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Design for Conservation

Environmental Futures Initiative: Mission

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 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, international NGOs and domestic civil society. Upon returning to Hong Kong, students scope individual or team "projects" and ultimately propose and defend a spatial design strategy or set of scenarios in front of a panel of cross-disciplinary experts. These designs take many forms, including master plans, infrastructure design, and policy recommendations. 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. Our process benefits from the dialogue and synergies that arise from rigorous investigations and stategic propositions on cross-sectoral issues, such as transport infrastructure planning alongside resource extraction, mining remediation, afforestation and the promotion of 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 networks between several levels of stakeholders. As such, we are constantly searching for and welcoming proposals and support from potential partner institutions, governments, and communities.

Studio, Lecture and Seminar Courses

Strategic Landscape Planning for the Greater Mekong

The Road to Dawei: Environmental governance and development advocacy in southern Myanmar

The South America Project: Protected Areas in the Peruvian Amazon

Hong Kong Land Development and Conservation

  • Kelly, A. S. (2018). Sustainable Development and the Erosion of Conservation in Hong Kong. Talk delivered to CED Talk: Pacific Rim-Urban Resilience by Design. University of California Berkeley College of Environmental Design, Berkeley, California.
  • Kelly, A. S. (2018). HKILA Land Supply Forum: Evaluating Land & Land Supply Strategies in Hong Kong. Hosted by the Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects, Hong Kong.
  • Member of Urban Biodiversity Working Group. (2018). Sustainable Cities & Landscapes conference, Asia Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
  • Kelly, A. S. (2017). Land Development and Conservation in Hong Kong: Questions we could be asking. Delivered opening remarks to 2017 Annual Land Forum: Land Challenges Amid New Administration. Hosted by The University of Hong Kong Faculty of Architecture, Designing Hong Kong, Land Watch, and the Professional Commons. Hong Kong.
  • Kelly, A. S. (2016). Automated Monitoring of Potential Wildlife Trade Cases in the Hong Kong Judiciary (Online platform). Automated querying and notification system for detecting wildlife trade-related court cases in Hong Kong.
  • Hosted and Co-organized Land Development and Conservation in Hong Kong – Roundtable and Workshop. (2016). University of Hong Kong. Co-organized with Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Hong Kong, Designing Hong Kong, Liber Research Community, Professional Commons, Land Watch, and Save Our Country Parks.

Development and Conservation Awareness Map (DCAM)

Counterpart Cities: Climate Change and Collaborative Action in Hong Kong and Shenzhen

  • Riley, T., Solomon, J., Tang, D., Kelly, A. S., Al, S., Feng, G., … Zhang, Q. C. (2011). Counterpart Cities: Climate Change and Collaborative Action in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Exhibited in Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism/ Architecture and Hong Kong Central Market Gallery.