News + Events

"Essential Documentation." Adaptive Reuse in Latin America: Cultural Identity, Values and Memory

November 3, 2023Catherine SeavittAdaptive Reuse in Latin America: Cultural Identity, Values and Memory

Adaptive reuse in Latin America in 2023 is a practice that focuses on preserving cultural identity, values, and memory through the renovation and repurposing of historical buildings and structures. This approach aims to maintain a strong connection to the region's rich cultural heritage and traditions while promoting sustainability and economic development. It involves converting old, often neglected buildings into new, functional spaces, such as museums, community centers, or housing, which celebrate and preserve the history and identity of the area. Adaptive reuse is a means of breathing new life into architectural gems, keeping them relevant for future generations, and maintaining a sense of cultural continuity in the rapidly changing urban landscapes of Latin America.

MEGA-ECO: A Symposium on Very Large-Scale Landscape Projects

September 4, 2023

For nearly a century, a new breed of landscape infrastructure megaproject has gone unrecognized, and is now proliferating, according to the organizers of a public symposium at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design set for October 5, 2023. These projects are designed to address biodiversity loss, land degradation, and climate change while improving living conditions for the Earth’s eight billion human inhabitants. Representing trillions of dollars in potential investments, can they deliver the ecological transformation they promise?

MEGA-ECO: A Symposium on Very Large-Scale Landscape Projects brings together designers and land managers for ecological restoration megaprojects in China, Pakistan, Brazil, Africa, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and the US to explore cross-border approaches to connectivity, anti-desertification, watersheds, and metropolitan development. They include representatives of the World Wildlife Fund, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, among others, who will discuss the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project (China); Forest Conservation in the Heart of the Colombian Amazon; Great Green Wall Initiative (Africa); São Paulo Greenbelt and Biosphere Reserve (Brazil); Sponge Cities Initiative (China); Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program (US); Upscaling Green Pakistan; and Yellowstone to Yukon (North America).

The program opens with a keynote talk by author Tony Hiss, co-creator of the half-earth movement (50x50) and visiting scholar at the Wagner School of Public Service, New York University.


The symposium is organized into four sessions, with presentations from each project representative followed by a discussion with expert panelists:

  1. Keith Bowers, Landscape Architect and Founder, Biohabitats
  2. Dr. Gary Tabor, Founder and Director, Center for Large Landscape Conservation
  3. Dr. Emmanuelle Cohen-Shachem, Nature-based Solutions, Thematic Lead, International Union for Conservation of Nature
  4. David Kuhn, Lead, Corporate Resilience, World Wildlife Fund
  5. Tyra Northwest, Traditional Land Use Lead, Samson Cree Nation, and co-founder, International Buffalo Relations Institute

Panel 1: Connectivity

  • Dr. Jodi Hilty, Chief Scientist and President, Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y)
  • Dominique Bikaba, Founding Member and Executive Director, Strong Roots Gorilla Corridor
  • Ana Maria Gonzalez Velosa, Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program Coordinator: Team leader, World Bank
  • Andrea Fernanda Calderón, Technical Liaison of the Natural Heritage Project, North East Amazon Environmental and Sustainable Development Corporation (CDA), Proyecto Corazón de la Amazonia

Panel 2: Anti-Desertification

  • Dr. Elvis Paul Nfor Tangem, Coordinator of the Great Green Wall Initiative
  • Faiz Ali Khan, National Director, Upscaling Green Pakistan (formerly the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Programme)

Panel 3: Watersheds

  • Ben Valks, Creator/Visionary of the Araguaia Biodiversity Corridor
  • Marshall Plumley, Regional Program Manager, Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program
  • Yongjun Jo, Landscape Architect

Panel 4: Metropolitan Projects

  • Hexing Chang, Associate Principal, Turenscape 
  • Rodrigo Victor, Professor, University of São Paulo

Concluding remarks will be delivered by Matthijs Bouw, Associate Professor of Practice at the Weitzman School of Design.


