On January 25, 2023, three experts in urban design and forestry from Texas Trees Foundation (TTF) were invited to present to the Global Sustainability Group and the internationally renowned architectural firm NBBJ, a design team working on TTF’s Southwest Medical District Transformation project. Abstract below.
Lannie McClelan, SWMD Program Manager
Rose Jones, Ph.D., Medical Anthropologist, Research & Strategy in Urban Green Health
Rachel McGregor, Urban Forestry Manager
Wicked Problems: Innovations and Shifts in Urban Design
Design professionals are increasingly being called upon to plan interventions that reduce the effect of urban heat islands (UHI) where city temperatures can be 15°F to 20°F warmer than surrounding rural and suburban areas. One of the “hidden” challenges associated with UHI is that it is a “wicked problem.” First coined in 1973 by Horst Rittel, a design theorist, to capture the complexities and challenges of addressing planning and social policy problems, wicked problems are characterized by their high degree of complexity and uncertainty.
Wicked problems are problems that have many interdependent factors; knowledge about the problem tends to be fragmented, incomplete, and evolving; and conventional, business-as-usual interventions are known to fail. Experts agree that innovative approaches, holistic frameworks, and transdisciplinary collaborations are critical to effectively addressing wicked problems such as UHI. Drawing upon Texas Trees Foundation’s expertise and experience in urban forestry, this presentation focuses on one of its current projects in the Southwestern Medical District (SWMD) to highlight the challenges of UHI and some of the unique approaches being used to ameliorate urban heat through design. Key topics include urban ecosystems, evidence-based design, and public health.