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Urban Planning and Design

Urban-Tech Startups: The Role of Private Sector Innovation in Shaping Our Cities (2020)


    Who should have power to shape the city? How can the private and public sectors complement each other? And how might they be in tension? With the growth of venture capital in the last few decades and the continued shrinking of cities budgets, the private sector has gained even more influence in shaping urban outcomes, often initiating large-scale and rapid changes that compel governing bodies into reactive roles, and taking on challenges traditionally addressed by public sector urban planners. In this panel, we discuss how the continued shift towards private sector control impacts urban management and how urban technologies fundamentally change residents’ experience of the city.


    • Stephen Larrick, City Success Lead, Stae (Moderator)
    • Newsha Ghaeli, President and Co-Founder, Biobot Analytics
    • Matthew Guichard, Account Executive, REMIX
    • Dawn Miller, Head of Policy and Partnerships, Coord
    • Liz Sisson, Chief Operating Officer, Urban-X

    Towards a New Architecture: Climate Change and Design (2019)


      The climate emergency demands that the ways we build, and think about building, change radically. But how? We are in a rapidly evolving, paradoxical context of worsening scientific indicators, sweeping and contradictory policy proposals from different points on the political spectrum, and, simultaneously, increasing climate change-instigated action at the scale of cities and regions.

      What, then, should designers do, and how can they do it? How do the practice, culture, and pedagogy of architecture and landscape architecture need to shift?

      In this series of lectures, discussions, and interviews, leading practitioners, educators, and sustainability advocates describe the urgent need for change and sketch the outlines of new ways of thinking and acting as architects and landscape architects.



      Architectural League programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with the support of the City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo; and the National Endowment for the Arts.

      Architectural League programs are also supported by The J. Clawson Mills Fund of The Architectural League.

      Aging in [a] Place: Planning, Design & Spatial Justice in Aging Societies (2019)


        The United States is an aging society with growing economic inequality and socio-cultural diversity. Age-associated disadvantages, such as declining health, overlap with unequal access to healthy places, suitable housing, and other social determinants of health. These have in many cases affected people throughout life. As a result, there are vast differences in people’s experiences of late life.

        Today, public discussion and policy focuses on “aging in place” as a way to improve quality of life and reduce costs. However, in part because of socioeconomic differences and structural inequalities, not all older adults can live in or move to age-supportive communities, neighborhoods, or homes that match their values and needs. Differences in access to places to age well can take the form of spatial inequalities, such as inadequate market rate housing for older adults on fixed incomes.

        Co-sponsored by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and The Hastings Center, the symposium will apply a spatial justice lens to this challenge, asking, who has access to age-friendly communities, accessible housing to prolong independence, and sufficient funds to cover housing and care? How can planners, policymakers, designers, and citizens make progress on social inequalities among older adults through planning and design? How can the fields of medicine, public health, and planning/design work together to effect change?


        • Chris Herbert
        • Mildred Z. Solomon
        • Nancy Berlinger
        • Toni Griffin
        • Jennifer Molinsky
        • Lauren Taylor
        • Lisa Marsh Ryerson
        • Robin Lipson
        • Emily Greenfield
        • Emi Kiyota
        • Rodney Harrell
        • Reese Fayde

        See also:

        The Digital Urbanisms Conference (2019)


          The development of urban digital technologies and the deployment of digital information have evolved into a mutually reinforcing feedback loop between distributed sites of data production and extraction, and the planning and design of data-driven and evidence-based landscapes. Mobile social media, networks of sensors, and the ecology of connected devices termed the “Internet of Things,” among others, constitute infrastructures that harvest information, while advancing techniques of analysis and visualization have begun to describe and design sociopolitical and built environments in their image.

          Digital Urbanisms is a one-day symposium bringing together urban researchers and practitioners – planners, architects, geographers, organizers, and entrepreneurs – to take stock of the digital processes and products shaping cities, their promises, and problems, and discuss alternatives and approaches for operating within and against the uneven spaces they characterize.


