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James Urban, FASLA is well known for his skills in the areas of urban arboriculture and soils, including the preservation and installation of trees in the urban environment and the specification and installation of specialized planting soils for roof gardens, urban landscape plantings, and rain water management. 

He has written and lectured extensively on the subjects of soil and urban tree planting and has been responsible for the introduction of many innovations and current standards relating to urban tree plantings and soil specifications. His most recent book, Up by Roots, was published by the International Society of Arboriculture. He has been a visiting lecturer on the subject of urban soils and tree planting at Harvard University and numerous other universities across the United States and has presented at conferences across the United States, Canada, Europe, Brazil, Australia, and South East Asia. He was instrumental in the development of Structural Cells (Silva Cells), structural planting soils, micro root paths, and macro soil trench techniques, and has been credited with helping to re-awaken the profession of landscape architecture to the skills required to successfully plant trees in difficult urban soils.

In 1997, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) awarded him a National Merit Award for his work on urban trees and the following year he was made a Fellow in the ASLA in recognition of this contribution to the profession. In 2007 he was awarded the ASLA Medal of Excellence for his “significant and sustained contributions to Landscape Architecture.” In 2013, the International Society of Arboriculture gave him its Award of Achievement in recognition of his “sustained efforts and contributions to the advancement of the ISA."

Every Project Needs a Lorax - Jim discusses how he went from practicing general landscape architecture to specializing in trees, soils, and stormwater, the major influences on his career, his concerns about the profession today - and his hopes for the future.

The Office of James Urban, FASLA specializes in urban forestry, soils analysis and design, trees and horticultural design and site-specific landscape architectural projects. Founded in 1978, the practice has completed a wide range of project types from water front residences and commercial projects to institutional clients that include the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, and the National Gallery of Art.  The office has worked on many architecturally and historically significant properties including the National Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Geographic Society Headquarters, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Dumbarton Oaks, the Martin Luther King Memorial, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial and the National Mall Turf Reconstruction Project. 

Urban Trees + Soils was begun in 2004 to provide consulting services to landscape architecture and architectural firms in the area of urban trees, urban soils, and large tree preservation, allowing James Urban, FASLA to share his expertise with colleagues and fellow professionals.