Live Learning Center Banner
My Account
Main Menu

 Regional design REVOLUTION: ecology matters

Design provides the foundation upon which every object and system is built. The design of a community or a building is an expression of aspirations, be they economic, cultural, social, or environmental. Sustainable design expresses these aspirations in the context of environmental factors beyond the project’s property line, with the intention to engage, restore, or enhance a region’s ecosystem.

The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s population, or almost five billion people, will be living in towns and cities. In principle, cities offer a more favorable setting for the resolution of social and environmental problems than rural areas. Cities generate jobs and income. Because of the advantages of scale and proximity, with good governance, cities can deliver education, health care, and other services more efficiently than less densely settled areas. These centers of human habitat, as complex as they may be, must become integral components of larger environmental systems, if they are to thrive.

Cities present opportunities for social and economic mobility. Also, the density of urban life can relieve pressure on natural habitats and areas of biodiversity. The challenge for this century is to learn how to exploit the possibilities urbanization offers while attending to the health of the regional ecologies of which they are a part. The future of humanity depends on it. 

The AIA 2011 Convention in New Orleans presents an opportunity to explore how innovative approaches to planning, design, and construction, along with evolutionary or revolutionary approaches to practice, collaboration, and partnerships can create more resilient urban ecosystems where cities of all scales contribute to a region’s sustainability and regeneration.

Regional Identity and Urban Design
The unique identity of a region is an integration of its cultural and physical geography.  The collective history, character and qualities of its people, structures, streets, and places, as well as the natural environmental attributes of its topography, climate, and ecosystems, and the economic and social forces that shape their interrelationships, all contribute to a larger sense of place. Place-based design is a conscious act of integrating these many factors into a coherent, connected vision.
How have professional design and practice innovations responded to the unique challenges facing our regions, while strengthening or expanding their individual identities and character?

Regional Ecosystems
The world’s most significant social and environmental challenges, such as air and water quality, transportation, housing affordability or economic vitality, are regional in scope and require regional solutions. Sustainability and livability are best understood and addressed at the regional level. In contrast to globalization, regional economies provide for and sustain local needs. Though healthy regions are effectively linked to the global economy, overdependence on external linkages can have catastrophic local impacts when large external shifts occur or when natural disasters strike.  As with any ecosystem, the strongest regional ecosystem is one that is most diverse, interdependent, and independent.  Each region is comprised of towns, cities, and communities that form this web of interdependent relationships, with greater diversity bringing greater strengths.
How have individual projects or initiatives restored or strengthened regional ecosystems through the integration of multiple planning and development objectives?

Regional Community Development Patterns
Cities and their regional constellation of communities potentially offer the most sustainable and efficient avenue for the development and delivery of infrastructure and services to meet physical, political, social, and economic needs of people. They also represent the collective investment and intelligence of generations and allow incremental growth and improvement to build upon success, or to re-build over obsolete or failed systems. Suburbanization has been the trend for the past half-century in the United States with major central cities over 1,000,000 giving up nearly 30 percent of their populations to their suburbs between 1950–2000.  Overall, urbanized population has grown by 234 percent, while rural population has grown less than 10 percent in that same time frame. Yet, our existing communities could absorb a 30 percent increase in population while maintaining average densities of the 1960s, and thus could leave adjacent rural areas and their supportive ecosystems intact for the enjoyment of future generations.  How have community design and development programs, or conservation and restoration projects provided innovative leadership in re-purposing urban land to meet evolving social and economic needs of communities?

Regionally-based Sustainable Reinvestment in Cities and Towns
America’s urban centers are in need of reinvestment, and they present the most efficient and sustainable opportunity to meet our country’s future needs, including the need to absorb the next 100 million people. U.S. infrastructure investment policy directed at urban centers of all sizes can serve the largest number of people, support and sustain the aspirations and creativity of regional community networks, and create opportunities for architects throughout the country to serve their communities and to expand their professional services. Moving beyond antiquated or dysfunctional governance and planning structures is frequently the most radical action needed to break the barriers behind which collaborative and cooperative solutions await.  Creating cooperative models and common purpose among a constellation of local governments, special use districts, public and private institutions, and the business and development communities can lead to creative solutions to a complex array of regional challenges. 
How have individual and collective actions led to innovative, multiple-agency programs, plans, and projects to rebuild or enhance the quality, functional utility, and capacity of regional infrastructure and ecosystems?

Learning from New Orleans
The Louisiana coast and the City of New Orleans are critical components of a rich cultural history on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi Delta ecosystem. New Orleans is at the center of a region that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The storm exposed glaring design, engineering, social, and economic challenges that the region faced. Creating a convention experience and a program that learns from New Orleans’ history and recovery and that provides a learning experience for attendees that gives them new skills and knowledge to take back and apply to their own regions and practices is the principle focus of this convention. New Orleans is a uniquely suited venue for exploring the role of architects as advocates for, and engaged participants in, shaping the future of their own regions and communities and for expanding their skills and practices.  With New Orleans’ unique regional character and identity as a backdrop, architects can learn from innovative leaders, including their peers, how their work can respond to and improve upon the livability, environmental quality, and identity of the regions in which they work through the context of innovative regional design and the evolving art of place-making in the 21st century metropolis.

Proposal List
Skip Navigation Links.
Please login first