Anne Whiston Spirn
Anne Whiston Spirn is the Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her work is devoted to promoting life-sustaining communities: places that are functional, sustainable, meaningful, artful, and just. Since 1987, she has directed the West Philadelphia Landscape Project, where action research addresses issues of poverty, race, troubled schools, deteriorated neighborhoods, and polluted water.
At Radcliffe, Spirn is completing “The Buried River: Restoring Nature, Rebuilding Community,” a book that places the West Philadelphia Landscape Project within the context of four centuries of history in order to appreciate how the past shapes the present and frames the future and how the interplay through time of forces (flows of water, capital, and people) and ideas shapes landscapes and lives, constrains possibilities, and opens up opportunities. The book makes the case for radical and synergistic changes in education and in urban and environmental policy, planning, and practice.
Spirn’s books include The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design (Basic Books, 1984) and The Language of Landscape (Yale University Press, 1998). Her work has been supported by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Wilson Center, among others, and she has won such awards as the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award and Japan’s International Cosmos Prize. Spirn graduated from Radcliffe College, where she studied art history at Harvard, and received a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Pennsylvania.