Elena Lacilla and Towards a Sustainable Identity

By Nicole Ginley - Hidinger

If it were possible, Visiting Scholar, Elena Lacilla’s suitcases would be packed full of doughnuts. During her visit, which was more than three months, to the University of Oregon from Spain, they have become her favorite American food. 

Lacilla received a grant to study the Sustainable Cities Initiative, SCYP and the relationship between the university and the city, and to do her own research on waterfront development in Vancouver, Canada and Portland, Oregon.  

She is visiting the architecture department from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, where she is an Assistant Professor in Urbanism. While here, Lacilla wrote a paper on SCI and gave a lecture on her research. The paper will be published in January in an index journal about urban planning in the EEUU.

"For someone to read that and know what people can do here with cities is interesting,” she says.

Lacilla researched how through preservation, reconstruction, and enhancement, a place can become more sustainable while keeping its unique identity, as well as how the identity of place is created and how we connect and relate to it.  Essentially, the successful redevelopment of an area means keeping the original buildings and architecture in tact and initiating sustainable plans or creating new sustainable architecture that captures the same character.

“You can feel connected to a place in different ways,” Lacilla says. “To keep the architecture of a place is important to keep the identity of the place.”

She believes that to create a place that people can identify to, it has to be a place where people can do activities.

“The place changes depending on the people,” she says. “We find identity in different ways.”

Lacilla was interested in how the design of a public space can motivate people to lead more sustainable lives.

“If you have a good public space you are motivated to walk,” she says. “The design of the public space is so important.”

On October 28th, Lacilla gave her first lecture in English over the research she has done in her three months here. Despite her nerves, the lecture went smoothly.

“It was a wonderful introduction to sustainable urban design examples from around the world,” an attendee says. “Her discussion of how design decisions can help or hinder community identity is a critical issue for students in Architecture and Allied Arts.”

While here, she learned a lot about SCI and her research. The best memories though are of the beautiful natural places she got to see, the people she met, and Superman walking through the architecture building on Halloween. And, of course, the doughnuts.