Your Place as a System (2021)

For this assignment, my goal was to “demonstrate an ability to bound a system for analysis, embed an individual within a natural and sociocultural system, and clearly communicate the complexity of the structure, function, and interrelationship or feedback.”

I chose to map Atlanta, the city where I’ve spent all my life. Using Atlanta’s highway and road system as my guide, I mapped out different aspects of life in this city. While my personal beliefs and biases had some influence on what I decided to include and omit, I attempted to remain as impartial as possible throughout the process and step back.

It was interesting to think about the scales of impact in Atlanta. I experience Atlanta on an individual scale, in an immediate context. However, as a lower-middle class white woman, I come with a certain lens of interpretation of my city. How I judge Atlanta and what I think is best for the city is shaped, at least in part, by my personal opinions and feelings. All my life, I’ve experienced the city streets. I know my neighborhood like the back of my hand, and I’m learning the layout of major city streets, slowly but surely. I know somewhat how the city is designed and influenced by its history in an intermediate context. I know the layout of the MARTA system, and I’m familiar with most of the local businesses. This project taught me more about the bigger scales in a broader context, like environment design. I learned about how city parks interact with and complement the natural environment. I studied service design across the city, like how Stacey Abrams registered Black voters on a grand scale. The ecological aspect focused heavily on policy design, and where we can take our city to accommodate urban nature and involve communities who have been discriminated against in the past. I even touched on global problems, like climate change.

As a person, I am a part of a subsystem of Atlanta. Before this project, I had some idea of Atlanta as a system. I understood that aspects were interconnected. Through this project and my graphics, I tried to convey how Atlanta is composed of complex, purposeful wholes that come together to form a multileveled, overlapping system.

One of the most interesting aspects of this project was learning about Atlanta as a bioregion and looking at the city through a bioregionalism lens. I learned a lot about our native flora, fauna and ecoregions. In my project, I tried to stress the importance of living in place by following the necessities and pleasures of life as they are presented by the area surrounding Atlanta. Atlanta is very uniquely situated, and Atlanta’s city planners can continue to work with the natural ecosystems that we’ve been gifted, instead of against them.

Atlanta has a rich and diverse culture rooted in its diverse communities and population, whether these be communities of place, culture, interest, resistance, or practice. Looking towards the future of the city I call home, We should focus on equity and inclusion of all of our citizens. We should also focus on protecting the city’s natural ecosystems, restoring Atlanta’s urban ecology, and accentuating the intersection of people and nature.
Hannah Lesser 2022