UO landscape architecture program graduates first doctoral student
Landscape Architecture has graduated its first doctoral student, Lanbin Ren – who had never heard of Oregon when she saw a poster advertising the UO’s brand-new Ph.D. program in the discipline.
Ren, a native of China, was about to graduate with a master of science in architecture from the University of Cincinnati, but wasn’t ready to leave academia.
“I wanted to learn something new but still related to architecture, and I thought landscape could be an option, so I applied,” Ren says.
She developed an interdisciplinary dissertation on the influence of “park-above-parking” projects on the vitality of America downtowns. UO Professor Rob Ribe, who served on Ren’s committee, lauds the results of her research.
"Urban planners and public officials often wonder whether it is a bad idea to waste valuable real estate on parks rather than taxable development,” Ribe says.
“Lanbin is the first scholar I know of who has effectively assessed the economic development benefits of downtown parks. What is more, she has measured just how important the design quality of parks is in contributing positively and substantially to surrounding property values."
Ren’s dissertation, “Park-above-Parking Downtown: a Spatial-based Impact Investigation,” was based on a national inventory of urban parks built above downtown parking structures and how their design impacts economic development. She chose 13 post-1990 case studies, including Union Square in San Francisco, Director Park in Portland, and Fountain Square in Cincinnati. She developed a design quality measurement index and a new set of methodology in economic impact assessments.
“Her research fills an important gap in the literature and certainly stands out as a successful model for evidence-based studies of the impact of urban design on the social and economic vitality of downtown areas in the U.S. and beyond,” says Assistant Professor Deni Ruggeri, director of the landscape architecture doctoral program and a member of Ren’s dissertation committee. “It can also serve as a decision-making tool for cities like Cincinnati, which has expressed a deep interest in her findings.”
Ren personally traveled to each final study site. “I got to visit my case studies and that was a lot of fun,” she says. “I talked to the city, I talked to the design team, and I talked to park and parking users. I figured out if you have combined spaces you want to develop, follow this model because my research can help you. I have numbers, how much it costs, how much it could benefit if you do things right.”
Ren currently works as a research associate in the Urban Design Lab at UO, helping Associate Professor Mark Gillem, who served as her adviser, teach a winter term studio. She has taught a number of other classes at UO to both graduate and undergraduate students. Because of her fluency in Mandarin, she was also tapped to work with a team of visiting Chinese architects during fall term 2012.
“I am proud to officially welcome Lanbin as a member of the community of urban design academics and wish her a successful future,” Ruggeri says.
Gillem agrees, adding, “It was a pleasure to be her adviser and I look forward to working with her as she embarks on a teaching career.”
- from UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts