The Ecology of Place: From Understanding to Action


59th International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) Conference

Poundbury / Dorchester, UK * October 10-13, 2023

INTRODUCTION: Following our successful 2022 annual conference, “Architecture and the Edges of Public Space: Tools and Strategies for a New Urban Agenda,” the International Making Cities Livable (IMCL), hosted by the Lennard Institute for Livable Cities and its partners, is pleased to announce the next conference in the acclaimed series begun in 1985. The IMCL is a unique peer-to-peer gathering of civic leaders, practitioners and scholars dedicated to transitioning to a more livable, humane and ecological generation of cities, towns and suburbs. Once again, we will focus upon successful case studies, promising ideas, and evidence-based research, sharing effective tools and strategies to drive real change.

THIS CONFERENCE: This autumn 2023, we will survey the state of knowledge about the challenges for cities, towns, suburbs and countrysides at this historic moment – when 193 member countries of the United Nations have pledged to implement a “New Urban Agenda,” securing greater livability and equity in human development – while at the same time, achieving more ecological forms of settlement for future generations. We will focus particularly on how knowledge can translate into ACTION, into implementation of these urgent goals. We will examine the remaining barriers to achieving these and related goals, and study exemplar projects where these barriers have been partially or wholly overcome. We will share this knowledge in an intimate peer-to-peer format, gathering at a fascinating case study amongst these projects, the community of Poundbury, in Dorchester, UK (2-1/2 hours by train from London).

THEME: Accordingly. our 2023 conference theme is: “The Ecology of Place: From Understanding to Action.” Our theme reflects the insight that “ecology” is not only a phenomenon of natural environments, but also describes the intricate structure of healthy cities, towns, human technologies, and human institutions. We will therefore explore the maturing understanding of this complex phenomenon, and how this understanding must translate into effective action.

BACKGROUND: As humanity confronts multiple historic challenges, our settlements and their characteristics are set to play a central role – especially so in a time of historic rapid urbanization.  Our cities, towns and suburbs are where we interact, move about, consume resources, develop and deploy our technologies, and create most of the impacts we are having on Planet Earth. In that sense, our settlements are major contributors to our challenges – but they also offer an important platform for joining up key issues of emissions and contamination, resource use and depletion, and ecological destruction, coupled with issues and challenges of equitable human development, health, and well-being.

In recent years, the sciences have made considerable advances in understanding the nature of our settlements, and the urgent need to reform our current “business as usual” practices.  The New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – both adopted by acclamation by all 193 member states of the United Nations – reflect many of these advances, and both documents plainly state the powerful case for reform. Still, in cities throughout the world, progress is stalled by the traditional systems through which we plan, design and build, “locked in” to the many old and failing practices, standards, codes, laws and incentives that have brought us to crisis. Breakthrough approaches to reform are clearly needed.

As one key example, urban citizens are increasingly mobilizing to oppose projects – including those that aspire to be the most progressive – that they genuinely feel are incompatible, even ugly, and degrading of their quality of life. As the clients of what we plan and build, and as our fellow citizens, they have every right to be heard and taken seriously.  Yet our current systems of public involvement have thus far failed to be truly collaborative and inclusive, and have too often been characterized by tokenism and gamesmanship.

Moreover, compelling research shows a clear divergence in preferences and needs between the citizens, and the specialists who carry out much of the building work. Research in social psychology and other fields reveals why experts can lose touch with both the needs of their users, and the urgency of genuine, thoroughgoing reform. Yet successful projects show what can happen when the public and stakeholders are powerfully and authentically engaged. This scientific and experiential knowledge can help to guide us to more effective reform, and to a crucial transition to a healthier urban world.

Therefore, this conference will focus on bridging the gap from understanding to action – to a transition to more ecological ways of building and settling, in the fullest sense of the word.  We will gather in Poundbury, a new urban extension developed under the guidance of the UK’s King Charles III, along with many collaborators over three decades. Poundbury is a fitting venue: a remarkable laboratory of multiple experiments in ecological technology, socially supportive design, and economic opportunity for all, as well as a fitting case study for debate.  Whatever one’s conclusions, the project unquestionably demonstrates an impressive departure from “business as usual,” with instructive lessons on its successes as well as its remaining challenges.

At Poundbury, and on the adjoining main street of Dorchester, we will gather policy leaders, practitioners, community leaders and top scholars – including key partners from a number of countries around the world – to share lessons and discuss potential collaborations. A major aim of the conference will be to serve as a “springboard” toward new research, and new collaborative action. All of us – academics, civic leaders, practitioners – are vital participants in this generative conversation.

We will also gather partners and collaborators from around the world, including UN-Habitat, The Prince’s Foundation, international chapters of the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (INTBAU), the Congress for the New Urbanism, and many others.  

To accomplish our aims – andto bridge the gap – we have structured the conference following two  interactive tracks: “Understanding” (what we know is needed), and “Action” (how to make it happen). For each track, here is a sample of the topics we intend to address:


•       The Ecology of Place: Concepts, Metrics, Practices

•       Why Public Space Matters for ALL

•       The Place of Beauty: Neuroscience, Health and Sustainability

•       How Jane Jacobs Was Right: The Power of Diversity, Equity, and Web Networks

•       How Christopher Alexander Was Right: The Power of Patterns, and Timeless Ways of Building

•       How The Former Prince was Right: The Power of Nature’s Harmony and Symmetry

•       The Dangers of Overspecialization: Overcoming Roadblocks to Reform of the “Operating System for Growth”

•       Cities (and Regions) on Foot: The Power of Urban Walkability and Public Transportation


Implementing Ecologies of Place: Technologies, Practices, Finance

•       New Approaches to Public Space Creation and Improvement for All

•       Rapid Urbanization: Implementing the New Urban Agenda

•       Political Organization and “Polycentric Governance”

•       Climate Change and Urban Form: Mitigation, Adaptation, Resilience

•       Financial Tools and Externality Feedbacks: Making It Pay

•       Getting It Built: Sharing Case Lessons in Who, Why and How

•       Sustainable Infrastructure: Complete Streets, Regenerative Utilities, and Public Transit

•       Access For All: Bringing the Benefits of Livable Cites to ALL!

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: Presenters are invited to submit abstracts up to 300 words, on topics relevant to the main theme of the Conference, “The Ecology of Place”, addressing either or both Tracks, “Understanding” and “Action”. Topics may include but are not limited to the sub-themes listed above, and still more ideas are listed below. Topics can include academic research, formal case studies, planned or developed projects and masterplans, “reports from the field”, and new ideas offered for consideration by the conference attendees.

Accepted presenters will be invited to register and present at a 15-minute breakout session (or plenary session, if invited). Full papers of up to 8,000 words plus figures are invited and encouraged but not required, and due by September 30 to share with conference attendees. 

SPECIFIC TOPICS. To open up more possibilities attractive to Academics, Community Leaders, and Practitioners, here (in no particular order) are more ideas for topics! You are also welcome to propose your own topic as long as it’s relevant to the overall conference theme and either or both of the conference tracks:

•       Learning from Natural Systems: The Ecology of Settlements

•       Implementing the New Urban Agenda: Thinking Globally and Acting Locally

•       Climate Change, Adaptation, Mitigation, and Urban Resilience

•       The Architecture of Great Places: Public Spaces, Buildings, and Urban Form 

•       Tools and Strategies for Retrofitting Suburbia 

•       Public Spaces, Resilience, and the Importance of Social and Spatial Networks

•       Walkable, Multi-Modal 15-minute Neighborhoods

•       Polycentric Regions Versus Overheated (and Unaffordable) Cores

•       Promoting Healthy Neighborhoods, and Lessons from COVID-19

•       Learning from Informality and Slum Upgrading

•       Learning from Poundbury – and Each Other

•       Leveraging Urban Infrastructure to Create Places of Beauty and Ecological Healing

•       Multimodal Urban Transportation Plans, and Projects

•       Innovative Mobility Solutions, including Urban Access and Transportation for the Disabled

•       Lessons Learned and New Innovations in Authentic, Inclusive Public Involvement

ABSTRACT LENGTH AND CONTENT: Maximum 300 words. Describe the paper/presentation topic, theme(s) addressed, relevance to the conference themes, and qualifications of the proposer(s). In addition, provide the name(s), affiliation and address of all proposed presenters. Enter all of this information in the online Submission Form (see below).



(NOTE: No fee is required for submission, but accepted speakers will be required to register at the discounted speaker rate of $595.00 USD (Approx. €508 EUR) on or before August 1, 2023.)

DEADLINE FOR FULL PAPERS (to be included in the Proceedings, if desired): September 30, 2023.





Tuesday, October 10

•       Daytime: Travel to Dorchester (approx. 2 hours 15 minutes from London by train)

•       Evening: Orientation tour of Poundbury

•       Welcome reception – Brownsward Hall (downstairs)

•       Exhibit – upstairs at Brownsward Hall

Wednesday, October 11

•       Morning plenary: The Corn Exchange, Dorchester (approx. 1 mile from Poundbury)

•       Afternoon breakouts: 3 at The Corn Exchange, 1 at Poundbury (bus or walk)

•       Evening activities, dinner (on delegates’ own)

Thursday, October 12

•       Morning plenary – The Corn Exchange, Dorchester

•       Afternoon breakouts: 3 at The Corn Exchange, 1 at Poundbury

•       Evening awards dinner (ticketed) – location TBD

Friday, October 13

•       Morning plenary – The Corn Exchange

•       Afternoon breakouts: 3 at The Corn Exchange, 1 at Poundbury

•       Closing reception/party at Poundbury

Saturday, Oct 14

•       Optional in-depth tour of Poundbury