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2018 Kevin Lynch Award Call for Nominations

The Kevin Lynch Award was established to honor the memory of Kevin Lynch (1918 - 1984), an MIT alumnus, urban designer, author, and faculty member of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Through his practice, research, and writing, Lynch developed robust theoretical frameworks for understanding the relationships between urban processes, environmental systems, and human perception. He embraced the reality of climate change early on, and spoke publicly about the potential planetary impacts of unchecked urbanization. Lynch’s visionary approaches to city planning and design have become benchmarks for urbanists around the world who share his utterly humanistic convictions.

Since 1988, the City Design and Development group at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning has granted the Kevin Lynch Award to individuals or organizations whose work embodies and advances Lynch’s research, as developed in his seminal works, The Image of the City (1960), What Time is this Place?(1972), Good City Form (1981) and Site Planning (1984). Nominees have been selected for their plans, books, research, designed projects, media productions, public processes, or similar contributions to merit the award.

2018 marks the centennial of Kevin Lynch’s birth, and to commemorate the legacy of his work, this year’s award will focus on his posthumously published book, Wasting Away (1990).

Michael Southworth describes this book as a natural progression of Lynch’s life’s work, culminating in a philosophical treatise on the city and its inevitable futures. Lynch launches broad inquiries into waste and loss as both physical and social products of a rapidly urbanizing world. He uses “waste” as an intellectual platform for highlighting key interactions between urban form and human behavior. The reader is asked to contemplate not only the physical spaces of surplus, disposal, growth, and decline at multiple scales, but also how cultural attitudes toward inefficiency, consumption, and death collectively shape the urban environment and everyday life.

Today, more than three decades after Lynch’s death, questions about waste processes, obsolescence, and loss are even more relevant for designers and planners of the city. Normative attitudes that present waste as either a product to be reduced or a problem to be solved have persisted within the planning professions. Yet Lynch’s provocation of “Wasting Well” and preoccupation with “Perceptions of Waste” transcend these technocratic approaches and require imaginative engagement with complex urban metabolisms. Nominations for this year’s Kevin Lynch Award will be considered for their recent and/or ongoing visionary contributions to planning, design, and/or community engagement related to wasting as an urban process, its spatial products, and social perceptions.

Past recipients have been nominated for academic and professional work that:

  • Explicitly and publicly engages people
  • Is inspirational and reflective rather than impressive.
  • Concerns a broad rather than specific audience.
  • Addresses the public image of a place.
  • Develops a sense of place open to change over time.
  • Promotes justice toward and within natural and social environments
  • These projects have included published research, books, built works, media platforms, and community engagement processes.

Please submit your nominations for this year’s Kevin Lynch Award to Jonah Susskind (jonahsus@mit.edu) Submissions should include a brief statement outlining the nominee’s merits and relevance to the theme, as well as contact information for the nominee. The submission deadline is September 17, 2018. All submissions will be reviewed and a short list will be determined by a faculty/student committee. Final selection will be announced in early-October with an award ceremony and lecture in mid-November. Please direct any relevant questions to Jonah Susskind or Dorothy Tang (dstang@mit.edu).