Veronica’s work is founded on the belief that Architecture should connect us to our natural environment; be it ocean, sky, mountains, or river. She is dedicated to increasing the awareness of how nature and city needn’t be mutually exclusive. She has studied and worked around the world designing transportation, education, economic and public space networks that integrate citizens and architecture in more resilient and efficient ways. If you are a designer looking to collaborate, please contact her below!
Click here to check out Veronica’s work as a sustainable architect and geodesigner dedicated to honoring the Earth.
Click here to discover a new kind of design team with a focus on capacity building for sustainable urbanism.
Veronica Anderson is a pioneer in the field of Geodesign and brings together extensive knowledge of sustainability, geographic information systems, and architectural design to create truly resilient urban ecosystems. Veronica has participated in for-profit urban development projects, and nonprofit sustainability work. Her previous position as Director of Geodesign at ICGC involved the management of design and scientific experts to help achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in partnership with the United Nations at the urban and national scales. She is also on the board of advisers for BioPhilly, which is working to make Philadelphia a part of the global Biophilic Cities Network. Her presentation of a revised master plan for the Navy Yard of Philadelphia at the 2016 Geodesign Summit received an award for best lighting talk. For this same work she also received Philadelphia University’s award for Excellence in Geodesign, which recognized her innovative use of parametric design and 3D geospatial technologies to enable data-driven design based on true metrics of sustainability. Her undergraduate thesis on ecological urbanism and sustainable architecture systems was also recognized by the Temple University Library Prize for Research on Sustainability and the Environment. This revolutionary thesis demonstrated a prototypical approach for architects to design living systems of people and buildings to mitigate the impacts of climate change called an Urban Climate Catalyst. The architecture, consisting of an ecological wastewater treatment system, amenities for daily water-centric tasks, as well as space for emergent uses, recognizes the power of informal development, mixed with infrastructure resiliency. Recently, Veronica has founded a nonprofit called Sanadora Collaborative which is working with urban communities to create maps and apps that engage citizens in protecting natural resources, inform environmentally just policies, and generate sustainable development plans. Sanadora is supporting the United Nation’s New Urban Agenda at a global scale by using geodesign to work with communities in development, empowering them to design with nature in their city.
She is currently located in San José, Costa Rica.
Vision: The City Humanity Deserves
The city humanity deserves is the eco-city which has been built in pieces around the world. It can’t be built from scratch, it must organically evolving over time into the vision presented here. Fully integral systems of natural resources both protected and utilized, open spaces for healthy recreation, work opportunities in a restorative economy, social networks that are dense and emergent, and biophilic spaces and places where cars don’t dominate over people and animals. The city humanity deserves has a system for governance which lets the citizens fully participate in the democratic process using technology to facilitate communication between legislators and public servants and citizens. Networks of registered community organizations maintain different parts of the city, evolving them as their own, giving them each a unique character and feeling of place. Arts, culture, and heritage naturally thrive as the expression of this. Diversity thrives and conflict is reduced because all voices are equally heard and all communities experience freedom of expression on their land. Transparency in the governance process brings accountability to leaders and inclusion helps the community to support the leadership. The land which the city borrows to develop into the spaces and places it wants to see is understood as a finite resource. Pilot projects are built and tested first, urban acupuncture is practiced to vet strategies for developing the city’s systems. An agile and responsive city-wide network of developers keeps compassion in action and the wellbeing of their neighbors at the center of their focus; communities are seen as a resource and inspiration. Insights about what development the community can sustain emerge from communication between neighbors and developers. Fear doesn’t motivate them, only love. Love for the land makes them see that the city is a liability. It must be valuable in more than the financial sense and so the decision-makers choose development which is socially, ecologically, and economically responsible. Those who live in spaces connected to nature can feel the importance of this. Architecture serves the land and the people, both. The love of life (biophilia) inspired the design of the city and its spaces, all who move through the city can feel it.
The city humanity deserves is a home for nature as much as it is for people. In it, there is little differentiation between the two and their respective systems, which all work together in perfect harmony. Humans make use of the hydrological cycle, and nature makes use of the humans’ agriculture system, for example. Consciously, space has been given to the flow of nature, and it exists alongside roads and buildings, weaving among and through patches of pavement and glass. Trees and grasses are everywhere, and stress has become a foreign feeling. Their diet is fresh and organic but people don’t need to work any harder to afford or access it because the food systems of the city support human health and not exclusively profit. Safe and secure in the provision for clean air, water, food, and shelter, work is a joy and their joy is spreading. A sound plan for development which as been designed with nature keeps public transit accessible and efficient so that transportation between the city’s hubs of commerce is easy. Space for cars is minimal because people recognize the value of human interaction. People are happy to rely on their own feet as the fastest mode for commuting. Development around the transit nodes supports the creation of new nodes, and in this way the system of transporting people and goods is always accessible and affordable, it is the nervous system and the skeleton of the body of the city. The city’s digestive system is so efficient that waste is seen as a resource. Nothing comes in which hasn’t been tested or prepared for elimination. In their daily lives, citizens understand the flow of their resources, where and how trash is recycled, and so they invest in supporting the digestion of their own waste through separation and composting. The love of the land to which they are constantly connected motivates them to act in service to the city and the earth. Children learn from the parents how to be stewards for the planet, and the parents learn from the children how to be more in love with life. The architects design spaces to express this, and the cycle of loving continues.
