Anne Spirn has an international reputation as the preeminent scholar working at the intersection of landscape architecture and environmental planning. Her first book, The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design, won the President's Award of Excellence from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 1984, has been translated into two other languages, and remains a standard university text. Her new book, The Language of Landscape, sets out a theory of landscape and aesthetics that takes account of both human interpretive frameworks and natural process.
Spirn is credited with playing a seminal role in applying theories and principles of ecological landscape design to urban areas. Her path-breaking scholarly research and writing applies ecological principles to urban settings. Since 1987, she has directed the West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP), in an inner city community near the University of Pennsylvania. The WPLP links landscape design, community development, and urban stormwater management through an action research program integrating research, teaching and community service. Its goals include development of strategic landscape plans to enhance environmental quality, implementation of landscape improvements to stimulate economic development, and mutual strengthening of public school curricula and undergraduate and professional education. The project was cited as a "Model of Best Practice" at a White House summit in March 1999 for forty leading "Scholars and Artists in Public life."
Anne Whiston Spirn received a B.A. from Radcliffe College and M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania .