Shaping Space for Civic Life: The pivotal role of parks

imageCommunities across the United States face concerning trends related to civic life, including distrust, low voter turnout, and growing social and economic divides. Public space professionals, civic leaders, and community residents alike are interested in re-building trust, revitalizing neighborhoods, and supporting interaction among diverse groups. Promising initiatives are emerging across the country to transform lagging public spaces into dynamic, welcoming, and celebrated ones. In light of these trends, the Center for Active Design has launched “Assembly: Shaping Space for Civic Life,” a pioneering initiative to leverage place-based design as a tool to enhance civic engagement. The Assembly initiative has surfaced groundbreaking information, including quantifiable civic life metrics, as well as causal findings demonstrating that design elements do indeed impact civic perceptions. This session will introduce the Assembly initiative and its evidence-based approach to shaping community design, with an emphasis on parks and open space. Panelists will reflect on historic and emerging research that points to the connection between the built environment and civic participation, and share a range of project examples that seek to enhance civic life through design interventions. Conversations will leave participants with a better understanding of practical strategies for shaping parks through design, programming, and maintenance practices that can enhance civic life in their own communities.

Jennifer Mahar

Senior Director of Civic Initiatives at Fairmount Park Conservancy

Jennifer joined the Fairmount Park Conservancy, non-profit champion of Philadelphia's 10,000 park system, in 2012.   As Senior Director of Civic Initiatives, Jennifer helps oversee 'Reimagining the Civic Commons' - an innovative, collaborative network of public space organizations in Philadelphia. Together, the collective demonstrates ways that civic assets can be connected as an integrated system and how they can be developed to foster talent, opportunity and engagement.   In addition, we partner with leading researchers to experiment with programmatic and design interventions that will help us inform how citizens access civic assets.  Jennifer oversees the Neighborhood Parks Stewardship Program, a unique partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and our network of 100 volunteer park friend groups.  Together we organize, resource and celebrate our wonderful city parks and the volunteers who advocate for them.

Maria Nardi

Deputy Director, Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces

Maria is deputy director of the Miami-Dade County Dept of Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Dept, which is on the front lines of dealing with the effects of climate change, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events. Maria directs staff in managing parks and rec facilities and adapting to climate change and mitigating the effects of climate change. She has direct knowledge and experience that is invaluable in understanding how parks must face the future. Maria is an accomplished presenter and speaker with experience presenting at the national, regional, and state level.

Maria I. Nardi has over 18 years experience in the private and public sector in the fields of urban design, landscape architecture, architecture, planning and preservation. In the private sector, she received the University of Miami Alumna of the Year Award for her holistic, comprehensive planning work as Chief of Planning and Research for Miami-Dade County, where she directed the vision for the Miami-Dade County Park and Open Space Master Plan; a vision for a more equitable, greener and healthier Miami-Dade County, and for her work as Chief of Urban Design for the City of Miami where she initiated Miami 21; a rewrite of the City's land development regulations from land use segregation to mixed use regulations to promote a walkable, pedestrian friendly community. Ms. Nardi's community based planning initiatives and collaborative work also received the International Progressive Architecture Award for Urban Design, for the “Redland: A Preservation and Tourism Plan”, a vision to preserve and rebuild the agricultural heritage of South Dade through Agri-tourism. Ms. Nardi received her undergraduate degree in Architecture from the University of Miami and her Masters in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design where she received the Harvard American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award for excellence in the study of Landscape Architecture.

Suzanne Nienaber

Partnerships Director, Center for Active Design

I'm an urban planner and facilitator striving to shape healthier, more engaged communities. As the partnerships director at the Center for Active Design (CfAD) I help people collaborate across sectors to elevate physical, mental, social, and civic well-being in their projects, and inspire transformative community change. Our work draws upon scholarly research and bridges a wide range of disciplines — embracing everything from urban planning and architecture to public health, political science, real estate development, facilities management, and more.

I lead a range of initiatives at CfAD, including Assembly, our pioneering effort to understand how place-based design informs civic engagement objectives such as trust, participation in public life, and stewardship. Through this initiative we’re convening expert advisors, undertaking original research, and synthesizing findings on the relationship between place-based design and civic life.


Shaping Space for Civic Life
09/26/2018 at 2:30 PM (EDT)   |  60 minutes
09/26/2018 at 2:30 PM (EDT)   |  60 minutes This component contains the live event held September 26, 2018. Please test your system prior to accessing this content.
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CEU Credit
0.10 CEU credits  |  No certificate available
0.10 CEU credits  |  No certificate available