MSU Special Plenary Lecture

30 Years of Finding Lost Space

Professor Roger Trancik, FASLA
Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture and City and Regional Planning
Cornell University

Abstract: The question of ‘lost space’ persists today in the modern city worldwide - at many different scales: abandoned industrial zones, wastelands along highways, railways, waterways, vacant sites cleared for urban renewal, vast areas paved over for the automobile, unoccupied/underutilized buildings and empty lots, gaps and barriers between neighborhoods and districts. While these conditions are problematic, they offer important opportunities for landscape architects, planners and urban designers to transform contemporary city landscapes and to revitalize the heritage of urban places. Even the most unproductive and unappealing landscapes may hide a rich history, the layers of which can be revealed and expressed through research and design investigation.
Reclaiming sites lost to productive use can improve city form if principles of sustainable urbanism are applied: figure-ground relationships between built and open; scale and proportion of public space relative to human use; coherent linkages and connections between natural and cultural resources; integration of old and new… Designers and planners should look at lost spaces as a normal part of a city’s evolution. As such, they provide grounds for testing new spatial strategies while respecting regional and local traditions.
This presentation will explore the lost space theme through Professor Trancik’s academic and professional projects. First published 30 years ago in his textbook Finding Lost Space: Theories of Urban Design, the question remains timely and relevant today in the practice of landscape architecture.

Brief Biography of the Speaker: Roger Trancik, FASLA, is professor emeritus of landscape architecture and city and regional planning at Cornell University, and founding principal of Urban Design Consultants, Ithaca New York. He has served on the Cornell faculty since 1982, and from 1970 to 1982 was professor of urban design at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
Roger has held visiting professorships at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Denmark, Wuhan University in China, and was professor-in-residence in Rome for Cornell and the University of Colorado. Trancik has published several national award-winning books including Finding Lost Space, and Hamlets of the Adirondacks. His work Layers of Rome, an educational CD-ROM sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, won the national Communications Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects. Professor Trancik has to his record 45 professional planning studies, journal articles and scholarly papers on urban design, and has lectured at many universities worldwide. He has been keynote speaker at international conferences and consultant to a variety of development corporations and planning commissions. In 1990, Professor Trancik was elected Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and in 2004 appointed U.S. Senior Fulbright Scholar to Panama, Central America. Trancik served as chair of NEA and NYSCA Design Arts panels, City of Cambridge Zoning Board, ASLA National Committees and U.S. Fulbright Screening Committee. He has authored/curated art gallery exhibits on Roman Views and Panama’s Garden Cities and has worked with leading professional design and planning firms including Sasaki Associates, Ralph Erskine Architects and CBT Architects.
During his years as faculty member at Cornell and Harvard he taught core-curriculum lecture and seminar courses on urban design, landscape architecture and planning and conducted numerous graduate and undergraduate studios in New York, Boston, Panama, China, Rome and Scandinavia.

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