Democratic Landscape Transformation 2023 - Team 6

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Background of your team

  • Please write a few words about your team.
  • Which linguistic and cultural perspectives are you representing? Which disciplinary backgrounds?

Caroline de Vries - Current IMLA Student, background in Sustainability Management, Environmental Studies, Comparative Literature. From NYC.

Samaneh Motadel: Current IMLA Student,My Bachelor and Master degrees was Architectural Engineering from Mazandaran Institute of Technology. I was born in Iran. The opportunity allowed me to further explore different concepts and gain more practical experience in real life contexts, namely working as a TA for two semesters assisting in the Architectural Design course in Mazandaran Institute of Technology.

Your Landscape Democracy Manifestoes

Here you can add links to the manifestoes you have presented on April 26

Examples of Landscape Activism

In the session on May 10 you will discuss examples of landscape activism from your own contexts. You can share the examples in this section (link, image and/or short explanation)

1) Environmental Justice Activism in NYC - North River Sewage Treatment Plant in West Harlem -Caroline de Vries

WE ACT for Environmental Justice Website WE ACT is a well-established, pioneering environmental justice group founded in West Harlem, NYC in 1988 around the North River Sewage Treatment Plant. Since then, they have been fully engaged as a national leader in environmental justice grassroots activism. In an interview I conducted with Peggy Shepard, one of the co-founders of WE ACT, she reported, "low-income communities and communities of color are being targeted for polluting facilities, so we realized we needed to institutionalize advocacy in our community."

The North River Wastewater Treatment Plant was being built on the Hudson River near 135th street, but it soon became clear that the plant was pollutants that were making people sick. Foul odors where reported everywhere between 123rd Street and 157th Street, yet was considered “negligible” by local NYC officials in an official government report.

Shepard describes the process of pulling-up-sleeves to make this happen:

“It meant holding monthly accountability meetings with the city, training community residents about the science of air quality and environmental exposures, helping them understand. And getting Mayor Dinkins to fund a study of the operations of the plant so we really understood what was going on, and what the plant needed to operate at its best.”

A report by noted environmentalist, Dr. Barry Commoner, was commissioned by NYC Mayor David Dinkins to study emissions from the plant. Commoner found that hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide were being released at levels over New York State air quality levels.

Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide smell strongly of rotten eggs, and when inhaled, deprive the brain of oxygen.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1988, Shepard, Charles Sutton, and David Paterson, who would later be the future governor of New York, blocked traffic on the Hudson Parkway to bring awareness to the unaddressed pollution. They were surrounded by protesters wearing gas masks. These three and four others were arrested and became known as the “Sewage Seven.”

Orchestrating this groundwork allowed WE ACT to file a lawsuit, WE ACT vs. NYC DEP, that resulted in a $55 million odor abatement plan to fix the sewage plant, and a $1.1 million environmental benefit fund for the West Harlem community.

Shepard stated that fixing the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant, “opened our eyes to other polluting entities in the district.”

Since then, WE ACT has grown to one of the largest environmental justice groups in the United States.

Presentation Link

2) Urbanization Activism in Iran - Babolrud river in the North of Iran - Samaneh Motadel

There is a river called Babolrud River, which is from historical and geographical perspective very important to people of the region of Mazandaran. The name of the river itself shows its importance.

In our language it means full of water, so it's obvious that in a country like Iran, which is almost dry, how important is this river. From the history of the city we understand that even the name of Babol comes from this river (full of water). The first one is rising water. This challenge usually happens in the winter in the underpass of the bridge. Heavy rain causes flooding, and due to the intensity of rain and the rising water level of the Babolrud river, part of the coastal road in the area of Moziraj bridge underpass is blocked due to rising and traffic and mobility is impossible in this place, even for residents of nearby apartments and houses.The city council came with of Dredging and applying huge steal doors to block the rivers rising and protect the road. We cannot say it it was not effective enough to solve the problem but I think the municipality needs to plan for Using water in agricultural land or storing it in the basement.Through recent years people, in fact benefactors and members of Parliament At the request of the people, built a pedestrian road for citizen. However it is not really from architectural view acceptable. One the main reason is that there are not enough lamps in the road and so our people are night people that come out with their families out at nights, as there are not enough lamps people don't like to spend time in this place. So I feel we need to engage the community and ask the council to pay more attention to this condition. I think if they don't pay more attention to this we will lose our important identity.On the other hand we may forget this river in a near future as our country entered to period of drought. It will affect the people as they will migrate form the city we don't have water and it will change the demographic and geographical environment for a long time.

