1. Kansas State University
  2. »Division of Communications and Marketing
  3. »K-State Today
  4. »Ryan to present a new manifesto for urban design in 'The Largest Art'

K-State Today

October 3, 2018

Ryan to present a new manifesto for urban design in 'The Largest Art'

Submitted by Thom Jackson

The College of Architecture, Planning & Design, or APDesign, will host Brent Ryan, associate professor of urban design and public policy and head of the City Design and Development Group in the urban studies and planning department at MIT, as part of the Ekdahl Lecture Series. 

Ryan will present "The Largest Art: A new manifesto for urban design" at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Regnier Forum at Regnier Hall on the K-State Manhattan campus. He will provide a theoretical foundation for this under-theorized discipline.

Ryan's work demonstrates that urban design is the largest of the building arts, one that is distinct from other arts like architecture, landscape and land art. In "The Largest Art," Ryan distinguishes urban design by its pluralism, which has five dimensions: plural scale, ranging from an alleyway to a region; plural time, because it is deeply enmeshed in both history and the present; plural property, with many owners; plural agents, with many makers; and plural form, with a distributed quality that allows it to coexist with diverse elements of the city, looks at well-known urban design projects through the lens of pluralism, and revisits the thought of three plural urbanists working between 1960 and 1980.

Ryan will tell three design stories for the future, imaginary scenarios of plural urbanism in locations around the world, and conclude with three signal considerations that all urban designers must acknowledge: eternal change, inevitable incompletion, and flexible fidelity. These stories illustrate Ryan's belief that "the city is a ceaselessly active, perpetually changing entity: the urban design of the future must be an art whose aesthetic qualities welcome the city's pluralism instead of resisting it."

"Brent Ryan's work demonstrates the breadth of work that our students are preparing to address in their future practice," said Stephanie Rolley, department head in landscape architecture and regional & community planning.

Ryan's research focuses on the aesthetics and policies of contemporary urban design, particularly with respect to current and pressing issues like deindustrialization and climate change. Ryan's first book "Design After Decline: How America Rebuilds Shrinking Cities (The City in the Twenty-First Century)," was selected by Planetizen as one of its 10 best urban planning books of 2012, and his second book, "The Largest Art: A Measured Manifesto for a Plural Urbanism," was published by MIT Press in 2017.

Ryan's research has been published in the Journal of Urban Design, Journal of Planning History, Urban Design International, Urban Morphology, and the Journal of the American Planning Association, which awarded his article "Reading Through A Plan" its best article of 2011. Ryan also has written numerous chapters for books, including "The City After Abandonment"; "Urban Landscape"; "The Oxford Handbook of Urban Planning"; "Rethinking Global Urbanism"; and "Urban Megaprojects: A Worldwide View." He has three current research projects in China, all, funded by the Sam Tak Lee Laboratory, examining coastal landmaking, the threat to urban villages, and a case study in transfer of development rights. Ryan has also consulted for the World Bank on planning projects for emerging economies in Eastern Europe, and he will initiate a five-year study of sustainability in Siberian cities in 2017, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Before joining MIT, Ryan taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was also co-director of the City Design Center. Ryan holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Yale University, a Master of Architecture from Columbia University and a doctorate in urban design and planning from MIT.

The Oscar S. Ekdahl Distinguished Lecture Series in Architecture and Design brings the finest professionals in the design and planning disciplines to APDesign and the K-State community. These individuals are selected to avail faculty, staff, students and regional professionals to the potency of design and planning in addressing the issues we face as a global society. The series honors Oscar Ekdahl who received his Bachelor of Architecture from K-State in 1933 and was a founding partner in Ekdahl, Davis, Depew, Persson Architects PA in Topeka.