Wild Zones: Redesigning Chicago's Landscape Ordinance

Conor O’Shea is presenting at the 2019 Wild Things Conference.

Date: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Time: 1:30 - 2:00 pm

Location: Rooms 54, 56, 58; Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N River Rd, Rosemont, IL 60018

Title: Wild Zones: Redesigning Chicago's Landscape Ordinance


This presentation will summarize an effort to rethink Chicago’s municipal landscape ordinance through the lens of design and urban wildlife. The speculative effort is part of a fall 2018 semester-long graduate landscape architecture studio at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The eleven students and myself (the instructor), are currently using the tools and methods of landscape architecture to imagine new opportunities for urban wildlife in Chicago and to enrich relationships between humans and non-humans in Chicago.

Chicago’s landscape ordinance, which the City first introduced in 1991 and revised in 1999, provides guidelines for the use of vegetation to improve the visual character of the city’s parking lots, parkways, and other everyday spaces. While it does consider some ecological effects, such as reducing the urban heat island effect, it does not accommodate unplanned wildlife encounters that spring up in various parts of the city from time to time. Wildlife considerations are conspicuously absent from Chicago’s landscape ordinance. The studio seeks to establish conditions for safely accommodating the wildlife that already exists among us and in some cases, entirely new habitats.

Four phases comprise the studio. The first, a seminar of readings from contemporary landscape architecture theory, urban theory, urban ecology, and Chicago history. The second, a series of design precedents, landscape ordinance precedents, and the study of unplanned urban ecological phenomena, such as the bats in Austin Congress Avenue Bridge bats. The third phase involves fieldwork in Chicago. The fourth and fifth phases challenge students to produce radical visions of Chicago’s future and to rewrite the ordinance. While the outcomes of the studio are in progress at the time of writing this abstract, the presentation will tentatively include the outcomes of the entire studio, including visions of more wild future Chicago as well as visual and written samples of the rewritten ordinance.

Conor O'Shea
Resilient Urban Futures: A Symposium on Design and Planning

As co-organizer of the Resilient Urban Futures Symposium at the University of Illinois, Conor O’Shea is leading a panel titled “The Urbanism of E-Commerce.”

Date: Friday, February 22, 2019

Time: 1:15 - 2:30 pm

Location: Temple Buell Hall, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Urbanism of E-Commerce

Since the turn of the century, the discipline of landscape architecture has become an indispensable tool for cities seeking to lure jobs and investment to downtown areas and nearby neighborhoods. In the United States, alongside iconic skyscrapers, high-profile works of landscape architecture such as the High Line, Millennium Park, and the Chicago Riverwalk symbolize their respective cities. While urban investment and landscape architectural disciplinary activity has focused on these spaces, an equally as important, yet understudied, trend has emerged: the development of vast areas for the storage and coordination of e-commerce. These "landscapes of logistics" are the corollary to walkable streets, high-profile parks, next-day shipping, and international supply chains that some urban residents so often enjoy. The rapidly emerging forms they take, from the single-story Amazon warehouse built on former cropland to the city warehouse located to accelerate last-mile delivery, are negatively affecting the ecological and social health of their context. Can landscape architecture and design apply urban expertise to the urbanism of e-commerce to promote healthy, resilient communities? This panel gathers designers to take stock of these recent transformations and discuss ways in which design can effect positive change.

  • Moderator: Conor O’Shea, Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, U of I

  • Julie Cidell, Professor, Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science, U of I

  • Ali Fard, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, University of Virginia

  • Ghazal Jafari, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, University of Virginia

  • Clare Lyster, Associate Professor, College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, UIC

Click here for more information.

Conor O'Shea
Situating Flyover Territory

LAST Lab alum and Illinois graduate Grant Penfield-Haugen (MLA ’17) recently completed a traveling fellowship title “Situating Flyover Territory: Identity + Mobility in the Midwest.” His visits to Cleveland, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and St. Louis included interviews with business owners, politicians, and civic leaders, as well as photography. 

