The Project

The Hotspot Cities Project is a long-term research initiative conducted through the McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology at the Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. The Hotspot Cities Project began in 2013 as an audit of land use in the world’s biodiversity hotspots in relation to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Target #11 of reaching 17% global protected area by 2020. The results of this first phase of the research are collated in the web-based Atlas for the End of the World- Atlas for the Beginning of the Anthropocene.

The second phase of the research (2016 – 2017) involved mapping the future urban growth of 463 cities in the hotspots identifying where sprawl, endangered species and remnant habitat are in direct conflict with one another. In 2018 this study of 463 cities was condensed to a set of 33 of the biggest and fast-growing cities in each hotspot – the so-called ‘Hotspot cities’. An essay-length description of the background research for the Hotspot Cities Project can be found here.

The third phase of our research now concerns developing design and planning case studies in these 33 cities. It is our contention that the destructive urban sprawl and negative regional impact of cities is not a fait accompli: it is a cultural by-product and can be mitigated through good planning and urban design that is tuned to local ecological and cultural conditions. The purpose of the Hotspot Cities Project is to bring students, conservationists, developers, planners, designers and communities together to improve the relationship between urbanization and biodiversity, where biodiversity means not only the preservation of charismatic species, but the restoration of the ecosystems upon which our cities are ultimately dependent.