MEGA-ECO is presented by The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology and Penn Global, and is organized by Rob Levinthal, PhD candidate in the Department of City & Regional Planning, and Richard Weller, professor of landscape architecture.

MEGA-ECO builds on the 2019 publication Design With Nature Now, a re-assessment of the legacy of Ian McHarg’s landmark 1969 book Design With Nature which was co-edited by Weller along with Penn faculty members Frederick Steiner, dean and Paley Professor; Karen M’Closkey, associate professor of landscape architecture; and Billy Fleming, Wilks Family Director at The McHarg Center.

The public symposium on October 5 is followed by an invite-only roundtable on October 6. Admission to the symposium is free and open to the public with advance registration.

Link to register:…

Denser and greener cities: Green interventions to achieve both urban density and nature.

January 11, 2023Nicholas Pevzner, et al.People and Nature 5.1 (2023): 84-102.
  1. Green spaces in urban areas—like remnant habitat, parks, constructed wetlands, and street trees—supply multiple benefits.
  2. Many studies show green spaces in and near urban areas play important roles harbouring biodiversity and promoting human well-being. On the other hand, evidence suggests that greater human population density enables compact, low-carbon cities that spare habitat conversion at the fringes of expanding urban areas, while also allowing more walkable and livable cities. How then can urban areas have abundant green spaces as well as density?
  3. In this paper, we review the empirical evidence for the relationships between urban density, nature, and sustainability. We also present a quantitative analysis of data on urban tree canopy cover and open space for United States large urbanized areas, as well as an analysis of non-US Functional Urban Areas in OECD countries.
  4. We found that there is a negative correlation between population density and these green spaces. For Functional Urban Areas in the OECD, a 10% increase in density is associated with a 2.9% decline in tree cover. We argue that there are competing trade-offs between the benefits of density for sustainability and the benefits of nature for human well-being. Planners must decide an appropriate density by choosing where to be on this trade-off curve, taking into account city-specific urban planning goals and context.
  5. However, while the negative correlation between population density and tree cover is modest at the level of US urbanized areas (R2 = 0.22), it is weak at the US Census block level (R2 = 0.05), showing that there are significant brightspots, neighbourhoods that manage to have more tree canopy than would be expected based upon their level of density. We then describe techniques for how urban planners and designers can create more brightspots, identifying a typology of urban forms and listing green interventions appropriate for each form. We also analyse policies that enable these green interventions illustrating them with the case studies of Curitiba and Singapore.
  6. We conclude that while there are tensions between density and urban green spaces, an urban world that is both green and dense is possible, if society chooses to take advantage of the available green interventions and create it.

Reflective socio-ecological practice

November 16, 2022Frederick R. Steiner Reflective socio-ecological practice

This autobiographical reflection traces my work in land suitability analysis and plan-making. The suitability practice has resulted in two rating systems: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Land Evaluation and Site Assessment System and Green Business Certification Inc.’s SITES Rating System. Plans have been made for US counties, cities, and towns; Italian provinces; regions and watersheds; and university campuses. My practice is grounded in human ecology. I have attempted to address the issues people face with an especial focus on environmental quality and social equity. Examples of work from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, and Texas in the United States as well as Italy and Mexico are noted. I explore how reflection, often with collaborators and students, has informed my practice and how it can help advance the fields of planning and landscape architecture.

