Carmela Canzonieri, PhD.




Carmela Canzonieri, PhD.
Laurea Architecture, University "La Sapienza', Rome; MLA, Harvard University; Ph.D. Urban and Regional Planning, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

My background encompasses both urban and ecological design.

I started my career as an architect in Rome. I also did postgraduate studies in historic preservation. I could see first hand the evolution of the city form.

My interests expanded from architecture as pieces, to combination of pieces as urban design, and to the supporting physical-social systems. After my MLA at Harvard GSD, I started to focus on large ecological systems and the issues related to their change in time.

My Ph.D. research in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts developed a multi-scale approach for contextual urban eco-regional planning.


Urban Ecology Theory and Practice

Urban form has looked for its sources at the intersection of architecture and urban planning. A new dimension can be brought in when deriving urban form from landscape ecological analysis. A landscape ecological approach to urban activities redefines roles of planners, designers and communities. It also explores the two sides of the relationship ?sustainability of form ? form of sustainability?, which means to evaluate for each configuration, at the city, neighborhood or site scale, the sustainability of that given form on one side, and on the other one to investigate what the form of sustainability, or the shape emerging from sustainability concepts, would look like in each case.

Incorporating landscape ecology in the urban vision both fulfills the task of not degrading ecosystems, and at the same time gives planners and designer an instrument to accomplish social goals of balancing social and environmental inequity.

The science of landscape ecology and the design field may share common interests when deriving urban and landscape form from landscape ecological analysis. The holding of given natural processes and the strategic placement of city parts, determine healthy and quality outcomes. The threat to landscape integrity and the threat to urban quality may share a combined solution. Heterogeneous landscapes supporting healthy biodiversity, appropriate public spaces supporting a variety of meaningful experiences may be achieved with the establishment of a connective frame of significant places, establishing both ecological resilience and cultural persistence.

Sustainable Communities

My studies have looked for example at: metropolitan Denver area, in relation to the South Platte River; Boulder and the surrounding ditch system; the relationship of the Grand River, Canada and the urbanized region around it, the metropolitan Great Toronto Area and its rivers and waterfront, the design of public spaces in towns in Europe.

The following are summaries of some of my recent studies that explore the ecological approach to urbanization of landscapes in different scenarios: at the regional level, at the interface between city and open space, in the urban context.

Capri Leone

Capri Leone is small town in northern Sicily off the beaten path of coastal tourism. With a view of the Aeolian Islands, and a view to renewing its own character, the town solicited ideas via a design competition. One of the winning entries with a comprehensive town plan was designed by myself and a team from Sicily.

Quarries Landscape

A current research/professional practice project is the very challenging design of a peri-urban open space out of partially abandoned quarries in the city of Comiso, Italy. The approach I am taking is rooted in the landscape ecological approach to an urban area. While the City was thinking of two discrete park sites, my design approach looks beyond the park, at the landforms and hydrology of the city, and uncovers the ancient waterways and riverbeds, to connect the open space system into a coherent design that surfaces the history of the city?s natural systems. While the city is now turning its back to the quarries, the design reverses the quarry areas as the restructuring element for the urban design of the town.

The South Platte River, through people and places

This study presents an examination of conditions prevalent along the South Platte River in Colorado throughout the twelve miles stretch within the Denver metropolitan area. It proposes a strategic plan for the rehabilitation of the river and illustrative design scenarios, which address a variety of typological conditions found within the corridor. The river has not been recognized as a physical part of the city, nor is seen as a meaningful component of the life of its inhabitants. The lack of definition of the space along the channel creates a tear that breaks the city in two rather than a place that embraces the two banks. The study encourages the development of a symbiotic relationship between the river and the city so that the process of reclamation from a physically abandoned and socially neglected area to an integrated city core may begin.

Boulder Valley Ditches Study

This study examines the landscape shaped by the irrigation system built in the past century in this Colorado valley. Ditches now disappear when irrigated land is converted to other uses, when development and apathy hide them in pipes. When ditches disappear established ecological functions are erased, history canceled and a distinctive local image lost. The study presents a range of possibilities for the enhancement of the ditches as a continuous system that gives form to the region and as a distinctive design characteristic integrated in the urban fabric.

The Haudenosaunee Reserve Project

This study looks at the changes due to increasing urbanization in the lower Grand River watershed in Ontario, with a focus on Six Nation Reserve. People are struggling to match their environmental beliefs with compatible activities that can sustain their existence. The development of ecological plans for the natural system and of culturally responsible designs for the built environment is the crucial factor for the persistence of Haudenosaunee identity.

Toronto Greenroofs

In December the city of Toronto unveiled a greenroof initiative aimed at increasing the number of greenroofs citywide. I spoke about the idea of planning not simply for more greenroofs but, using landscape ecological principles, creating specific patterns of greenroofs within the city, linked to ecological benefits as part of a city-wide strategy.

The importance of the landscape ecological approach in this case is that it enables planners to have a spatial strategy that can yield more ecological benefits for each dollar spent, than a plan that simply encourages greenroofing without differentiating their single and joint ecological impacts. I have enhanced this analysis, with an expanded emphasis on urban biodiversity effects and submitted it to Urban Habitats, a young, web-based, open-access, peer reviewed publication.

Don Watershed Regeneration Council

I am using my appointment as an advisor on the Don Watershed Regeneration Council as an opportunity to be involved in the participatory dynamics of the landscape ecological professional in the community advisory sphere. In this capacity I have the chance to see specific landscape ecological urban design issues and to understand the dynamics of their resolution at the very local level. The contribution from my research consists of active participation in situation where the landscape ecological analysis yields some suggestions that counter a proposed plan.


Ecology into Art -- Ecological patterns are embedded in landscapes at a variety of scales. I have photographed these patterns as expressing complex scientific concepts in artistic language. In large landscapes or micro-details these patterns support theories of landscape ecological mosaics and hierarchy.


ENVS 6123 -- City Form and Natural Processes - Ecological Approaches to Urban Design -- Concepts of "ecology" and "urban" have taken different meanings in different contexts. The course will explore distribution of human and natural activities to position urban design within a frame compatible with landscape ecology and spatial urban planning.

ENVS 6108 --- Landscape Ecology in Planning Students learn ecological principles of landscape structure, function,and change as the scientific basis for planning and design of transformation of natural and built landscape.

ENVS 6321 (Fall, 2003) Environmental Planning and Design Workshop -- The workshop links the research on the Six Nation Indian Territory to a studio setting where students from different interest areas work in interdisciplinary teams as ecologists, physical planners, urban designers, policy analysts, etc. to synthesize complementing attributes and develop balanced environments.

ELD 3740 Urban Natural Systems -- This course examines natural factors in the particular condition of being related to urban contexts. Urban biophysical environments are approached specifically from the perspective of landscape ecology, landscape architecture and environmental planning and design.









Environmental Planning & Design Workshop

Urban Natural Systems

City Form and Natural Processes Ecological Approaches to Urban Design

Landscape Ecology in Planning