Research Leave for Chris Ling, School Director

January 10, 2019
Chris Ling

I have had the privilege to be the Director of the School of Environment and Sustainability for 5 years. I am stepping down from that role in March 2019 and also, I am taking the opportunity to take some time out this spring and summer from regular RRU Faculty work to explore some research questions that have long interested me. These opportunities for research leave allow Faculty to intellectually reenergise, which benefits personal research productivity and has positive impacts to teaching and curriculum within our programs.

My interest is in multifunctional urban landscape, with a particular focus on green spaces. Urban green spaces are recognized for providing wide-ranging benefits for city residents and urban environments. Research has addressed the impact these spaces have on health and well-being, climate change adaptation, urban biodiversity, ecosystem services, social interaction and cohesion, housing and property valuation, heritage value, and education. Interdisciplinary scholars have examined urban sustainability and the role of urban infrastructure in contributing to sustainable, liveable cities, with urban parks and green spaces presented largely as beneficial, with little downsides. Yet, despite this, cities and regions continue to wrestle with providing and managing these spaces for the 21st-century city. I will explore a variety of case studies where challenges related to green space are very different. Two of my currently confirmed case studies are Christchurch, New Zealand, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I will be asking what the priorities are for green space in these areas – and what are the key tensions between possible functions that could exist in green space.

In Christchurch, much built space has been demolished and/or abandoned following the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. The city has been tackling the role and purpose of greenspace in relation to the reconstruction of the ‘red zone’, formerly residential area of the city that as a result of those earthquakes is currently closed and is still being cleared. My other confirmed case study is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, along with many rapidly growing South East Asian cities, has a potentially catastrophic lack of green infrastructure, a significant threat to the livability and resilience of the city. However, in principle at least, the public policy in the region is strongly supportive of maintaining and enhancing green infrastructure in the face of rapid urbanisation. I will also be examining green space planning in Europe, where modern suburbs brush up against ancient cities.