The McHarg Center

Hotspot Cities Symposium

Thursday, June 20, 2019Friday, June 21, 2019
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The design and planning of urban growth in biodiverse regions.

Perry World House
University of Pennsylvania, June 20, 21. 2019

The Hotspot Cities Symposium (HCS) is a two-day symposium at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, USA co-hosted by Perry World House in association with the McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology and the Penn Institute for Urban Research.

The symposium brings urban planners, conservationists and policy makers together with representatives of major cities experiencing rapid growth in highly biodiverse regions. The symposium is predicated on the fact that conflict between urban growth and biodiversity is occurring at an alarming rate world-wide, and that such conflict can be mitigated if urban planners, conservationists, communities and governments work together on spatially explicit plans.

The purpose of the symposium is threefold; first, we aim to build bridges between the science of conservation and the art of urban design; second, we want to bring people together to share experiences about the environmental circumstances of similar cities, and third; we hope to forge research alliances leading to demonstration projects regarding ways in which cities can better plan their growth with respect to the biodiversity at their doorsteps.

Organizing Committee
The hosts of the symposium are the McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology and the Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR), both headquartered within Penn’s renowned design school, Weitzman School. Directed by Richard Weller, Frederick Steiner and Billy Fleming, the McHarg Center is a platform “for bringing environmental and social scientists together with planners, designers policy makers and communities to develop practical and innovative ways of improving the quality of life in the places most vulnerable to the effects of climate change”. Directed by Professors Eugenie Birch (Weitzman School) and Susan Wachter (Wharton) Penn IUR is “dedicated to advancing cross-disciplinary urban focused research, instruction and civic engagement on issues relevant to cities around the world.” 

Over two days, invited delegates will hear from leading conservationists, ecologists and urban designers about how urban growth and biodiversity can better co-exist and also have the opportunity to tell their own city’s story and learn from others. The symposium is by invitation only and will be conducted largely in the form of a roundtable. A detailed program will be issued in due course.

Additionally, the symposium takes place directly before a related major international conference titled ‘Design With Nature Now’. This 1.5 day conference (June 21-22), also occurring on the campus at Penn, centers on a collection of 25 exemplary global design and planning projects. The conference celebrates the 50th anniversary of Penn Professor Ian McHarg’s famous book ‘Design With Nature’. Delegates to the Hotspot Cities Symposium will receive complimentary tickets (valued at $300 USD) to this conference and attendance is highly recommended.


The symposium is a 1.5-day event beginning at 9 am on June 20 and concluding at 4 pm June 21st. The previously mentioned ‘Design With Nature Now’ conference starts on the evening of the 21st and continues through the full day of the 22nd.

Who will be there?
Speakers and attendees will include representatives of major NGOs, foundations, research centers, leading academics and representatives of a select group of cities. A representative sample of up to 15 cities in highly biodiverse regions are being asked to nominate two representatives each to attend the symposium; one from the field of urban planning and one from environmental science/conservation.

Background Briefing
A white paper summarizing how the major cities in the world’s most biodiverse regions are currently planning for biodiversity is being prepared specifically for this symposium and will be issued to all delegates early in 2019.

Other recommended reading is the recent report ‘Nature in the Urban Century: A Global Assessment of Important Areas for Safeguarding Biodiversity and Human Well-being’ by Robert I. McDonald, M’Lisa Colbert, Maike Hamann, Rohan Simkin and Brenna Walsh.


The point person for this symposium is Zuzanna Drozdz:

Chair of the Organizing committee is Richard Weller:

The McHarg Center:

Penn IUR:

Perry World House: