Project: Banyoles Old Town
Location: Banyoles, Girona – Spain
Firm: Josep Miàs – MiAS ARCHITECTS
Year: 2011

Project Description: Overtime the historic fabric of Banyoles’ old town had deteriorated into a winding mess of streets overrun with parked cars, narrow sidewalks, aging utilities and a crumbling sewer system. This project transformed the urban landscape by pedestrianizing the quarter, burying utilities below ground and reengaging historic drainage system.

Working with the flow of water, the project uses drainage canals to rediscover the medieval settlement built into the limestone. Water once again becomes a protagonist in the life of the city. In this project we seek to exhaust the possibilities of water and stone. The scope of intervention is limited to the new pedestrian area and conforms to the town of medieval layout and architecture.

In addition to its architecture, a noteworthy feature of Banyoles is its succession of open spaces, small squares, in the otherwise compact medieval town. Due to the presence of these spaces, the layout of the old town undergoes a sequence of compressions and decompressions. These spaces, bounded by façades, pavement, arcades and singular elements, may be seen as open-pit excavations in the travertine.

The first intervention is to strip away the existing pavement to expose the historical substrate of the town, uncovering the remains of buildings, tombs, objects and old canals. The recs, the old water canals, are reincorporated into the streets, uncovered discontinuously in order to avoid disrupting the normal functioning of the town, while establishing a coherent discourse throughout the area.

The pavement is treated as if the stone itself were a liquid; vibrant like a cascade on the slopes and still on the flats. There remain, as if in a museum of time, traces of drift: trunk-benches, undulating silhouettes, random fragments of ruins…

The pavement is now sculpted, even eroded, by the groundwater, in the form of canals and troughs along which the water runs.


Project Credits

Project team: Silvia Brandi, Adriana Porta, Mario Blanco, Josep Puigdemont, Fausto Raposo, Mafalda Batista, Judith Segura, Sophie Lambert, Sven Holzgreve, Thomas Westerholm, Oliver Bals, Marta Cases, Julie Nicaise, Lluís A. Casanovas, Anna Mallén, Bárbara Fachada, Marco Miglioli

Photographer: Adrià Goula


2010, PREMIS FAD Finalist



Project: Promenada
Location: Velenje, Slovenia
Year: 2014
Competition: Open Competition, First Prize

Project Description:  The Velenje “Promenada” is an important city space and a vital city thoroughfare. It is one of the central axes of the centre of Velenje, a young town designed in the 1950s, based on the Modernist ideal of the garden city; as such, it is unique in the Slovene landscape. The renovation of the Promenada represents the first step towards the gradual revitalisation of the city centre. Its tasks are to supply the city with the missing programmes and to help it reclaim its original character of a town-in-a-park. A successful renovation, informed by the awareness of the excessive surfaces designated for traffic, must bring together two requirements seemingly at odds with each other: “More greenery and more programme.”

The existing promenade was created by closing the former traffic road almost thirty years ago. Even though it was re-paved, a sufficiently thorough transformation never took place and the promenade retained the character of a road, remaining too wide and rather dull due to the lack of content. It has been a hybrid space between the road and the surface intended for pedestrians – chiefly a straight path quickly leading the users of the secondary-school complex and the community health center to the inner center without providing any animation for those out for a walk.

Through renovation, the wide straight connection underwent a transformation into a sequence of micro-ambients, of locally widened surfaces connected by a slightly twisting narrower path. The manipulation of layered surfaces slow the flow of pedestrians, allowing spaces for pause, contemplation, and gathering. As the path twists along the surrounding building edges, it provides outdoor spaces that act as extensions of interior programming and which are adaptable over time. In the initial phase, these newly formed public spaces are simply and cost-effectively laid out as sand or grass surfaces, allowing a wide range of use with modest investment.

At the center of the Promenada, a new amphitheater has been created along the river. The Paka River is a torrential and unpredictable body of water, swelling significantly several times a year, but remaining relatively shallow at all other times. In past decades, to protect development from flooding, the riverbed was deepened and the river which was once an attractive element of any city, flowed out of sight. Past widening of the bridge also meant that anyone walking across the structure had a hard time seeing the river at all.

By narrowing the bridge and moving it off the former axis, the design creates space for a new amphitheater, which slowly slopes down towards the river surface. This new public performance space has become the center of urban life allowing the river to once again claim its importance in the city’s consciousness.

