With the 2010 Winter Olympics drawing to a close, Professor John Gold's upcoming talk "London 2012, Olympic Legacy, and the Challenge of Sustainable Urbanism" holds particular global relevance.

Gold's talk and recent research focuses on London's urban planning as the city shifts to accommodate the Summer Olympics in two years' time.

Like all cities preparing to host the games, the construction of new spaces and the renovation of old spaces has been a hot topic. Unique to the summer 2012 games, however, are the concerted efforts to keep issues of sustainability and environmentalism at the forefront.

The design of this upcoming Olympics—which will be taken on by a number of internationally renowned architects—will maximize sustainability through its buildings, infrastructure and through the staging of the games themselves.

This confluence of environmental concerns, urban development and cultural events has been of particular interest to scholars of various fields.

For Gold, the celebrated architectural historian hailing from Oxford Brookes University in London, interest in this issue has sprung from a passion and scholarly interest in the built, urban environment.

"I'm a somewhat unusual architectural historian in that I work almost exclusively at the urban scale, which is normally the province of planning historians," Gold explained of his work. "This interest in modern architecture's involvement with city design certainly correlates with the changes being wrought on London's cityscape."

His interest in London as an "Olympic City," however, is even more precisely tied to a diverging interest in the conflation between the built environment and cultural life.

"I have a second strand of interest that I work on with my wife Maggie," Gold said. It is "concerned with the relationship between cities, urban planning and cultural festivals. This interest is distinct from my work on modernism, although there is some overlap."

Gold has written and spoken intensively on this issue. The work from which this talk pulls, however—and a work which will be re-released as a second and updated edition—is the volume "Olympic Cities: City Agendas, Planning, and the World's Games, 1896-2012," which he co-edited with his wife Margaret Gold.

I will be drawing on "my work on 'Olympic Cities' to examine the forthcoming Olympics in London 2012 and the role that thinking about sustainable urbanism has played in its planning," Gold said.

"As my title suggests then," he added, "I'm going to be dealing with broader issues of city design rather than just the design of buildings."

This emphasis on city design and broader repercussive environmental issues made Gold's work of particular interest to Bowdoin's environmental studies department as they sought speakers to bring to campus during this academic year.

Jill Pearlman, lecturer in environmental studies and scholar of architectural and urban planning, spearheaded this search.

"At an Environmental Studies meeting we were talking about bringing speakers to campus to talk about environmental issues of all sorts—especially topics that might spark a wide interest on campus," said Pearlman, speaking to the impetus behind pursuing Gold's visit to campus.

Speaking specifically to the intersection of environmentalism and the persistent, global interest in the Olympic games, Pearlman explained Gold's talk to be of particular relevance.

"Everyone loves the Olympics and London promises to be quite incredible from the sustainable design point of view. From the very beginning, sustainability has been at the core of the plans for London," she said.

Speaking of his upcoming talk, Gold elaborated on Pearlman's enthusiasm for the issue in an email.

"I can tell you with some confidence that no Olympic Games to date has contributed much to sustainable urbanism and some have done the opposite, leaving huge debts, lightly used stadia, badly skewed urban renewal programmes and a large number of broken promises on environmental matters," Gold said.

Moreover, London 2012's unprecedented conflation of environmental concerns, urban planning and cultural festivity make Gold's talk of particular multi-disciplinary interest.

"John is one of the major scholars when it comes to London and issues of urbanism," said Pearlman.

For that reason, interest in bringing Gold was not relegated to the Environmental Studies department. Rather, after voicing her preliminary interest, Pearlman said that several departments and organizations contributed to supporting Gold's visit.

"The response [from a number of departments and programs] was immediate and enthusiastic," Pearlman said. "Visual arts, history, athletics, Sustainable Bowdoin and the McKeen Center all jumped in."

Rosemary Armstrong, program coordinator for the environmental studies department, also stressed the support given by the Mellon Foundation.

Granted to the environmental studies department in 2004, Armstrong explained that the intent of the fund was to "infuse an international perspective into the environmental studies program's curriculum."

"In order to broaden the international dimensions of the environmental studies program, [the Mellon Fund supported] a series of co-curricular events" for this academic year, one of which is Gold's upcoming lecture.

This overwhelmingly multi-disciplinary and campus-wide support was of no surprise, said Pearlman.

As an explanation, Pearlman again pointed to the environmental concern and its continual integration into more public, cultural spaces.

"The environment—and I am biased, the urban environment especially—engages many disciplines and is of interest to many people. And, of course, everyone loves the Olympics. It seemed like a winning combination for a Bowdoin lecture and the support we received beyond [the environmental studies department] seems to confirm this."

Gold's research and writing converge nicely with this social and environmental concern supported by Bowdoin's campus and the surrounding community.

This confluence became especially evident as Gold pinpointed his focus on the meaning of "sustainable urbanism" and how it relates especially to the Olympics.

With that in mind, one question Gold said that he would certainly be broaching is: "What provisions does London 2012—which has the most comprehensive approach to legacy yet seen for an Olympic festival—have for creating sustainable urbanism?

"The interesting thing about London 2012," Gold said, "is to see how [this concern with] 'legacy'—the big buzzword for everyone interested in the Olympics—has translated into the plans for the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games and what one might expect as the outcome from what we have seen so far."

In a talk that combines urban development, societal environmental concerns and an infatuation with the Olympic games, Gold's talk promises to engage all audiences as they bid farewell to the games of 2010 and begin to look forward to those of the future.

John Gold's lecture, "London 2012, Olympic Legacy, and the Challenge of Sustainable Urbanism" will be held Thursday March 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Kresge Auditiorium. Admission to the lecture is free and open to the public.