Making Change: In Place Over Time

2022 Fay Chandler Creativity Grant

In Search of the Buried River. At the heart of the story is Mill Creek, a river that was buried in a sewer, and a West Philadelphia neighborhood that bears its name. Credit: Melissa Isidor.
“Claiming the Future” tells a story that embodies the MIT tradition of mens et manus in engaging issues of environmental sustainability and racial justice. Children learned to read their landscape, tracing its past, envisioning their future. When learning was real, performance soared. Credit: Melissa Isidor.
Holding Ground. In recent years, flows of capital have reversed. Predatory speculation has replaced disinvestment in Mill Creek, and environmental improvements have spurred “green” gentrification, prompting reflection and reconsideration: how to improve environmental quality and prevent displacement of residents. Credit: Melissa Isidor.

What does it mean for research to be racially just and restorative?


Anne Whiston Spirn, Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning, and filmmaker John Moody collaborate on a 60-minute film featuring personal and collective reflections on the West Philadelphia Landscape Project, an award-winning action research project founded by Spirn in 1987. The project engages MIT faculty and students in exploring how to restore the urban natural environment and rebuild low-income communities of color, simultaneously and synergistically. 

More than six years in the making, the film depicts the struggle to envision and implement an integrated approach to wicked problems of pollution, poverty, and race. Design as research is featured, including the role of design thinking and design experiments, and how real-world successes and failures test and generate ideas, prompt pivots, and forge deep relationships among university and community partners. 

More about the project: West Philadelphia Landscape Project


Upcoming Event

Public Presentation of Making Change: In Place Over Time
MIT School of Architecture + Planning

Spring 2024


Anne Whiston Spirn, the Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at MIT, is credited with launching the ecological urbanism movement. Since 1987, Spirn has directed the West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP), an action research project restoring nature and rebuilding community through strategic design, planning, and education programs. Through experimental projects, WPLP seeks to demonstrate how to create human settlements that are healthier, more economical to build and maintain, and more resilient, beautiful, and just.

Biography: MIT Department of Urban Studies & Planning
Social: Vimeo

John Moody is a creative director, urban designer, and filmmaker focused on creating places of inclusion and imagination. With an approach to change that emphasizes people’s lived experiences and collective storytelling, Moody has played a pivotal role in helping designers, organizations, and cities to find hidden power in their work and to catalyze progressive transformation in their environments. He currently serves as a Senior Consultant at Arup, a global design firm.

Website: Moody.Studio
Social: iMDb | Instagram | Twitter | Vimeo


Director, Script Writer
Anne Whiston Spirn

Film and Sound Editing/Mixing, Graphics, and Color
John Moody

Supported by a Fay Chandler Creativity Grant from the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology.