Friday Film:: Designing the Urban Ark: Biodiversity and the Future of Cities

Today’s Friday Film is a lecture by Dr. Kristina Hill, Associate Professor and Director of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia presented by the Harvard Museum of Natural History. I was familiar with her name as a co-editor of Ecology and Design with Bart Johnson, one of my professors at the University of Oregon so I was very interested to find this lecture online. It’s a fascinating talk which anyone with an interest in urban biodiversity and stormwater management will find stimulating with some fascinating ideas.

The lecture begins with an interesting introduction to the history of ecological city design starting with London in the 1800’s and the idea of green belts and Olmsted in the Boston and how urban planning got ‘off track’. She also discusses how many studies show that urban areas have more species richness and how socioeconomic factors influence urban biodiversity. Kristina then introduces some design elements which could be incorporated into cities to offer space for greater biodiversity and separation from human activity. She shows a brilliant design by a student to add Osprey, or Sea Hawk, nesting habitat to the top of Seahawk stadium in Seattle and wonders why nobody has made the connection between the mascot and the actual bird and how we can build upon cultural symbols to increase actual biodiversity. A second wonderful student design idea uses a wire, mesh berm to cover shrubs to help protect nesting songbirds from nest predation by crows, cats and other species and could be used in parks as a public art project or even on green roofs to encourage nesting. She then goes on to discuss the impact of impervious surfaces for stormwater and how this directly affects water quality and habitat. Kristina though challenges the idea that urban areas can’t be saved and demonstrates ways that stormwater can be managed and provide habitat throughout the city as well as improving the habitat of streams and other waterways.

Designing the Urban Ark: Biodiversity and the Future of Cities from HMNH on Vimeo.

Lecture by Kristina Hill

Associate Professor and Director of Landscape Architecture, University of Virginia

Dr. Kristina Hill outlines a vision for biodiversity and urban planning based on human self-interest, development conditions, climate change, and lessons learned in other regions of the United States.

The lecture series, New Directions in EcoPlanning, is presented by the Harvard Museum of Natural History and supported by a generous gift from Michael Dyett (AB ’68, MRP ’72) and Heidi Richardson.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World, coming Spring 2020 from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, ParentMap, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction.

Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.
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