Project Credits:

ENOTA Team: Dean Lah, Milan Tomac, Tjaž Bauer, Andrej Oblak, Polona Ruparčič, Nuša Završnik Šilec, Alja Černe, Nebojša Vertovšek

Project Credits:
Elea iC (Structural Engineering)
Nom Biro (Mechanical)
Elsing (Electrical)

Photography: Miran Kambič

Big Old Tree, New Big Easy

Project: Big Old Tree, New Big Easy
Location: New Orleans, LA
Designer: Karen Lutsky
Year: 2010
Program: University of Pennsylvania School of Design
Faculty Advisor: David Governeur, Nicholas Pevzner

Project Description: ‘Big Old Tree, New Big Easy’ is an adaptable design proposal built upon the inherent qualities and capabilities of New Orleans’ native tree species. The project explores the potential of a simple urban afforestation strategy to engage the past, respond to critical current social and infrastructural issues, and support a ‘sustainable’ future. 

The strategy begins and ends with the trees. The plan uses well-known attributes of three native tree species (the high-ground live oak, the mid-ground pecan, and the water-loving cypress) to maximize the capacity of the resulting urban canopy to manage water through evapotranspiration, to stabilize the currently sinking ground with extensive root systems, to connect neighborhoods and promote recreation with new shade and structure, to produce valued goods such as nuts and wood, and to harbor and nurture the growth of a strong community.

Maintenance-heavy areas such as orchards and community gardens are located adjacent to schools and community centers. The labor of planting and pruning trees, and harvesting fruit and wood is work that is easily managed, quickly taught, and carried out with accessible training. This allows it to be managed by a volunteer-based, multi-generational workforce without much risk, and lends itself well to larger group participation, promoting communal interaction and engagement. Utilizing the availability of the city’s post-Katrina ‘volun-tourism’ work-force provides an initial source of individuals and communities that value and have experience in collective organization.

As they grow, the trees also begin to engage the community in new ways. Early phasing of tightly planted groves in the project require that trees be thinned out over time. This management practice not only supports the healthy maturation of old-growth trees in the corridor, but also provides a ‘nursery’ source for native trees that may be transplanted into rest of the community, allowing the maintenance of the corridor to continually populate the greater neighborhood with these trees.

The key armature of the proposal is a clear, striated planting plan, in which trees are planted linearly across the site with variation in spacing and species in response to varying ground conditions. This formation creates a planting plan that provides consistency across the landscape, structurally unifying and visually connecting the entirety of the corridor. The responsive planting strategy places water-loving trees on wetter ground, pecan or harvestable trees near schools and local community organizations, and live oaks on high ground and along the main path.

The simplicity of the planting plan also allows the project to continue to function under reduced maintenance. Even if nothing is provided beyond initial planting of the trees and sufficient care to assure their establishment, the trees will still provide the much needed functions of mitigating water, creating habitat, cooling urban climate, increasing the quality of our air, and ensuring another crop of ‘big, old trees’ for the next generation. 


Additional Project Information:

2011 National ASLA Honor Award in Analysis and Planning


This project was featured in Scenario 4: Building the Urban Forest 


Aqueous Ecologies

Project: Aqueous Ecologies
Location: Willets Point, NY
Designer: Michael Ezban
Year: 2013
Program: Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Faculty Advisor: Chris Reed

Project Description: ‘Aqueous Ecologies’ imagines a future for Willets Point, a derelict peninsula in Queens, NY, in which new ecologies, economies, and cultural identities of the city are intertwined with landscape-based solutions for adaptive, polyfunctional, and publicly accessible wastewater management and treatment. Aquaculture becomes a foundation for an ecological urbanism.

Rather than starting with a traditional masterplan, this project proposes a productive ecology of multi-trophic aquaculture (closed-loop fish farming) as a catalyst for urban development. A 50-year process for cultivating aquaculture and urbanism at Willets Point increases wildlife biodiversity and creates cultural and economic synergies over time, at both local and regional scales. Over time, synergistic relationships between aquaculture and urbanism mature, establishing the urban core as a greywater and stormwater supply for a burgeoning aquaculture industry.

At areas of high urban density, waters flow through hard- and soft-bottom channels, from sidewalk swales to plaza basins. The alternating conditions of saturation and desiccation at these urban spaces foster a dynamic range of recreational and commercial activity. At the littoral zone of Willets Point, the character of the landscape is quite different. Biotic succession and daily tide dynamics are evident in the expansive salt marshes, while kelp cultivation groins — thriving on aquaculture wastewater — extend into Flushing Bay, becoming armatures for sediment accumulation and spontaneous vegetation. The kelp can either be exported into culinary and medicinal economies, or remain within the aquaculture system as processed fish meal.

Public access throughout the littoral zone, via boardwalks that convey wastewater for treatment, allows for immersive cultural experiences and an opportunity to experience the dynamism of succession and daily tide dynamics. Processes of sediment deposition and accumulation against these boardwalks lead to the emergence of publicly accessible habitat islands. During storm events, public activities shift to elevated civic spaces that float above temporarily flooded civic spaces. The raised infrastructure connects to existing elevated transit lines and roof gardens and allows aquaculture and wastewater filtration to intertwine at multiple levels within the fabric of the city.


