Session 6

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
12:00 - 1:30 pm
Carr Center Conference Room (R-219)

Alan Berger, Tenured Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design, MIT, Department of Urban Studies & Planning; Co-Director Landscape-Urbanism Program
Research Director-Center for Advanced Urbanism

Title: "Reclaiming Agricultural and Mining Waste: The Role of Design in Environmental Advocacy"

About the Talk: This lecture will explore two wetland reclamation projects in different parts of the world. 1) French Gulch Masterplan in Breckenridge, Colorado on abandoned mine land; 2) Italy’s famed Pontine Marshes on agricultural land. Original analysis and research from P-REX, Professor Alan Berger's design laboratory at MIT, will be presented.

Suggested Readings:

  • Berger, Alan; Brown, Case; Kousky, Carolyn; Zeckhauser, Richard. “The Challenge of Degraded Environments: How Common Biases Impair Effective Policy,” Risk Analysis (New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010): 2-11
  • Berger, Alan; Brown, Case. “A New Systemic Nature for Mussolini's Landscape Urbanism,” Dirt, edited by M. Born, H. Furján, and L. Jencks (Cambridge: MIT Press and Philadelphia: PennDesign, 2012): 252-261
  • Peter Dizikes, “Using plants to purify canal water: Researchers outline a natural way to clean Italy's polluted Pontine Marshes,” MIT News Office, April 7, 2010 
  • Marcia Stepanek, “Bringing Hypoxic Dead Zones Back To Life,” POP!TECH, (August 3, 2009) 
  • Gianmaria Sforza, Matteo Poli, “An Interview with Alan Berger,” Abitare (February 10, 2009) 
  • Berger, Alan. Systemic Design© Can Change The World (Netherlands: SUN Architecture, 2009)
  • Elisabeth Rosenthal, “In Italy, A Redesign of Nature to Clean It,” The New York Times, International Section, Sept. 21, 2008

Bio: Alan Berger founded and directs P-REX, The Project for Reclamation Excellence (, a multi-disciplinary research effort at MIT focusing on the design and reuse of waste landscapes worldwide. By using low-angle aerial photography, maps, and other graphic evidence, Berger visually reveals evidence and trends of landscape waste throughout the world—from public health hazards such as abandoned mine pits, mountains of slag, and pools of cyanide, to vacant land, landfills, military installations, and places associated with high and low-density urbanization. How these sites are cleansed, valued and designed for adaptive reuse at local and regional scales is Berger's main area of interest. His work emphasizes the link between our consumption of natural resources, and the waste and destruction of landscape, to help us better understand how to proceed with redesigning our wasteful places for future productive uses and more intelligent outcomes. He has coined the term “Drosscape” and “Systemic Design” to describe the reintegration of disvalued landscapes into our urbanized territories and regional ecologies. Berger currently serves as a design consultant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Brownfield and Superfund site revitalization in the American landscape.