Conservation by Design: Futures Forum engages students, pros

The event-packed Nov. 17–19 Imagining New Futures forum, sponsored by the Texas A&M [ Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning] ( , drew a large gathering of students and urban planning practitioners.

The forum, themed “Conservation by Design,”  included a two-part urban planning workshop at the [College Station Conference Center] ( led by Randall Arendt, the nation's foremost authority on conservation development, a keynote address by Fritz Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas, and a number of special events including recreational outings, a Texas A&M Master of Urban Planning class reunion and meetings of the Master of Urban Planning Program Advisory Council and the American Planning Association. The festivities culminated with clay shooting and eco-tour event at [Tonkaway Ranch] ( and a tailgate party prior to the Nov. 19 Aggie-Jayhawk gridiron showdown at Kyle Field.

Imagining New Futures: Conservation by Design is the first of what organizers are planning as an annual fall semester event sponsored by the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and open to all students, academicians, and professionals in the fields of urban planning, land development, landscape architecture and urban and regional science.

Keynote address

Fritz Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture and the Henry M. Rockwell Chair in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, presented the forum's keynote lecture, “Envisioning Central Texas,” at Geren Auditorium.

Steiner has worked with local, state, and federal agencies on diverse environmental plans and designs. Currently, he chairs the five-county [Envision Central Texas Project] ( , having served on its board of directors and executive committee since ECT was established in 2002.

Prior to joining the UT faculty, Steiner served as director of the School of Planning and Landscape Architecture at Arizona State University. He has also taught planning, landscape architecture, and environmental science at Washington State University, the University of Colorado-Denver, and the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1980, as a Fulbright-Hays scholar, he conducted research on ecological planning at the Wageningen University, The Netherlands. In 1998, he was the National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize Fellow in Historic Preservation and Conservation at the American Academy in Rome. He is also Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and an Academic Fellow of the Urban Land Institute.

Steiner earned his Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in City and Regional Planning and a Master of Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. He also earned a Master of Community Planning and a B.S. in Design from the University of Cincinnati.


Randall Arendt, landscape planner, site designer, author, lecturer and conservation planning champion, provided the forum's highlight with his Conservation by Design workshop, which focused on designing residential habitats that protect natural resources while creating value for developers and property owners.

Arendt received his B.A. degree from Wesleyan University (magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) and his M. Phil. degree in Urban Design and Regional Planning from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he was a St. Andrew's Scholar.

He is senior conservation advisor at the Natural Lands Trust in Media, Pennsylvania, and former director of planning and research at the Center for Rural Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he also served as an adjunct professor.

In 2003 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute in London. In 2004 he was named an Honorary Member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and in 2005 he received the American Institute of Architects' Award for Collaborative Achievement.

Arendt is the author of more than 20 publications. After co-authoring the award-winning “Dealing with Change in the Connecticut River Valley: A Design Manual for Conservation and Development,” he produced a 450-page sequel entitled “Rural by Design: Maintaining Small Town Character” in 1994, which is listed among 39 volumes recommended by the American Planning Association for "the essential planning library". (It is also required reading for the AICP exam administered by the American Institute of Certified Planners.)

Arendt’s third major work, “Conservation Design for Subdivisions: A Practical Guide to Creating Open Space Networks” (1996) was followed by a companion volume three years later, “Growing Greener: Putting Conservation into Local Plans and Ordinances.”

Also in 1999, his fifth book was published, “Crossroads, Hamlet, Village, Town: Design Characteristics of Traditional Neighborhoods, Old and New.” His latest book, “Envisioning Better Communities: Seeing More Options, Making Wiser Choices,” was published March 2010 by the APA and the Urban Land Institute.

Arendt is the country's most sought-after speaker on the topic of creative development design as a conservation tool. He has presented slide lectures in 47 states, five Canadian provinces, and in Europe. In recent years he has been featured as a key speaker at national conferences sponsored by the American Planning Association, the Urban Land Institute, the American Farmland Trust, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the National Association of Home Builders, the Land Trust Alliance, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Arendt’s work has been featured in leading periodicals including the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Wall Street Journal, Landscape Architect, Urban Land, the Amicus Journal, the Smithsonian, and the New Yorker. His articles have also appeared in the Orion Nature Quarterly, Civil Engineering News, Habitat, Land Development, American Farmland, the Land Trust Exchange, Environment & Development, the Planning Commissioners' Journal, and the Journal of the American Planning Association.

Arendt’s site designs and “conservation subdivisions” have been featured in publications of the American Planning Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Association of Home Builders, and the National Association of Realtors.

Arendt's designs are dubbed "twice green" because they succeed both environmentally and economically. One of his recent designs was praised by the director of advocacy of the Massachusetts Audubon Society as "one of the most innovative subdivision plans I've seen."

His unique consulting firm, [Greener Prospects] ( , bridges the gap between land-use planning and land conservation. Combining professional training and practical experience in these two related but typically separated fields, Greener Prospects possesses a special skill-set enabling it to offer creative “hybrid” solutions to a variety of clients including local governments, landowners, and private developers who are struggling with the challenge of blending conservation values with economic needs and regulatory mechanisms.

posted November 17, 2011