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Design for Conservation

Design for Conservation

Keywords: #design  #conservation  #landscapePlanning  #gis  #infrastructure  #deforestation  #hongKong  #china  #myanmar  #nepal  #amazon  #mekong 

Environmental Futures Initiative

The Environmental Futures Initiative is a research, teaching, and consultancy platform focused on design methodologies and strategies for intervening in complex developing, transboundary and frontier regions. Our mission objectives are:

  • To inform development processes where social and environmental legislation is infant, land security weak, and landscape degradation increasingly rapid; and
  • To provide a roadmap and toolset to build institutional capacity for stakeholders at several levels.

As academics and design professionals with expertise in both how to build and how to convey environmental and social impacts, we recognize the value of applied research and help synthesize and coordinate multiple silos of expertise, including landscape ecology, geography, and advanced geoinformatics. The current pace of development necessitates alternative and innovative approaches to modelling these impacts and scoping environmental mitigation that allow for informed decision-making, especially in the absence of otherwise critical data, context, or information.

Our methods come from critical landscape planning approaches that do not default or regress to generalization but instead accentuate differences in sites and systems with a transcalar approach from construction details to specific site strategies, landscapes and transboundary planning. We participate in data-driven advocacy and campaigns requiring synthesis and communication of complex issues, providing not only technical solutions but also scenario-building and strategies tailored to specific sites and audiences.

Our design tools and accompanying visualizations, while a mechanism for capacity building, also strive to encourage dialogue and transparency across diverse stakeholder groups. These inform policy makers, developers, and communities alike of best practices, risks, and the critical value of landscape planning in environmental stewardship and design.

Research and Design Studios
The "studio" as a university course is a unique and innovative component of education in architecture, landscape architecture and planning and constitutes the majority of students' learning at both undergraduate and master's levels. We offer annual and semi-annual advanced studio courses on regional landscape planning.

These studio courses are region-focused and site-specific, with students typically traveling together to the region for 7-10 days to ask questions, test hypotheses, and present their initial findings and ideas to relevant stakeholders, including communities, governments, NGOs and civil society. Upon returning to Hong Kong, students scope individual or team "projects" and ultimately propose and defend a spatial design strategy or scenario in front of a panel of experts. These designs take many forms, including master plans, infrastructure, and policy recommendations. The design studio is foremost a medium of learning and, importantly, ideas generation.

Consider the studio course an intensive 3-month brainstorming exercise to uncover the most urgent environmental and development problems of complex landscapes and propose, not solutions, but potential ways forward.

The sites and landscapes we investigate are complex, and each studio proposes a diversity of project types, benefiting from the dialogue and synergies that arise from rigorous investigation of issues such as transport infrastructure planning, alongside resource extraction and mining remediation, alongside strategies to promote international development standards. In practice, these issues are not isolated and to propose active, transformative interventions requires that knowledge be generated rapidly and comprehensively.

Studios are largely run on a flexible year-by-year basis, allowing for both multi-year commitments and short, rapid responses to global issues. It is within these courses that our approaches and methods are developed and refined.

Although run from Hong Kong, studios require and often help foster the creation of network between several levels of stakeholders. As such, we are constantly searching for and welcoming proposals and support from potential partner institutions, governments, and communities.

Recent Reports and Exhibits

Design and Physical Planning

  • 2012-15. Jintai Village Reconstruction, Sichuan, China. Dorothy Tang, with HKU Rural Urban Framework.
  • 2012-15. Mulan Elementary School Playground and Toilet Complex, Guangdong, China. Dorothy Tang, with HKU Rural Urban Framework.
  • 2013-14. Bailong Lake Reservoir Master Plan, Sichuan Province, China. Dorothy Tang, with HKU Rural Urban Framework.
  • 2013. Antuoshuan Museum Park Masterplan Competition (Unbuilt), Shenzhen, China. Dorothy Tang, with LWKP, Wang Wiejen Architecture and Domonique Perrault Architecture.

Design Studio and Research Seminars