Urban Renewal & Resilient Design at SXSW Eco

The amphitheater at Historic Fourth Ward Park, part of the Atlanta BeltLine image: John McNicholas via Flickr
The amphitheater at Historic Fourth Ward Park, part of the Atlanta BeltLine
image: John McNicholas via Flickr

Interview with Nette Compton, ASLA

Nette Compton has served as an officer of the Sustainable Design and Development PPN for the past year, and she will be stepping up to the PPN co-chair position at this year’s ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver. Nette is actively involved in many sustainable and urban design initiatives and events through her work at the Trust for Public Land, and we wanted to highlight her upcoming session at SXSW Eco, which takes place next week, October 6-8, 2014, in Austin. Nette will be on the panel discussing “Urban Renewal and Resilient Design” on October 8. In the interview below, she shares some information about the session and why this topic is of such critical importance.

One of the reasons that we have decided to provide more exposure here in The Field about this event is to encourage other SDD PPN members to participate in outreach efforts on sustainability and resiliency aimed at groups outside of the profession. Landscape architects can raise awareness about how our profession contributes expertise and solutions for urban renewal and resilient design. We welcome contributions like this by SDD members, on talks that they will be or have been involved in on sustainability initiatives. Please share your ideas!
–Lisa Cowan, ASLA, SDD PPN Co-Chair

How did this presentation come about?

In my new role at the Trust for Public Land, part of my position entails speaking about the impact of public space on cities. As Associate Director of City Park Development, I focus on how parks can improve the livability and function of cities for its residents, from providing a place to play to landscape-scale improvements in air and water quality. The presentation’s emphasis on resiliency and creative use of urban space fit right in with my past experience at the New York City Parks Department, where I was the Director of Green Infrastructure and involved in climate and resilience planning both pre- and post-Sandy. We wanted to have practitioners from around the country as part of the discussion as well, to show how these big ideas of resilience planning for cities at the landscape scale can happen anywhere, and take advantage of a range of opportunities.

Historic Fourth Ward Park image: John McNicholas via Flickr
Historic Fourth Ward Park
image: John McNicholas via Flickr

What is the subject and inspiration for the talk?

All of us have worked in cities throughout our careers, and have been both inspired by and part of investments to re-envision city landscapes. From Ryan’s work on the Atlanta BeltLine to Lacy and I working on New York City’s post-Sandy Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, we have seen the power of a big idea to transform the planning and execution of public open space that provides a range of benefits and functions. In our talk, we want to show how there are great examples of this broad concept at a variety of scales, geographies and politics. These projects can reclaim or repurpose underused areas in cities, reshaping them to meet the demands of a 21st century city—one that we consider to be livable, beautiful, ecologically vibrant and prepared for the next 100 years of change.

Sunset over Brooklyn Bridge Park and the East River just before the start of the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks image: Diana Robinson via Flickr
Sunset over Brooklyn Bridge Park and the East River just before the start of the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks
image: Diana Robinson via Flickr

What do you see as the value of landscape architects promoting community resiliency in less common venues, aimed at the general public and activists outside of the profession?

The ability to reach out to a broader audience was actually a big impetus for pursuing this venue. One of the big ideas that we want to convey to the audience is that communities are crucial to the process of remaking cities, and that they should play an active role in this regardless of their profession. Looking at huge projects like Brooklyn Bridge Park or The 606 in Chicago, we will show that these projects aren’t just born out of city planning initiatives, but dedicated neighborhood groups who believe in the idea. We want to encourage everyone to rethink their neighborhood, and what can be achieved there, and then show how by pairing that with design professionals focused on maximizing the benefits and function, a resilient and successful solution can come to fruition.

The 2014 Old Fourth Ward Arts Festival image: John McNicholas via Flickr
The 2014 Old Fourth Ward Arts Festival
image: John McNicholas via Flickr

Find out more about the presentation on SXSW Eco’s website:

Urban Renewal and Resilient Design
Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 11:45AM – 12:45PM
Presenters: Ryan Gravel, Perkins+Will – Senior Urban Designer, Senior Associate and Nette Compton, The Trust for Public Land – Associate Director of City Park Development
Moderator: Lacy Shelby, City of Minneapolis – Community Planning and Economic Development – Principal Urban Designer

You can also follow Nette on Twitter @NetteCompton

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