          Part 1:

          • Nerissa Moray, Associate Director, Planning & Development, Sidewalk Labs
          • Vinhcent Le, Technology Equity Council, The Greenlining Institute
          • Tara Pham, Founder and CEO, Numina Co
          • Mimi Sheller, Director, Center for Mobilities Research and Policy, Professor of Sociology, Drexel University
          • Moderated by Malo Hutson

          Part 2:

          • Laura Bliss, West Coast Bureau Chief, CityLab
          • Justin Hollander, Professor and Director Urban Attitudes Lab, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University
          • Taylor Shelton, Assistant Professor, Geography and GIS, Mississippi State University
          • Moderated by Mark Wasiuta

          Part 3:

          • Keynote by Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor, African American Studies, Princeton University. Response by Leah Meisterlin.

          Part 4:

          • Greta Byrum, Co-Director, Digital Equity Laboratory, The New School
          • Renee Sieber, Associate Professor, Geography, McGill University
          • Moderated by Susan McGregor.

          Part 5:

          • Craig Dalton, Assistant Professor of Global Studies and Geography, Hofstra University
          • Annette Kim, Associate Professor and Director Spatial Analysis Lab, Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California
          • Mark Shepard, Associate Professor and Director of Media Arts and Architecture Program, University at Buffalo
          • Moderated by Laura Kurgan

          Nature Based Metropolitan Solutions (2019)


            How can ecosystems contribute to quality of life and a more livable, healthier and more resilient urban environment?

            Have you ever considered all the different benefits the ecosystem could potentially deliver to you and your surroundings? Unsustainable urbanization has resulted in the loss of biodiversity, the destruction of habitats and has therefore limited the ability of ecosystems to deliver the advantages they could confer.

            This course establishes the priorities and highlights the direct values of including principles based on natural processes in urban planning and design. Take a sewage system or a public space for example. By integrating nature-based solutions they can deliver the exact same performance while also being beneficial for the environment, society and economy.

            Increased connectivity between existing, modified and new ecosystems and restoring and rehabilitating them within cities through nature-based solutions provides greater resilience and the capacity to adapt more swiftly to cope with the effects of climate change and other global shifts.

            This course will teach you about the design, construction, implementation and monitoring of nature-based solutions for urban ecosystems and the ecological coherence of sustainable cities. Constructing smart cities and metropolitan regions with nature-based ecosystems will secure a fair distribution of benefits from the renewed urban ecology.

            This course forms a part of the educational programme of the AMS Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions and will present the state-of-the-art theories and methods developed by the Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University & Research, two of the founding universities of the AMS Institute.

            Instructors, with advanced expertise in Urban Ecology, Environmental Engineering, Urban Planning and Design, will equip designers and planners with the skills they need for the sustainable management of the built environment. The course will also benefit stakeholders from both private and public sectors who want to explore the multiple benefits of restored ecosystems in cities and metropolitan regions. They will gain the knowledge and skills required to make better informed and integrated decisions on city development and urban regeneration schemes.

            What you will learn:

            • Theories and examples showing the development and benefits of NBS
            • To develop critical perspectives on your own location and environment
            • The interdependency and synthesis of governance, innovation, design, ecology and economy
            • Relational thinking focusing on problems, challenges, potential and solutions

            Nature Based Metropolitan Solutions by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
            Based on a work at https://online-learning.tudelft.nl/courses/nature-based-metropolitan-solutions/.

            Sustainable Urban Development (2019)


              Did you know that cities take up less than 3% of the earth’s land surface, but more than 50% of the world’s population live in them? And, cities generate more than 70% of the global emissions? Large cities and their hinterlands (jointly called metropolitan regions) greatly contribute to global urbanization and sustainability challenges, yet are also key to resolving these same challenges.

              If you are interested in the challenges of the 21st century metropolitan regions and how these can be solved from within the city and by its inhabitants, then this Sustainable Urban Development course is for you!

              There are no simple solutions to these grand challenges! Rather the challenges cities face today require a holistic, systemic and transdisciplinary approach that spans different fields of expertise and disciplines such as urban planning, urban design, urban engineering, systems analysis, policy making, social sciences and entrepreneurship.

              This MOOC is all about this integration of different fields of knowledge within the metropolitan context. The course is set up in a unique matrix format that lets you pursue your line of interest along a specific metropolitan challenge or a specific theme.

              Because we are all part of the challenges as well as the solutions, we encourage you to participate actively! You will have the opportunity to explore the living conditions in your own city and compare your living environment with that of the global community.

