanford Kwinter, Ann Dale, Peter Del Tredici, Alexander Felson, Steven Handel, Karen Kramer, Sune Lehmann, Nina-Marie Lister, Paul Moorcroft, Piet Oudolf, Steward Pickett, and Maximilian Schich—as well as conversations moderated by Charles Waldheim, Richard Forman, Anita Berrizbeitia, Christian Werthmann, and Michael Meredith—set a very broad table for taking stock of current thinking and practices across a range of disciplines relative to complex adaptive systems. The colloquium was instrumental in shaping the content and structure of this volume, and we very much appreciate the contributions of the colloquium participants, the contributors to this volume, and the authors of the drawings included here. We would like to thank Mohsen Mostafavi and Patricia Roberts, Dean and Executive Dean, respectively, of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Charles Waldheim, Chair of the GSD Department of Landscape Architecture, for their steadfast support, resources, and contributions that have both informed the content of this work and allowed it to be presented in colloquium and book formats. In particular, we acknowledge the support of the GSD’s John D. Scruggs Research Fund. We would also like to thank Assistant Dean of Communications Benjamin Prosky and Senior Editor Melissa Vaughn for their oversight and organizational and editorial contributions. Actar’s Ramon Prat, Lluis Ortega, and Ricardo Devesa were fantastic in their efforts to organize and design this volume in a way that captures our full ambitions. Thanks, too, to the phalanx of research assistants over a number of years who have helped to organize the publication and colloquium, and contributed to its content, including Christina Antiporda, Anne Clark Baker, Michael Ezban, Tomás Folch, Chris Alton, Marta Brocki, McKenna Cole, Kimberly Garza, and Difei Ma. Finally, we would like to recognize the various collective contributions of the incredibly insightful and interdisciplinary students in the research seminars we have taught at both the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Ryerson University’s Faculty of Community Services and the School of Urban and Regional Planning. Chris Reed and Nina-Marie Lister

Imprint Published by Harvard University Graduate School of Design Actar Publishers, NY Edited by Chris Reed Nina-Marie Lister Editorial supervision Melissa Vaughn, Director of Publications Images supervision Christina Antiporda Graphic Design Ramon Prat Printing Grafos, SA. Barcelona Distributed by Actar D 151, Grand Street, 5th Floor New York, NY 10013 USA Phone +1 212 966 2207 © of the edition, Actar Publishers and Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 2014

© of the texts, their authors © of the images, their authors All rights reserved

ISBN 978-1-940291-12-3 A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress, Washington D.C., USA


Projective Ecologies takes stock of contemporary ecological research and speculates on potential paths forward for design. Where is ecological theory going? What do current research trajectories suggest for future practice? How can advances in ecological modeling, social theory, and digital visualization inform more robust design thinking and production? This volume presents a range of perspectives from architects, landscape architects, scientists, theorists, and planners.

PROJECTIVE ECOLOGIES Chris Reed & Nina-Marie Lister

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