You are here:Home/Research/ Garden and Landscape Studies/ Scholarly Activities/ River Cities: Historical and Contemporary

River Cities: Historical and Contemporary

Dumbarton Oaks
May 8  –  9, 2015
Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium, Thaisa Way, Symposiarch

Organized by Thaisa Way, Dumbarton Oaks senior fellow and professor of landscape architecture at University of Washington.

Resilience and adaptability are key elements of viable urbanism. But how have these concepts been understood historically? And how do they shape the design and stewardship of urban landscapes today? The dynamic relationships between cities and their rivers, a landscape of potentially critical adaptability and resilience, is the focus of “River Cities: Historical and Contemporary.” Building on the emergence of urban humanities and urban landscape history, we propose to consider the urban river as a city-making landscape deserving of careful reading and analysis: past, present, and future.

The subject of this symposium builds on a new multiyear initiative in Urban Landscape Studies, which Dumbarton Oaks is launching in 2015 with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Its principal goal is to create a dialogue between designers and scholars to address the landscape consequences of advancing urbanization. With this task in mind, the 2015 symposium aims to bring together the work of contemporary designers with the historical perspectives of scholars, encouraging practitioners and historians to bridge the gaps between their modes of thinking.


  • Anthony R. Acciavatti (Manifest: A Journal of American Architecture and Urbanism), "Dynamic Agropolis: The Case of Allahabad, India."
  • Brian Davis and Amelia Jensen (Landscape Architecture, Cornell University), “Rivers as Urban Borderlands: A Thousand Years in São Paulo”
  • Ray Gastil (City Planning, City of Pittsburgh), Rethinking Urban Performance: Pittsburgh’s Rivers
  • Edith Katz with Ceylan Belek Ombregt (Landscape Architect, Martha Schwartz Partners, London), “DON’T GO NEAR THE WATER !  Re-Imagining China’s Urban Waterfronts"
  • David Malda (Landscape Architect, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, Seattle), “Landscape Narratives and the San Antonio River”
  • Michael Miller (History, University of Miami), “Lyon: The Meaning of a River City”
  • Elizabeth Mossop (Landscape Architecture, Louisiana State University) and Carol McMichael Reese (Architectural History, Tulane University), “New Orleans, its River, and its River’s Delta”
  • Alexander Robinson and Vittoria Di Palma (Architecture, University of Southern California), “Willful Waters: Negotiating a Contested Course for an Arid River and City”
  • Pieter Schengenga (Landscape Architect, H+N+S Landscape Architects), “New Landscapes for Dutch River Cities—From Climate Change and Room for the River to Environmental Quality”
  • Jyoti Pandey Sharma (Architecture, Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram University of Science & Technology, India), “Revisiting the Darya (River) Urbanism in the Delhi Triangle: The Urbanization of the Yamuna in the Badshahi Shahar, Shahjahanabad”
  • Rabun Taylor (Classics, University of Texas at Austin), “The Soft-Core City: Ancient Rome and the Wandering Tiber”
  • Kimberly Thornton (Landscape Architecture, University of Natural and Life Sciences, Vienna), “Responsive Tributary: The Changing Spaces of a Tertiary Waterway in Vienna’s Urban Periphery”
  • Lei Zhang (Architectural History, Tianjin University, China), “Traditional Flood Adaptive Landscapes of Cities in the Lower Yellow River Floodplain of China”

This event was approved for 12 LA CES (ASLA) credits for registered landscape architects.

Read the review in the American Society of Landscape Architect's blog The Dirt  posted on 05.21.15



Abstracts and Biographies

Five landscape architecture students received travel awards, sponsored by Dumbarton Oaks and the Mellon Foundation, which allowed them to attend the symposium. Read their narrative reports.


Design for new dykes with view of freshwater marshes, IJssel, Kampben, Netherlands. H+N+S Landscape Architects.