Infrastructures for Grace: Meditations on regenerative design praxis in gentrifying urban landscapes

By Elizabeth Walsh

In consideration of the possibilities for place-based learning and resilience, this article offers reflections from the author’s praxis in regenerative neighborhood development in Austin, Texas from 2006 to 2015. Consistent with the themes of the Winter 2015 issue, the article considers psychological, social, political, and economic dimensions of place-based engagement, citizen action, and stewardship within the particular context of gentrifying urban landscapes and contested visions of sustainable cities. Although the author shares a particular situated experience, the themes explored are pertinent to others in the field who share a desire to advance environmental justice in fast-growing cities. The article presents a model for regenerative praxis drawn primarily from the Theory U framework for collaborative action research and the LENSES framework for regenerative design that helped the author contribute more positively to the social and ecological resilience of her neighborhood in the face of gentrification and social tension. Drawing from examples from two neighborhood-based projects, the article offers a call to the field to integrate unprecedented curiosity, compassion and courage into sustainability research and praxis in the contested landscapes we call home. As we consider the prospect of place-making and learning, the article offers a call to engage in un-learning and un-making so that we might co-create new patterns of inhabitation. The article offers some general propositions about priorities for future place-based action research.

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