Mission: Connecting Humans and Nature
I am on a mission to change the world with architecture and urban design by using them to connect humans and nature. Can you imagine a world where cities design themselves? The citizens of self-sustaining urban ecosystems will prove this is not only possible, but that it is in humanity’s best interest on every level.
We are blessed to live in a time when so many people are waking up to the truth of what it means to live in love and be united as one planet. Humanity is collectively realizing that in order to end wars, we can’t simply send all our bombs and weapons off to the moon, some kind of real change has to occur at the very core of how we live our lives. In order to end global poverty, as our world leaders have committed to do by 2030, systemic change is needed.
Humans are evolving beyond the belief that the water, oil, gas, and minerals of the Earth are abundant and endless. The finite nature of these resources can no longer be ignored, now is the time to recognize the infinite abundance of what is non-material, love, unity, and information.
You and I are now privileged to be witnessing a collective spiritual awakening, what is being called a Golden Age in which a global paradigm shift from scarcity to abundance is taking place. The 2030 Agenda created by the United Nations in 2015 is an example of the collective drive towards unified resilience, with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The future starts now.
On every continent, scientists and economists are studying happiness and giving value to sensitivity, showing humanity that it is possible to shed the modern status quo of depression and consumerism. The global and growing mindfulness movement shows us that humanity is open to choosing the beauty that awaits us in the present moment instead of living in constant fear or anxiety about the past and future. Mindful living in the Western world is the antidote to capitalist leanings.
A return to appreciating how lovingly Mother Nature supports and provides for us is happening now, and this realization is becoming mainstream. People are choosing a future where instead of fighting against nature and struggling to survive “in spite of it,” humanity will make the most of the natural processes to which he is steward (i.e. hydro, atmo, litho, pedo, ethno, and biospheres). We must learn to design with nature so that man-made systems and solutions become occasional allies and not the default; the permaculture movement is showing us how indigenous wisdom can help humanity live in alignment with natural systems.
It is inevitable that as people return to love consciousness they will gain an increased respect for the Earth from which we all come.
This is the part where architecture comes into play…
…because it works the other way too. As more respect is cultivated for the Earth, more people return to love consciousness, which starts a chain reaction of love and respect. The buildings, streets, and spaces where we live, work, and play are quietly sending messages to us all day long. In the city they say, “you are a machine, not of this earth or connected to nature.” In the suburbs they say, “look how man can control nature.” In the country they have turned their back on nature, “you uneasily coexist beside the wild.”
Architects need to take a stand.
America, the world’s most recently urbanized nation which has unwittingly become the template for the Earth’s future cities, must first take responsibility for the leadership it has unwittingly inherited through its claims of superiority as “leader of the free world.”
In 2014, buildings in the USA accounted for:
- 36% of total energy use
- 65% of electricity consumption
- 30% of greenhouse gas emissions
- 30% of raw materials use and
- 30% of waste output (136 million tons annually; Source)
Architects have a direct ability to affect the physical and psychological health of entire societies through the act of designing and modifying the city. The modern movement encouraged architects to passively design style-less spaces with ruthless efficiency and heartless style. A call to action is being made, return to the awareness and authority that the practitioners of the “mother of all arts” once had.
We need to start building a future lived in love, now.
Conscious of our role as stewards of a unique and precious planet, our actions must be motivated by a love of life, and at the very lease a respect for survival. In the future, cities will produce energy instead of consume it, emit clean air instead of pollute it, use recycled materials, consume less electricity, and best of all, cities will treat waste instead of creating it.
If this sounds idealistic, ask yourself why.
These are all things we already know how to do with our buildings, infrastructure, and public spaces. Seriously, I have two professional degrees in all of it. We already have the technology to live in these fantastic cities, all that remains is to ask ourselves when the designers and politicians with the power to create them will choose to step up and raise their voices.
Architects have the knowledge and skills to design spaces at all scales and the responsibility to use those skills for the greater good. They also have the authority to make decision-makers listen to reason.
By 2050 Latin America will reach 60% urbanization, the same level Europe has already reached today, and the two billion new people who will call Earth home by that time will be living in cities in the now-developing world. In cities where 50% of the urban population now lives without access to reliable water, sewage, or electricity lines, we are going to need homes for two billion people. There is no time to waste on thoughts of “not my problem” and “this is how it’s always been done.” It’s our problem and no, it has not. Unhealthy architecture is a modern invention.
Let’s not screw this up.
Now is the time to plant the seeds of the grass roots efforts which will produce true conscious global change. Planetary thinking will no longer suffice, it is time to implement global action.
Designers must work with, not just for communities.
Long-distance, one-size-fits-all projects are no longer applicable. The designer must be in and of the community being designed, this is why capacity-building is the key. I traveled to Peru to research a thesis that demonstrates this. Healthy and resilient networks of people and spaces are designed by architects who work with, not for people. Connection is the antidote to the destruction and catastrophe Earth is facing without our immediate adjustment to the pace at which we are developing our cities and towns. Cross-disciplinary teams of locals and experts are needed now with stunning urgency.
I am currently seeking partners to collaborate on funding and manifesting the Urban Climate Catalyst for slums in Lima, Peru. Potential partners are warmly encouraged to contact me by email below. Several other projects are also currently in development. Please reach out if you are interested in collaborating.