Regional corridors propelled by China’s Belt and Road Initiative are set to connect Eurasian economic centers through some of the last frontiers of Central, South and Southeast Asia. These frontiers are typically the domain of multilateral development banks and international environmental NGOs. This talk argues that design-level considerations, from site-specific wildlife mitigation strategies to decisions on slope engineering technologies, should drive or at least have a major upfront role in sustainable infrastructure planning. Long isolated by ethnic conflict and their distance from the state, Myanmar’s biodiverse border areas harbor some of the largest intact forest habitats left in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). Since 2015, a team from HKU’s Division of Landscape Architecture has promoted sustainable development of the cross-border Dawei-Kanchanaburi Road Link, which forms the western end of the GMS’s Southern Economic Corridor. Through a series of design-advocacy efforts, including a species-specific road design manual, 3D-printed stakeholder engagement models, and wildlife mitigation informed by predictive wildlife movement modelling, I will showcase potential opportunities for landscape architecture to proactively engage infrastructure development and regional landscape planning. Critical to these efforts are the building of site-specific design scenarios and parametric modelling approaches that overcome the lack of development transparency and poor spatial data often prevalent in developing contexts. Carried out by landscape designers connected to policy experts, biologists and scientists through the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), this work offers an urgently needed model of design collaboration and critical practice. Such a practice, whether it’s applied-, advocacy-, activist-, or action-oriented in development, raises important contradictions that result in considerable upward institutional, academic, disciplinary, and practical challenges. This work has been disseminated to national and regional levels of the Myanmar government, the Thai road developer, Myanmar civil society, and multilateral and bilateral agencies across Southeast Asia.
About the Speaker
Mr. Ashley Scott Kelly is an educator and expert in landscape planning and geographic information systems at the University of Hong Kong. His research and practice focus on scenario-building and filling knowledge gaps for sustainable development, where he applies landscape and architecture design methods with wide expertise on the manipulation of geospatial data for the study, advocacy, design and delivery of projects in ecologically complex and contested landscapes. Recent works include design guidelines for tropical road infrastructure, corridor modelling for wildlife crossing design, and a Development and Conservation Awareness Map for southern Myanmar. His professional projects range widely in scale, from new town planning to the winning entry for New York City’s 46,000-acre Gateway National Park. Ashley coordinated the Masters thesis in landscape architecture for three years and teaches design courses on regional landscape planning, infrastructure design and rural development in China, South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
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CENTRE OF URBAN STUDIES AND URBAN PLANNING
THE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG