The Intersection of Research and Practice

A significant part of our research focuses on sustainable urbanism.  This intersection and cross-collaboration of practice and research is essential to evolving the discipline of urban design over the next 50 years and to respond to the rapid urbanization of the world, all within the challenge of resource limitations and climate change. At the intersection of academia and practice relative to sustainable urbanism, H3 Studio has completed or participated in developing the first Regional Sustainability Plan for St. Louis; the first City-wide Sustainability Plan for the City of St. Louis; and the first HUD-DOT-EPA Neighborhood Sustainability Plan for the St. Louis region, in the Parkview Neighborhood; together with leading a five-year effort on resilience and post-disaster planning, design and development of Post-Katrina New Orleans. This represents a ten-year commitment to the development and practice of sustainable urbanism that John Hoal identified a serious gap in the interdisciplinary knowledge base and framework for sustainability planning; a lack of expertise and commitment to sustainable urbanism within the profession and the community at large; a lack of expertise in qualitative place-making; and most importantly a lack of scholarly research work and evidence based design in sustainable urbanism. 

Doctorate of Sustainable Urbanism

For the last five years, Hoal has researched, developed and successfully promoted a new applied research degree – the Doctor of Sustainable Urbanism – which is now officially approved within the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Importantly, during the said five years, a number of Hoal's academic design studios and courses focused simultaneously on the development of urban sustainability working collaboratively with H3 Studio and other non-profits to bring practice into academia, and academia into practice for the mutual benefit of the students, and for the creation of new knowledge, methodologies and practices. What was developed within the university design studio was tested and challenged in the world of practice through H3 Studio and vice versa providing the mechanism for a critical practice to emerge. This work has been recognized with awards and resulted in projects implemented within the community. The intention is to continue to broaden this trajectory so that the new knowledge base developed within this new Doctor of Sustainable Urbanism program will significantly impact and elevate the critical nature of the practice of sustainable urbanism.

Academic Courses

John Hoal along with Courtney Cushard, Colleen Xi Qiu, and Matthew Bernstine have taught a number of design and research courses on sustainable urbanism in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. These courses combine academic research with in-depth field studies in St. Louis, Missouri.  Students engage the city to advance their knowledge and understanding of the practice of sustainable urbanism and they engage with residents and neighborhoods to advance the public conversation and understanding of the challenges of climate change and the possibility of sustainable design and practice. The courses include:

Contemporary Practices of Sustainable Urbanism

This seminar investigates those contemporary practices of Sustainable Urbanism that exemplify a concern for locality, place, culture, community and authenticity.  Sustainable urbanism is understood not as a predefined goal or form but as a contested territory involving socially constructed processes, conflicting values and competing interests that dictate urban change and the consumption of urban space all mediated through the practice of urban design.  To this end, different sustainability functional categories (water, air, food, transportation, development patterns, etc.) and various methodological approaches to urban sustainability are investigated including Regenerative Urbanism, Healthy Cities, Ecological Urbanism, Eco-Urbanity, Resilient Cities, Smart Cities, LEED ND, the Natural Step, ICLEI and ZED Cities. The research project of the seminar focuses on one St. Louis neighborhood with the intent that the students develop a Sustainable Urban Design Plan for the area. This course is augmented with presentations by local sustainability practitioners and includes an optional site visit to Portland, OR and/or Vancouver, Canada to fully investigate and understand the respective city’s implementation of sustainable urbanism. 

Neighborhoods researched: West End, Forest Park Southeast, Parkview Gardens


Sustainable Cities: Infrastructure, Landscapes & Buildings

This seminar investigates the contemporary debates and practices with respect to the design and development of sustainable cities, communities and environments.  With more than three-quarters the world’s population living in cities by 2050 together with cities being the world’s largest consumer of resources, it will be the design of cities that frame the essential theory and practice of sustainability. Consideration is given to the definition and reasons for the sustainability paradigm, indicators of sustainability, the ecological footprint, green infrastructure, environmental and regenerative design, smart growth, social equity, air and water quality, climate change, and sustainable energy and transportation practices as they relate to the design and development of cities.


Forest Park Southeast Sustainability Framework Plan

Forest Park Southeast Sustainability Framework Plan

West End Neighborhood Sustainability Plan

West End Neighborhood Sustainability Plan


Professional Projects & Presentations

H3 Studio's professional work in sustainability is constantly evolving to build on the most current research and best practices from local, national, and international resources.