A new free iPad app is taking an iconic vision of sustainable cities and making it accessible to millions of tablet users in an interactive format. The Harvard Graduate School of Design has released an Ecological Urbanism app that provides access to the content of its 2010 book Ecological Urbanism, edited by Mohsen Mostafavi and Gareth Doherty. The new app provides a way into not only the original content of Ecological Urbanism but also into the increasing volume of research and discourse that the book has stimulated since its publication.

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Think of the Ecological Urbanism app as an ebook on whole-grain, natural, organic steroids. The design school hired interactive design firm Second Story of Portland, Ore., to develop the app. After studying the book and discussing the content with its creators, Second Story conceived an interactive application based on visual portals that provide access to sustainable design stories around the world. Describing what the app does, Second Story says,

By interpreting the content for a tablet experience, the app takes advantage of an interactive, non-linear experience and creates new opportunities for exploring the subject. An interactive map provides a way to search geographically and demonstrates where the hubs of innovative urbanism are unfolding. Users can also browse with a timeline, filterable by scale and keyword, providing another access point to the content.

The app is supported by a content management system (CMS) and administration staff that allows for continuous updates as researchers expand the body of knowledge around sustainable urban design.

Ecological Urbanism grew out of the desire for a more holistic approach to urban design that would incorporate both social and environmental elements to the development of sustainable cities. In describing this vision, the Harvard design school says,

Ecological Urbanism considers the city with multiple instruments and with a worldview that is fluid in scale and disciplinary focus. Design provides the synthetic key to connect ecology with an urbanism that is not in contradiction with its environment. The book brings together practitioners, theorists, economists, engineers, artists, policymakers, scientists, and public health specialists, with the goal of providing a multilayered, diverse, and nuanced understanding of ecological urbanism and what it might be in the future. The promise is nothing short of a new ethics and aesthetics of the urban.

The Ecological Urbanism iPad app is available from the iTunes Store for free. Version 1.0 is 109 MB and requires iOS 5.0 or later.

+ Ecological Urbanism at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design