Skip to content

Central to planning and design are questions of how possible solutions to environmental problems and conflicts are conceived and communicated, as well as the decision-making frameworks necessary to fully represent the perspectives, needs, and priorities of the spectrum of communities and stakeholders.

Vancouver’s dense West End, just west of the side stream environmental design studies on Vancouver Harbour, slated for even higher towers and a larger human population.

Critical theory for environmental planning and design extending to site-based art lays the basis for making better decisions about communities, landscapes, space, resources, technologies, practices, and ethical issues. Central to planning and design are questions of how possible solutions to environmental problems and conflicts can be effectively conceived and communicated. Culture, both conservation of material and non-material heritage and contemporary art, are crucial parts of strategies for sharing information, experiences, and scenarios.

This aerial scene of Mount Maxwell Ecological Reserve and adjacent park areas was mede on the 21st of May, 2001. Much of this mosaic of woodlands and forests is a vestigial cultural landscape, with significant levels of food production, that was formerly savannah and the product of regular Cowichan burning and other forms of management.

Typically, environmental planning scholars, such as myself, combine university teaching and research with collaborative private practices and public service (extending to activism). I have worked in a number of academic institutions, from British Columbia to the Middle East, and have consulted to and advised a number of nongovernmental and governmental agencies and organisations. Much of my research has been funded by grants from agencies of the Canadian government and the United Nations.

Twelve centuries ago, the Makbarat al Sahabi site, near Dibba on the border of Oman and the United Arab Emirates, saw an important battle in the history of Islam. This heritage landscape was recognized and conserved until recently but many of the tombstones have been disturbed or destroyed in the construction of a spa on the adjacent beach. This photograph was taken on the 12th of May, 2006 by Gordon Brent Ingram.

The core of my research, as a scholar of environmental planning and design, has been exploration of wider ranges of ways to integrate information from the natural and social sciences, extending well into unresolved historical legacies and contemporary culture, into decision-making frameworks. And community and environmental planning and design, in many parts of the world, have often been under increasing pressure to be more democratic and transparent. My investigations have been derived from a paradigm that can be termed critical ecosystem management – an approach that bridges comprehensive understandings of the biophysical world with human political economy and culture. I often rely on the interdisciplinary research frameworks of landscape ecology derived from efforts to understand the highly modified ecosystems of Europe but that can also generate insights into the aboriginal landscapes of the Americas and many other parts of the world. The contexts of my research have differed widely but have often involved the wilder margins of the Pacific Rim, the cusp of the Middle East and South Asia, and the Sahel of Africa. Much of my urban field work has been in formerly marginal, and now relatively liveable and affluent cities, such as Vancouver and Dubai.

This chocolate lily, Fritallaria lanceolata , was a major aboriginal staple and grows on an important cultural site for the Tsawout Nation, Belly-Rising-Up, in Central Saanich on Vancouver Island. Belly-Rising-Up is threatened by encroachment for a trailer park and associated drainage field, to the west, and rising sea levels at its base. This photograph was taken on 24 April 2005 by Gordon Brent Ingram.

Within and outside of these metropolitan areas, my work as an environmental planner has often been focused on establishment, management and design of networks of public space from open space to parks to other protected areas as crucial forms of local ecological and cultural infrastructure. Any many of the land values with which I have been concerned have been those that have been most difficult to value in terms of short-term economic benefits: habitat, biological diversity, genetic resources, ecological services, cultural heritage especially vernacular, and ‘space’ for expression of contemporary culture including by and for marginalised social groups.

University City in Sharjah (with one of its institutions being American University of Sharjah (AUS)) is on the outskirts of metropolitan Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. AUS has nurtured some of the most creative thinking on sustainability in the Arabian Gulf region — but still only supports a few courses in environmental planning and related critical theory.

Today’s environmental planning and design comprised the core of earlier forms of modern urban planning that emerged in the late Nineteenth Century. Today much of conventional ‘planning’ is more preoccupied with policy and economic development than integrated decision-making about space and resources at a wide range of scales. And when contemporary architecture has moved into neighbourhood and regional planning it has often been without the necessary environmental research and analysis. Unfortunately, contemporary geography, where new research and intervention methodologies could be debated, has remained largely adverse to critical explorations of decision-making frameworks and design processes based on explorations of place. These three structural failings have made it difficult for many to thinking sufficiently comprehensively as to be able to formulate viable initiatives for `sustainability’. Today, much of conventional environmental planning and design has been relegated to and preoccupied with reworking so-called ‘green’ initiatives that have been based on the hype of politics and marketing rather than the careful assessment of natural and human communities and associated culture and political economy necessary for any kind of sustainability.

This satellite composite (1992 Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper) is of the Salt Range in the north-west of Pakistan’s Punjab Province and area with strategic remaining fragments of dry woodland and subtropical forest increasingly threatened by clearing, wood gathering, and climate change.

