• New Book

    The Eye Is a Door

    A series of clear essays and suites of superb photographs ... an aid to understanding and living intensely. LAURIE OLIN

    The Eye Is a Door begins a new conversation in a time when media are being invented, redefined, and combined. Anne Whiston Spirn speaks to us in a unique and magical convergence of images and words seen from an entirely new perspective, and invites us to join the conversation. I promise you, it is not one to miss. WILL STEACY

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    Buy for $4.99
  • New Videos

    Buried River, Opened Lives

    People who have participated in the West Philadelphia Landscape Project over the past three decades tell stories of how the project changed their lives, schools, and communities. What they have to say is revelatory. Their stories are captured in this series of short videos.

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  • Coming Soon

    The Granite Garden eBook and Website

    A new edition of the book that the American Planning Association has called one of the “essential books” of the past century, which “touched off the ecological urbanism movement.” This expanded electronic edition features new cases and reflects on changes since the original publication in 1984. Priced at $4.99. The new website features successful cases that are searchable by keywords.

    Watch for Further Information
  • New Proposal

    Philadelphia Green Schools: Green Schools, Thriving Neighborhoods

    Students in my Ecological Urbanism seminar at MIT propose a model program for Philadelphia, which integrates stormwater management and environmental restoration with neighborhood transformation and with education and empowerment of youth.

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  • New Overview

    Ecological Urbanism: A Framework for the Design of Resilient Cities

    This overview identifies fundamental concepts and principles to advance the practice of ecological urbanism as a means to achieve cities that are more life-sustaining and more resilient, and less costly to build and maintain.

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  • Coming Soon

    Marnas: A Journey through Space, Time, and Ideas

    This new website enables the visitor to embark on a series of journeys through space and time at Marnas, the garden of master landscape architect Sven-Ingvar Andersson. Hundreds of photographs taken over the past fifty years along with Andersson’s own writings on theory and practice provide a window into the dialogue between ideas and place.

    Take a Sneak Peek

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Human survival depends upon adapting ourselves and our landscapes – cities, buildings, roadways, rivers, fields, forests – in new, life-sustaining ways, shaping places that are functional, sustainable, meaningful, and artful, places that help us feel and understand the relationship of the natural and the built.

My career as an author, photographer, landscape architect, and teacher has been dedicated to this goal.



I write to understand why and how things come about and to envision what they might be.

As an author, I want to inspire readers to see their world afresh and to imagine new possibilities.


The Eye Is A Door

(Wolf Tree Press, 2012)

Go to Book Site

Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field

(University of Chicago Press, 2008)
2009 John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize
2009 Great Places Book Award
2009 honorable Mention, PROSE Award

Purchase Book
Go to Book Site
Hear NPR Interview

The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design

(New York: Basic Books, 1984). Translated into Japanese and Portuguese.
1984 President’s Award of Excellence from the American Society of Landscape Architects
2009 Named one of the past century’s “100 Essential Books of Planning,” American Planning Association

Purchase Book
Hear PRI Interview

Read the Essays



I photograph to discover ideas and stories, hidden and real, that are embodied in the world.

As a photographer, I want to inspire others to see the extraordinary in the everyday, to pause and look deeply at the surface of things, and also beyond that surface to the stories landscapes tell, to the forces that shape human lives and communities, the earth, and the universe.

See the Photographs

Explore The Eye Is a Door


Landscape Architect

Action is another way of knowing. As a landscape architect, I work with people to design their neighborhood, city, and region, using action to develop and test theory, and theory to reflect on experience.

Making things happen is a messy process full of unforeseen obstacles and opportunities. Unexpected events challenge assumptions.


Thumbnails Here



As a teacher, I want to help my students discover: to see and think, to be able to reason and imagine through words, images, and action.

I create a framework for learning where students’ insights grow out of their independent and collective work, and where I too can learn.

Thumbnails Here


On Landscape

My work ranges across far-flung territories, from rural countryside to inner city neighborhoods, and it crosses many boundaries. Landscape and design are the threads that connect the whole.

Landscape is an association of people and place. A dynamic partnership. A mutual shaping.



On Design

Design is a way of imagining and telling new stories and reviving old ones, describing the shape of a possible future.

Design is for me a frame of mind, a habit of looking for opportunities where others see problems and then of devising solutions that combine function, form, poetry, and justice.

Read Interviews


All my work – design, teaching, photography, and writing – is devoted to helping people recognize the good and the beautiful that exist in the world, to bolster and build from them, and to recognize the ugly and the dangerous, to avoid them.


Welcome to this site, which is a gateway to my work.