PLAN 71: Article
New Faculty: Alan Berger

Recent Winner of the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture

Alan Berger has been appointed Associate Professor of Urban Design and Landscape Architecture in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Berger is the founding director of P-REX, The Project for Reclamation Excellence (, a transdisciplinary research and design effort focused on regional systems and the reuse of deindustrialized landscapes worldwide, now seated at MIT.

Sometimes referred to as an 'anti-Ansel Adams', and a 'scholar of landscape waste', Berger uses photography, maps and other visuals to gather evidence of entropic land throughout the world – from public health hazards such as abandoned mine pits, mountains of slag and pools of cyanide, to vacant land, landfills, military installations and places associated with high and low-density urbanization.

Berger's primary concern is how these sites are cleansed, valued and considered for adaptive reuse to have a positive environmental and programmatic effect in their urban territories. His work emphasizes the link between our consumption of natural resources and the waste and destruction of landscape, to help us better understand how to adapt our wasteful places for future productive use and more sustainable outcomes. He currently serves as a consultant to the US Environmental Protection Agency on Brownfield and Superfund site revitalization in the American landscape.

Berger's teaching and research interests also include urban design, landscape architecture and environmental planning; representation and 3D digital design simulation; and geospatial mapping and analysis, aerial reconnaissance and documentation.

According to department head Larry Vale, 'Alan’s active interest in bridging between the practitioner's world of urban design and landscape planning and the scholarly worlds of social science is exactly the sort of cross-cutting faculty appointment we need to be making. As a designer/scholar, Berger has actively sought out these bridges and formed fruitful partnerships with economists, environmental scientists and policymakers.'

Prior to MIT, Berger was Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 2002 to 2008, and Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado at Denver from 1997 to 2002. He has also been a Visiting Professor of Landscape Urbanism and Sustainability at the Oslo School of Architecture in Norway, the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark, the Taubman School of Architecture at the University of Michigan and at Katholike University in Leuven-Belgium.

His book Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America (2007, Princeton Architectural Press) won I.D. Magazine's 53rd Annual Design Review Silver Medal for Design Distinction, and was named a top 10 planning book of 2007 by Planetizen. His book, Reclaiming the American West (2002, Princeton Architectural Press) received the Research Award from the Environmental Design Research Association and Places Magazine, and was named a Colorado Book of the Year by the Library of Congress Center for the Book. His other edited books include Designing the Reclaimed Landscape (2008, Taylor & Francis) and Nansha Coastal City: Landscape and Urbanism in the Pearl River Delta, (2006, Harvard Graduate School of Design) which he co-edited with Margaret Crawford.

Berger’s work has been widely published and reviewed and he has taught, lectured and exhibited work at institutions around the world. He earned a BS in agriculture and horticulture from the University of Nebraska (1986) and a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania (1990), where he received the highest awards for design excellence and research – the Faculty Medal and Van Alen Fellowship. He is a Fellow of The American Academy in Rome, having won the 2007-08 Prince Charitable Trusts Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture for his proposal to analyze and propose Systemic Design solutions for the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes landscape in Latina, Italy.

Posted June 2008