Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Design

First Advisor

Victoria Derr

Second Advisor

Sharon K. Collinge


Conventional urban growth tends to happen irrespective of environmental context, causing the degradation of ecologically functional and diverse landscapes. This trend separates people from native ecological processes and the inherent benefits they provide (McHarg 1969). Urban systems become unsustainable by failing to incorporate the economic, cultural and ecological values of natural features, relying instead on outsourced energy and high-maintenance infrastructure. In contrast, concepts of ecologically supportive landscapes inspire the design and growth of cities in alignment with natural features. Recognizing the value that increased green space has for the improvement of urban ecologies, this thesis focuses on the restoration of existing natural features to sustain local ecologies and cultural connection to the landscape.

Restoring and enhancing natural features can help society understand that cities are not built upon a blank slate, but are part of a functional ecological landscape (Beatley & Manning 1997). Urban settings that utilize natural processes and express aesthetic qualities of nature demonstrate cultural awareness of environmental context. These visual cues build a sense of place by connecting people to the local ecology, which is the key to sustaining the integrity of local natural landscapes across the globe. With this thesis I introduce an adaptable framework through a case study of Copenhagen, Denmark, that municipalities may use to evaluate and design ecological urban landscapes. This framework defines ‘systems of nature’ based on trends that support landscape identity, providing site-specific interventions that inform local and systemwide restoration efforts.