An under-lying theme of much of my scholarship in environmental planning and design has been the identification of institutional gaps in and obstacles to comprehensive decision-making frameworks and the redefined need for more comprehensive environmental planning and design. The imperative to redefine the importance of environmental planning and design has become more pressing as the powers of governments decline in this phase of globalisation. Our advocacy, as environmental planners and designers, for the necessity of ‘inter-disciplinarity’ and comprehensiveness in thinking and decision-making remains a radical and often contentious position in both scholarship and academies – especially as many contemporary proposals for so-called ‘sustainability’ have been reduced to pursuing facile solutions for the short-term.

Lookout is a 1999 work of public art by Christos Dikeakos & Noel Best that lists and sometimes describes the heritage resources that have been lost on Vancouver’s False Creek that was heavily redeveloped with towers over the last 15 years. This photograph was taken by Gordon Brent Ingram on the 27th of July 2004.

Another element of my scholarship in environmental planning and design has been the exploration of more comprehensive, rigorous, and supple forms of stakeholder analysis. Too many of the contemporary frameworks for environmental decision-making, especially in countries with limited human rights protections, neglect and ignore various marginal social groups as ‘stakeholders’ for sites, areas, resources and even popular culture. A tenet of environmental planning and design is that decision-making frameworks must have a function to recognize additional, and typically under-served, stakeholder groups. Much of my work on poorly acknowledged stakeholder groups — and how ignoring them generates conflicts, exacerbates injustices and impedes implementation and how involving them directly is key to viable communities and public space – has been of two very different types of social groups: indigenous communities and sexual minorities. I have had extensive experience with both of these diverse sets of ‘study groups’ through growing up with many aboriginal people on Vancouver Island as the son of a Métis woman and as a gay man who has been active in a range of projects around social justice and sexuality from gay rights and international human rights advocacy to queer politics and the relatively under-politicized social networks that have emerged in Canada in the wake of recent legal victories. So much of my scholarship on stakeholder analysis for environmental planning and design has been derived from the study groups with whom and the communities in which I still live.

This portal is at Al Jabreen a major centre for higher learning built in the Hajar Mountains of Oman beginning in AD 1671. This photograph was taken by Gordon Brent Ingram on the 4th of January, 2004.

I am in my third decade of university teaching and have had the privilege of having been able to develop and teach lecture courses, studios and seminars in some of the finest and most innovative institutions in the world. But like most environmental planners and designers in recent decades, I have only taught in about two-thirds of my total career. And given changing environmental conditions, public discourses, and institutional climates, my courses are often re-worked for the times. And after three decades of teaching, much of the content remains preoccupied with the need for comprehensive methods of environmental planning and design.

Arrests and trials to re-enforce imperial hierarchies continue to have echo in the urban fabric in cities such as Vancouver as illustrated by this page from the May 1914 charge book for provincial gaol.

This page describes more conventional scholarship; the research and teaching aspects of my work. Other pages in this domain extend to Gordon Brent Ingram’s

1. curriculum vitae, contact information and current projects, http://www.gordonbrentingram.ca/ ;

2. professional and activist projects,

http://www.gordonbrentingram.ca/studiesdesigns ;

3. photographic and related work in contemporary site-based and public art, http://www.gordonbrentingram.ca/photobased ; and

4. an informal studio blog reporting on events and work-in-progress is entitled ‘designs for The Terminal City’ and is located at, http://www.gordonbrentingram.ca/theterminalcity .

This well in a recently established Tuareg garden in the village of Alkari on the Bagzane Plateau in the Aïr Mountains, Niger shows a remarkable amount of contemporary innovative rather than tradition. This photograph was taken in November 1986 by Gordon Brent Ingram as part of a survey of agriculture, remaining woodland habitat, biodiversity, and human communities in the parts of the Sahel effected by the 1984 - 6 drought and famine.

Gordon Brent INGRAM BFA, PhD

321 Railway Street #108 Vancouver V6A 1A4 CANADA

email:

studio[at symbol]gordonbrentingram.ca

gordon_brent_ingram1966[at symbol]yahoo.ca

Heritage conservation increasingly required environmental planning to link   vulnerable and heavily visited sites as part of broader open space and   cultural infrastructure. One example of this more comprehensive heritage   conservation planning are the debates about how to protect the landscapes   behind the Taj Mahal, in Agra, Uttar Pradesh,. This photography was taken   by Gordon Brent Ingram on the 17th of March, 2007.

Heritage conservation increasingly required environmental planning to link vulnerable and heavily visited sites as part of broader open space and cultural infrastructure. One example of this more comprehensive heritage conservation planning are the debates about how to protect the landscapes behind the Taj Mahal, in Agra, Uttar Pradesh,. This photography was taken by Gordon Brent Ingram on the 17th of March, 2007.