Talk Event

SPCS Talks vol.6 Ecological Urban Design With Brian McGrath and Danai Thaitakoo

  • #Finished
  • #英語で開催

Against the backdrop of climate change, including an increase in guerrilla downpours and rising urban temperatures, there is a growing movement in the fields of urban design and architecture to seek forms of coexistence with ecosystems. We will invite Brian McGrath and Danai Thaitakoo to this event from New York and Thailand. They have been developing advanced approaches in ecology-based urban design. In addition to introducing their research and case studies, Atsuro Morita, an anthropologist at Osaka University, will join us to exchange views with you on the future of cities.

Wed, December 20, 2023  UTC+09:00

18:00 – 20:00

FabCafe Kyoto / MTRL KYOTO | View on Google Map


Free We request that all participants order one drink



Amid worsening climate change and environmental crises, increasing attention is turning to the relationships between humans and the other organisms on our planet. Even in fields such as design and architecture, which have traditionally prioritized human-centered values such as economic viability, functionality, and comfort, there is a growing interest in understanding how human creations interact with other organisms and natural processes of the Earth to become part of the ecosystem.
In the midst of this, a movement has emerged where cities are studied as ecosystems from an ecological perspective and that knowledge is applied to architecture and urban design. Brian McGrath and Danai Thaitakoo, practitioners of architecture who have been at the forefront of this movement in Thailand and the United States, will be in Kyoto to share their experiences in the field and discuss the future of urban design.

The two, in particular, have proposed a new perspective on viewing cities as watersheds, focusing on the flow of water that connects ecosystems. In recent years, their former students have been integrating their views on hydrology, ecology, architecture, and urban design into the design of public spaces and parks in Bangkok. In addition to discussing their work, this event also aims to introduce emerging design trends in Thailand.

As abnormal weather patterns become more frequent in Japan there is a growing need not only to address natural disasters as they come but also to incorporate ecosystem-based urban planning and establish ways for people to reconnect with nature. Let’s explore these ideas together with McGrath and Thaitakoo.

Brian McGrath, Associate Director of the Tishman Center and Professor of Urban Design and former Dean of the School of Constructed Environments, Parsons School of Design.

As an architect, McGrath has dedicated himself to the relationship between urban design, the environment, and social justice. He served as the principal investigator for the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, one of the first research programs to study cities from an ecological perspective. His work has contributed significantly to reimagining cities as subjects of ecology and promoting architecture and urban design based on ecological principles.

Danai Thaitakoo, School of Architecture and Design (SoA+D), King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT)

In the field of landscape design, Thaitakoo has conducted extensive research on the traditional waterfront urban landscape in Thailand and its transformation due to modernization. Based on anthropological and geographical studies of traditional Thai irrigation systems and water management, he has reinterpreted traditional Thai architecture and urban planning in relation to the environment. Together with McGrath, he proposes viewing contemporary Bangkok as a watershed system, through the lens of Waterscape Urbanism.

McGrath and Thaitakoo will be introducing their latest research and previous case studies in this talk. One of the most notable projects that has been inspired by their work is the  Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park in Bangkok, a park that doubles as a water storage facility to prevent flooding. However, instead of such large developmental projects, McGrath and Thaitakoo argue that small-scale initiatives can also have a significant impact as ecologically based, nature-symbiotic urban design. At the event, the two will introduce their work on such smaller-scale initiatives.

‘From Gray to Green’, a plaza renewal project in Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University by Thaitakoo (photo shows the plaza before renewal; was covered with concrete).

Designing with Bangkok’s topography, environment and local wisdom to create a natural drainage system.

  • Individuals involved in urban planning and landscape design.
  • Designers, architects, developers and those involved in civil engineering projects who are interested in biophilic design.
  • Administrative officials involved in area design planning and initiatives.
  • Professionals from companies actively engaged in circular design and nature-positive approaches.
  • This program will be conducted in English. (There are plans to provide either real-time interpretation or display automatic translation text, but please note that not all talks may be covered.)
  • In the case of a high number of applications, there is a possibility of selection by raffle. 
  • Photos of participants and program content may be posted on the Kyoto website at a later date.
  • The program is subject to change without prior notice.




・Atsuro Morita (Graduate School of Human Sciences, Professor / Ethnography Lab, Osaka Representative)
・Sarah Ho (SPCS, Moderator)


Presentation I
・Brian McGrath (Associate Director of the Tishman Center and Professor of Urban Design at Parsons)


Presentation II
・Danai Thaitakoo (Lecturer, Landscape Architecture Program, School of Architecture and Design, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi)


Crosstalk, Q&A
・Brian McGrath
・Danai Thaitakoo
・Atsuro Morita (Graduate School of Human Sciences, Professor / Ethnography Lab, Osaka Representative)
・Sarah Ho (SPCS, Moderator)




Date & Time

Wed, December 20, 2023 18:00 – 20:00 UTC+09:00


FabCafe Kyoto / MTRL KYOTO
Motoshiogamacho 554, Kyoto Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8119, Japan
* No parking is available.
View on Google Map


Free We request that all participants order one drink



Organizers & Sponsors

Co-organizer: Ethnography Lab, Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University, SPCS (loftwork Inc.)


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