The Role Play

In the session on May 17 you will present a small role play with your team. Please add here a short reflection on what you have learned from this play. The short list of landscape democracy 'movers and shakers' can be found here

1) Paula Horrigan (Caroline de Vries)

Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, New York USA, Director of Rust2Green

Research & Practice Areas: placemaking through community-engaged teaching, research and outreach

  • Community Based Planning And Design
  • Community-Engaged Learning
  • Democratic Design
  • Interior Design
  • Landscape Representation
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Place and Landscape Representation
  • Placemaking & Place Theory
  • Place-Based Design Projects
  • Service-Learning
  • Sustainable Communities & Development

How I think Paula Horrigan would respond to the situation in Babol, Iran (Samaneh's Manifesto):

“Horrigan believes that truly engaged participatory community design relies on partnering, co-learning and reciprocity between all involved.” (Source:

As a result, I believe Paula Horrigan would start with the following approach:

  • Focusing on local assets – not deficits.
    •  Part of this would involve work with community partners. One of the aspects of the mission statement of Rust 2 Green is "Cultivate an open and dynamic network. We can't do it alone." She would seek out potential stakeholders in the area and see if there are any mutual interests or opportunities for co-creation.
  • Participation for community dialogue and problem-solving
    • The single most common factor within Paula Horrigan's work is participatory action and community dialogue. The main goal for this is to promote individual and community health in the form of sustainability and city revitalization. Having this longer term vision and goal is a powerful way to bring people together.
  • Phenomenological approach / “site immersion":
    • One aspect of this would include visual landscape books – trying to make an immersive experience that can help dialogue and foster design thinking with others in the area. This is a technique to maximize participation.
  • Knowledge exchange & learning as you go.
    • I really liked the aspect of learning together of her work because it allows for truly site-specific work. I believe you have to learn from the site in order to effectively change it or reach new capabilities of the location. It also is a very humbling way to approach a project and makes the working process less hierarchical, which could also allow for more inclusion in the design process.
  • Working in small areas and watching the community transform over time.
    • When done effectively, the longer-term implication would be an area that is more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive. Paula Horrigan's work, particularly with the Rust 2 Green project, has shown that activating both small and large projects with the community for the sake of the community can lead to larger changes. It is very inspiring!


2) Jan Gehl (Nusrat Jahan)

3) Wangari Maathai (Samaneh Motadel)

How I think Wangari Maathai would respond to the situation in Babol, Iran (My Manifesto):

Wangari believes that use Green Belt Movement. Plant trees and respect plants, trees vegetation in the street and open spaces. I believe that Wangari start this Movement.

inspired by a theory from Wangari that allowed for the design of a vision and goals for urban life and create bicycle paths.

>>> All information on the phase B activities is compiled in this PDF

Readings, concepts and definitions

  • Start: April 5, 2023
  • Due: July 5, 2023

Working in your group, express your personal understanding of the relation of landscape and democracy in the form of a concept map with linking words or any other diagrammatic representation. Please make your maps very visual and not just verbal. Think critically about why one map differs from another

About concept mapping

Before starting the exercise you can read this article by Joseph D. Novak & Alberto J. Cañas about Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them. This paper gives a good explanation of how concept maps are conceived and developed.

You can use any tool you like for producing your concept map. However, since the result needs to be submitted digitally we recommend the following open source software for producing your maps:

Please add your concept map(s) here

  • Possible format: JPG (for wiki upload) or link to any other resource
  • You may add one map per team member or an integrated one
  • add as many additional materials as you need

Please finish with a short reflection

  • What are the similarities and differences in your team regarding your understanding of what democratic landscape transformation is?
  • In how far did the seminar lectures and readings help you to clarify this?
  • What will you take home from this seminar?

Some similarities within our team's diagrams include:

  • Community engagement
  • Sustainability
  • Public spaces

Some differences within our team's diagrams include:

  • Use of color / text to communicate ideas
  • Inclusion of geographical features
  • Details in aspects of human rights

The lectures helped us clarify these understandings by giving many examples and historical precedents for what has worked or not worked in the past. We were also able to see new innovations in practices that communities, companies, individuals are trying in their focus areas that are giving promising new approaches. An intercultural perspective on different ideas expanded and challenged the effectiveness of ideas and practices to further refine the understanding of landscape democracy in theory and practice in a wide variety of contexts.

We will take from this seminar connection made throughout Europe and the world. Discussing these ideas will help us learn how to be more inclusive and participatory in our design work and planning. The class helped learn news ways to encourage democratic ideas in the landscape. As future practicing landscape architects, these skills will be vital to make more inclusive and accessible landscapes that provide opportunities for all through regenerative, equitable design processes and solutions.