OOS 49-1 - Reinventing urban ecosystems through designed experiments

Friday, August 11, 2017: 8:00 AM
Portland Blrm 255, Oregon Convention Center
Alexander J. Felson, School of Architecture, Yale University, New Haven, CT

A simultaneous movement is underway in both landscape architecture and ecology to reframe the relationship of science to practice and to position ecology for cities. The demand to integrate ecology into design is an opportunity for designers and ecologists to collaborate on the design of studies that will inform urban ecological theory and practice and to build and monitor sustainable and resilient urban ecosystems. How do we prioritize ecological theory to inform urban planning and design practice? How can we design landscapes that are safe for people and support wildlife reproduction, mortality, distribution and movement? How can we improve the ecosystem structure and function of fragmented and highly managed landscapes in the face of a complex ownership mosaic? Designed experiments facilitate the integration of research into designed projects to refine our understanding of sustainability and resilience, fill knowledge gaps and frame issues of uncertainty. This integration allows for the installation of long-term studies, which will advance urban ecological theory. In addition designed experiments are a transdisciplinary approach being advanced as an effective iterative process where ecologists and designers can collaborate and work out relationships to deconstruct disciplinary barriers and increase integration.


At the core of designed experiments is the redefinition of the relationship between ecologist and designer in the design process itself, thus advancing, in a concerted and coordinated manner, the efforts to study and shape urban ecosystems. To this end, designed experiments utilize the creative design process to situate experiments as components of urban spaces, allowing ecologists to shape built environments by influencing how they are designed, constructed, evaluated, and maintained. This process helps designers effectively integrate ecological research into the project design resulting in greater resilience and sustainability. From the ecologist’s perspective, the design process creates opportunities to integrate experiments into urban spaces that can further enrich ecological understanding of urban ecology, expand the conception of urban space and reveal synergies across disciplines. For the designer, the incorporation of experimentation into design establishes a legitimate synergy with ecological science that goes beyond the metaphorical and supports the development of evidence-based sustainable design. Through designed experiments, the opportunity exists to systematically embrace shifting roles of ecologists and designers and in so doing enhance our application of evidence based sustainable and resilient landscapes. This talk will explore examples of implemented designed experiments including lessons learned, research and results.