Featured in Scenario 3: Rethinking Infrastructure 


Queens Plaza

Project: Queens Plaza
Location: Long Island City, NY
Firm: Margie Ruddick
Year: 2003
Firm website:

Project Description:  Queens Plaza is the gateway to Long Island City from Manhattan. Spanning eight city blocks, the completed project enhances a tangle of 14 lanes of traffic, two elevated subway lines, two bridges, and a parking lot. Through road realignment, the project improved vehicular circulation, created alternative transportation corridors, and opened space for a primary park area.

As one of two pilot projects for New York City’s High Performance Infrastructure Guidelines, Queens Plaza utilizes a constructed wetland and subsurface filtration systems to prevent over 20.2 million gallons of stormwater from entering the city’s combined sewer system, reduces ambient noise pollution from elevated trains passing through Queens Plaza by 23%, and has increased surrounding property values by 37% (during a period when NYC Metro property values increased by 8%). On an average summer day, Queens Plaza attracts 125 visitors to a site once described colloquially as the ‘Boulevard of Death’.

Designed in collaboration with the artist Michael Singer, the project employs interlocking and modular permeable pavers that serve as firm walking surfaces and that transport surface runoff to infiltration areas. This strategy incorporates high albedo asphalt aggregates, recycled asphalt, and reused demolition materials for a sub-base in order to reduce ambient air temperatures and watering requirements for the project’s 489 native trees and grasses.

Rather than removing or masking the surrounding infrastructural elements, the project incorporates flexible stainless steel mesh to highlight the complex and irregular volumes created by the undergirding of the elevated rails. Through creative lighting, these spaces are turned into a lantern-like serial installation suspended between the vehicular traffic above and pedestrian traffic below. These structures provide the tracks with legibility and highlight them as a wayfinding beacon at the interaction of Jackson Avenue and Queens Plaza.

Rejecting the notion of passive ‘greening,’ Queens Plaza reactivates an underutilized space and the surrounding urban fabric created by unplanned infrastructural layering. Satisfying performative criteria and providing social and recreational benefits, the project is a robust precedent of what landscape can achieve in a challenging urban context.

Project Team:

Margie Ruddick – Design Lead
Marpillero Pollak Architects – Architecture and Urban Design
Michael Singer Studio – Public Art
WRT – Landscape Architecture
Leni Schwendinger Light Projects – Lighting Design
Langan Engineering – Civil Engineering


Featured in Scenario 3: Rethinking Infrastructure  

Gubei Pedestrian Promenade

Project: Gubei Pedestrian Promenade
Location: Shanghai, China
Firm: SWA Group
Year: 2009
Firm website:

Project Description: The Gubei Pedestrian Promenade is a rare example where a city chose to rezone a vehicular road into a 700-meter long pedestrian-only sanctuary.  The sheer scale of the project serves as an inspiration for those who believe in the impossible – balance the “development frenzy” (characterized by rampant disregard for a sustainable urban fabric) with public open spaces that reduce the urban heat-island effect, allow for flexible around the clock activities, and promote healthy living through outdoor exercise, stress relieving activities and social interaction.

On the world stage, Shanghai can be seen as China’s “window to the world:” a modern-day marvel with a kaleidoscopic history.  Among great cities, modern Shanghai is unique in its approach to arts and culture, its embrace for diversity from the influx of transient workers, and its desire to reinvent itself on a daily basis. In addition, as we grapple with the growing threats of global warming and human sustainability, city-living in Shanghai has become a more sustainable alternative for those who wish to tread lightly on the environment.

Set within the Changning District in western Shanghai, Gubei is a bustling urban community with growing groups of international families and young professionals. Many are attracted to this area due to its relaxed lifestyle and the district’s dedicated effort in providing multi-cultural facilities for its residents. 700 meters in length and averaging 60m in width, the Promenade and the East, West Entry Parks are the centerpiece of a 35.6 hectare mixed-use residential project.  The linear site is divided into 3 blocks separated by two north-south neighborhood streets, with a development program of high-rise residential towers, varying from 15-28 stories in height with 2-story ground floor commercial uses.  The project maintains an open space ratio of over 60% with an FAR of 2.9.

Project Team Members:
SWA Project Team: Ying-Yu Hung, Gerdo Aquino, Hyun-Min Kim, Leah Broder, Kui-Chi Ma, Dawn Dyer, Yoonju Chang, Shuang Yu, Ryan Hsu, John Loomis, Jack Wu, Al Dewitt
Construction Documentation LDI: Shanghai Beidouxing Landscape Design Institute
Contractor: Shanghai Shangfang Luhua Co Ltd

Image Credits:
Renderings, SWA Group. Photography by Tom Fox.