Below is a copy of his research statement:

“The continual urbanization of the United States is leading to the emergence of megaregions throughout the country, including the Midwest. Despite its common pejorative as the flyover country between the East and West Coasts, the Midwest is too large to be recognized as a stable or singular identity. What and where is the Midwest? 
This project explores the intersection between identity and mobility in “Flyover Territory,” deploying various mapping techniques and methods to understand both territory and urban space by the networks that pass through them. By spatializing the flow of people, critical nodes, synergies and actors are revealed, illustrating how these infrastructural networks influence the identities within Flyover Territory. The essence of place within this region is explored, illuminating how natural landscape and physical dimensions come together to influence the identity. When assembled, these cartographies serve to produce a new imagery of Flyover Territory. 
Furthermore, this project investigates entrepreneurial and economic opportunities using four Flyover Territory cities: Cleveland, Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Louis. As the price of living becomes increasingly high on the East and West Coasts, coupled with the detrimental effects of climate change and natural disasters that are so pervasive on both of these coasts, it’s inevitable that the middle of the country is well situated for future growth. By visiting these cities, underlying conditions upon which new realities will be written are exposed, demonstrating the evolution of urban territories and how new settlement patterns are shaping the urban core.”

Conor O'Shea
Landscapes, Health, & Healing Symposium

On Saturday, July 1st, Conor O'Shea and LAST Lab research assistants Zoey Wang and Grant Penfield-Haugen presented at the Landscapes, Health, & Healing Symposium, hosted by the University of Illinois Department of Landscape Architecture. Their presentation, "Logistical Strategies," proposes new visions for North American logistics landscapes.

Conor O'Shea
Conor O'Shea Receives Graham Foundation Grant

The Graham Foundation has awarded Conor O'Shea a grant for the book Dialogues on Urbanization: Emerging Landscapes. The forthcoming book is co-edited with Martin Felsen through Actar Publishers.

"Since the turn of the century, the design disciplines have increasingly adapted their research and design methods to tackle the complexity and speed of twenty-first century urbanization. Among architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and planning, landscape has emerged as a common framework for understanding and designing urban processes. Dialogues on Urbanization: Emerging Landscapes takes stock of recent advancements in landscape architectural research methods, design strategies, and representational modes by featuring eleven pairs of built and speculative projects, accompanied by interviews between their designers and the editors. By providing an overview of the recent past, the book serves as a foundation for new lines of inquiry from the design disciplines into twenty-first century urbanization. The collection underscores landscape architecture's considerable contribution towards reimagining urban systems, such as mobility networks, agricultural production, and waste flows, at multiple scales, from the planetary to the local."

Zoey Wang
Sasaki Day Award: Zoey Wang

LAST research assistant Zoey Wang has received a Sasaki Day award from the University of Illinois Department of Landscape Architecture for her thesis "Butterfly / Urbanism."

"Butterfly / Urbanism proposes to enhance the Monarch Butterfly habitats through a new approach to agriculture economy as well as strategic urban design. This project asserts that, in order to integrate Monarch Butterfly habitat with a new urbanism system, precise ecological, unconventional agricultural, as well as social/economic design strategies must first be developed. The project reflects the migration of the Monarch Butterfly as a dynamic flow which could elicit economic opportunities in the territories they stopover. By strategically planting milkweeds and nectar plants, this project controls the Monarch Butterfly migration route by manipulating the proximity to their habitats and catalyzes the food chain. What comes with the catalyzed food chain are opportunities of milkweed economy and entomophagy economy which piggybacks on the existing economic system."

Zoey Wang
The Logistical City Workshop

On Tuesday, February 7th, Conor O'Shea presented at The Logistical City Workshop at the UIC Institute of Humanities as part of a day-long workshop organized by Clare Lyster, Associate Professor, UIC Architecture.

"We live in an era where logistical systems have become central to how we work and live. We now think nothing of dropping a priority package in a drop box in Chicago at 9:30pm knowing it will arrive in L.A. by 7:30am the next morning. Talking in real time with a friend in a remote location via video-telephony is taken for granted, using nanosecond transmission signals is fundamental in the financial industry, while ordering groceries with an app and having them delivered later the same day is the norm rather than the exception. Given there is so much material and information flow in and around the spaces we inhabit, one could argue that infrastructural systems and their associated procedures are now the primary shapers of the urban environment. Yet, there are few, if any, intellectual models in place for architecture to contemplate the city from this perspective.

The one-day workshop, featuring national and local scholars as well as faculty from the UIC School of Architecture will review the social, political, material and cultural implications of logistical procedures for architecture and urbanism and debate ways in which logistical intelligence could be deployed, or re-routed toward the future design of the city. Speakers will be asked to present a definition of the Logistical City through the lens of their own unique research.

 The workshop is sponsored by the UIC Institute for the Humanities as part of the initiative, Cutting Edge Issues in the Humanities and run in conjunction with a year-long graduate research seminar and design studio, titled, The Logistical City, currently being conducted by Associate Professor, Clare Lyster, at the school of architecture in 2016/2017." 

Conor O'Shea