Developing and monitoring an innovative NNBF to nourish a bay bar: An example from the southeast shore of Lake Ontario

October 1, 2022Sean Burkholder Developing and monitoring an innovative NNBF to nourish a bay bar: An example from the southeast shore of Lake Ontario

This project tests a cost-effective, innovative dredged sediment placement technique targeted to nourish an eroded barrier bar. The dredged sediment was placed in the nearshore in a Cobble Bell, a form designed to allow for efficient dispersal and migration of sediment by natural processes in this location (such as predominant waves and longshore transport) in a desired direction along the bar. We describe the regional and site assessment undertaken, and explain the way design parameters including technical feasibility, assumptions about wave climate, and constructability were accounted for. A monitoring protocol was designed and implemented to measure the vertical and horizontal accretion on the barrier bar. This included survey transects using RTK equipment and surface analysis of beach volume and morphology change via drone images and photogrammetry. Field measurements of the bar indicated that within the first few days, the piled material eroded rapidly, and over the next few months, migrated downshore, widening the previously breached area. This suggests that the cobble bell nature-based feature has the potential to both accelerate and slow down natural processes in ways that enhance the performance and attractiveness of the beach while minimizing costs. In addition to the monitoring results, we describe a monitoring protocol that is both simple and effective which can be adapted by local entities interested in the management of their coastal landscapes.

Behind-the-Scenes: Multispectral imagery and land cover classification

August 29, 2022Karen M’Closkey Behind-the-Scenes: Multispectral imagery and land cover classification

This article focuses on the use of remotely sensed multispectral imagery for land cover classification, a process that landscape architects may know little about but that underpins many of the maps that they use as the basis for their designs. The relatively arbitrary nature of classification, and the homogenization that occurs when classifying multispectral imagery to create land cover maps, is especially consequential when distinguishing between land and water. Yet ‘finding’ water is a key step in land cover classification. The salt marshes surrounding the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, USA are used as a case study for multispectral analysis that combines satellite imagery with on-site surveying. However, the implications of the digital survey methods extend beyond any particular site and point to broader questions about the role of image interpretation for understanding how landscapes and environments are changing, especially with growing uncertainty about the rate of climate change.

Field Notes Towards an Internationalist Green New Deal

What We're WritingApril 25, 2022Field Notes Towards an International Green New DealField Notes

The McHarg Center's Climate Policy Research Group has published Field Notes Towards an International Green New Deal. This three year digital project was produced by RAs Palak Agarwal, Selina Cheah, Yixin (April) Wei, Ian Dillon, Zane Griffin Talley Cooper, A.L. McCullough, and the Wilks Family Director, Billy Fleming. Field Notes ask what it might mean for the rest of the world if the US realizes an eco modernist vision for the energy transition.


Designing Decarbonization, Jobs, and Justice

What We're SayingApril 23, 2022Jared GreenThe Dirt

A two part recap of the 2022 Grounding the Green New Deal Summit is featured in the ASLA's The Dirt.

“The Green New Deal Superstudio models a collective form of practice. We have a foot in the world now, but can imagine a new future,” said Kate Orff, FASLA, founder of SCAPE..."

Design with Nature in Town and City

What We're WritingApril 22, 2022Brian Evans & Rachel HowlettGlasgow Urban Laboratory

In November 2020, the Glasgow Urban Lab at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, the Weitzman School of Design at UPenn, the Landscape Institute, and the Academy of Urbanism came together to celebrate the 100th birthday of one of landscape architecture's and Scotland's pioneers of urban ecology -- Ian McHarg. A symposium was held to look at McHarg's influence, with eyes on the future.

This publication, edited by the Glasgow Urban Lab's Brian Evans and Rachel Howlett, seeks to capture some of the event's essence. 

Earth Day Interview with Richard Weller: A Hopeful Vision for Global Conservation

What We're SayingApril 18, 2022Jared GreenThe Dirt

Later this year, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will meet in China to finalize what is being called a “Paris Agreement for Nature.” The agreement will outline global goals for ecosystem conservation and restoration for the next decade, which may include preserving 30 percent of lands, coastal areas, and oceans by 2030. Goals could also include restoring one-fifth of the world’s degraded ecosystems and cutting billions in subsidies that hurt the environment. What are the top three things planning and design professions can do to help local, state, and national governments worldwide achieve these goals?

The McHarg Center's Richard Weller's answer -- Design, Design, and Design!