Finding a Balance Through Urban Design Interventions

Although many consider growing up an only child to be negative, it has really shaped who I am today and, for that, I am thankful. My childhood expanded my imagination to impossible limits. It has instilled in me a desire to learn, to explore, and it has given me the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that is so needed in the urban design field today.

I began my undergraduate studies as an architecture student at Kent State University in Ohio, where I grew up. I can remember the exact moment when I knew I wanted to become an architect; during a field trip in junior high, I happened to look out the car window to see a stunning hilltop home and I knew, right then, that I wanted to design one. I had to become an architect, it was my dream. But times change and so did my perspective.

Arno River in Florence, Italy. Image via C. Yunker.

Arno River in Florence, Italy. Image via C. Yunker.

It wasn’t until I switched majors to architectural studies and spent four months living in Florence, Italy, designing an artisan village along the River Arno, that I realized my design interests lie beyond the footprint of a single building. I finally had the opportunity to design the space between buildings and suddenly, my imagination found unfamiliar territory to explore and more room to create. At the same time, I began to learn about the environmental impacts of my design interventions, which is when my sensitivity and passion for urban nature and ecological design methods really began to develop.

Now, three years later, I am working on my Master’s Capstone Project exploring the ways in which designers can use nature, with all its individual elements and processes, in the adaptive reuse of abandoned industrial sites to solidify cultural identity and ensure its durability. For me, designing is about finding a balance between man, nature, and culture in favor of a more harmonious relationship for the future.

High Line Park, New York City. Image via Flickr.

As a future urban designer and researcher, I plan on working towards this balance by promoting the integration of nature in the urban environment through new, creative, and resonating ways. For me, its not about complete redevelopment, but reclaiming existing infrastructure. The adaptive reuse of structures shows innovation and creativity in a way that embraces the past, serves the present, and points towards the future.

My design work concentrates less on short-term results, and more in favor of a long-term process. This provides a level of flexibility that I believe will help to ensure a better quality of life for future generations and the sustainability of growing cities. In our increasingly detached and fast-paced society, it’s nature that makes time salient, keeping us in touch with our humanity. I consider the natural environment to be our original home. It’s time to get back to our roots.

Feature Image: The Bug Dome in Shenzhen, China, a social retreat where weak architecture is the mediator between human nature and nature itself. Image Via Movez, Wikipedia.

Copyediting by Daniel Cordero

About The Author

is a Master’s candidate in Urban Design at the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative in NE Ohio. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies from Kent State university in May 2013. In her down time, Abby loves to travel and explore new places. After many years of studying architecture, urban design, and ecology, she is excited to share her passions and experiences with others while trying to improve the sustainability of cities for the future.