2/2012

Transition towards sustaining cities

Harry Edelman

Harry Edelman has been appointed to a newly established professorship in
sustainable design and construction at TUT. The professorship addresses
current challenges in the field.

The principles of sustainable development have had a profound effect on the construction industry. Now they are shaking up the traditional, compartmentalized approach to city design and development.

Harry Edelman has been appointed to a newly established professorship in sustainable design and construction at TUT. He will take up his appointment, which is shared between the School of Architecture and the Department of Civil Engineering, in the beginning of 2013.

“The modern approach to city design and development cuts across conventional disciplinary boundaries, so splitting the appointment between two departments makes perfect sense,” he says.

Dean Teuvo Tolonen says that the new professorship not only opens up new avenues for interdepartmental cooperation but also addresses current challenges in the field.

”The professorship is, among others, devoted to promoting the user-centred design approach, increasing awareness of Nordic conditions and advancing knowledge of energy efficiency, long-term durability, renovation and urban infill development,” lists Tolonen.

New ideas from MIT

Harry Edelman is an architect-cum-entrepreneur who specializes in the management and direction of urban design and planning processes and enjoys being part of a research community. He conducted his doctoral research at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2007.

WHO: Harry Edelman

  • Master's Degree in Architecture, Helsinki University of Technology, 1996.
  • Doctor of Science in Technology, Helsinki University of Technology, 2007. Edelman's dissertation examined the use of integrative negotiation to create value at the intersection of urban planning, city design and real estate development.
  • Chairman of the Board and owner of Edelman Group Ltd. The company delivers design and planning solutions and offers strategic consultation services and training on negotiation skills.

“My research at MIT was part of a Finnish project titled “Design Concepts and Management of Built Environment”, or DECOMB for short. The project sought to develop a novel approach to city planning and thereby promote greater collaboration among all the parties involved. The idea was to bring city planners, real estate developers, land owners and citizens together as key stakeholders,” says Edelman.

…and more dialogue

Edelman’s dissertation explored how different stakeholders can contribute to the development of financially feasible and practical urban planning solutions and how they should prepare for negotiations and resolve possible conflicts. The main objective was to establish efficient planning processes that can adapt to changes and unforeseen trends.

“Several schools of thought in urban planning have emerged over the years, each with its own particular focus and underlying principles. No such schools have evolved in real estate development, but it’s a multifaceted business that requires a broad range of expertise, especially financial competence. The Urban Design Management approach that resulted from the DECOMB project integrates urban planning with real estate development and provides a framework for collaborative and mediated negotiations.” 

I’m already envisioning the launch of sustainable design studios that give tomorrow’s professionals the opportunity to work together on practical design projects.

According to Edelman, there are signs that more active dialogue is opening up between different stakeholders. Municipalities in Finland are gradually adopting a more nimble approach to urban planning. They are, for example, introducing collaborative zoning processes that address conflicting land use interests and help reach some common ground.

Collaboration becomes second nature 

Edelman was impressed with the open-minded and solution-oriented culture for which MIT has become famous.

“Expertise was freely and spontaneously shared throughout the organization. Informal lunch meetings, where experts from different fields get together to bounce off ideas, were one popular medium for discussion.”

As an educator, Edelman is committed to promoting the open exchange of knowledge.

“Graduates are entering a labour market where success is increasingly dependent on an eclectic combination of expertise. To prepare students for their future careers, I’m already envisioning the launch of sustainable design studios that give tomorrow’s professionals – students majoring in architecture, engineering sciences and economics – the opportunity to work together on practical design projects,” he says.    

Text: Päivi Eskelinen
Photo: Virpi Andersin

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