              You will discover possible solutions for your city’s challenges and what it takes to implement these solutions. Your participation will also contribute to wider research into metropolitan regions as complex systems.

              We invite you to take the first steps in understanding the principles that will be essential to transform metropolitan regions into just, prosperous and sustainable places to live in!

              This course forms a part of the educational programme of the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions and is developed by Wageningen UR and TU Delft, two of the founding universities of AMS Institute.

              What you will learn:

              • The most relevant challenges that metropolitan regions are facing
              • How you can respond to these challenges
              • Examples of sustainable, metropolitan interventions and solutions
              • How to critically reflect on and engage in the sustainable cities debate
              • Innovative solutions for your own urban living environment

              Sustainable Urban Development by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
              Based on a work at https://ocw.tudelft.nl/courses/sustainable-urban-development/.

              AKPIA Symposium “Reconstruction as Violence: The Case of Aleppo” (2019)


                A two-day symposium organized by Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan Professor, and Deen Sharp,
                [email protected] Post-Doctoral Fellow. Sponsored by the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology.

                This symposium seeks to address the following questions: How does violence and conflict not only destroy but constitute, design, and organize built environments and infrastructures? How do we understand the urbanization of warfare in relation to urban theory and reconstruction practices? Finally, participants will be asked to consider the recent warfare in the Middle East, with a special focus on Aleppo, in relation to the built environment and the extent to which reconstruction processes can be weaponized.

                Opening Remarks

                • Hashim Sarkis, MIT


                • Nasser Rabbat, MIT

                Rethinking Urban Reconstruction through Informal Settlements, a Syrian Historical Perspective

                • Valérie Clerc, French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD)

                (Re)Constructing Memory (as Violence)

                • Aleksandar Staničić, TU Delft

                Survivor Cities: Cultural Heritage in Context and in Contest

                • Heghnar Watenpaugh, University of California Davis

                The Ambiguities of Syria’s Reconstruction

                • Frederick Deknatel, World Politics Review

                Towards an Ethical Framework for Reconstructing Aleppo

                • Rim Lababidi, University College London

                Concrete Conflict

                • Deen Sharp, MIT


                Democracy in Retreat? Master Planning in a Warming World (2019)


                  The climate crisis is changing the world. Some people are moving in the face of rising seas and extreme weather, and others are redesigning the places they live. But those making such plans and those most affected by them are not always the same. The challenges posed by climate change thus force architects, planners, engineers, and others charged with imagining the future of their communities to contend with enduring questions of democracy and justice.

                  This conference foregrounds Louisiana’s experience with these challenges, because on the Gulf Coast, the climate has changed. New designs and infrastructures have reshaped how Louisianans live, just as evacuation, eviction, and emigration in the face of rising seas have redefined where they live. All the while, as the United States confronts climate change it is already riven by stark inequalities. Escaping critical interrogation, technocratic plans promulgated in the name of “resilience” can not only reproduce, but exacerbate existing injustices across the country and beyond its borders. Many policies that promise security for some cause suffering for others. But must there be winners and losers in the pursuit of safety, justice, and democracy?

                  This event brings together architects, planners, scholars, artists, and others whose work engages with the challenges of planning for climate change. Using Louisiana as the case to “think with,” participants will work comparatively to evaluate the perils and promises of risk and retreat, given the imperatives of justice and democracy.

                  Panel 1: Defining and Managing Risk

                  • Craig Colten, Geography & Anthropology, Louisiana State University
                  • Traci Birch, Coastal Sustainability Studio, Louisiana State University
                  • Zachary Lamb, Princeton Mellon Fellow in Urbanism and the Environment
                  • Monique Verdin, Another Gulf is Possible
                  • Respondent: Liz Koslov, Urban Planning, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles
                  • Moderator: Andy Horowitz, Assistant Professor, Department of History, School of Liberal Arts, Tulane University

                  Panel 2: Evacuation, Emigration, Eviction

                  • Jay Arena, Sociology, CUNY College of Staten Island
                  • Monica Farris, University of New Orleans Center for Hazard Assessment, Response and Technology (CHART)
                  • Farrah Cambrice, Sociology, Prairie View A&M University
                  • Andreanecia Morris, Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance
                  • Respondent: Zaire Dinzey-Flores, Sociology, Rutgers
                  • Moderator: Fallon Samuels Aidoo, Jean Brainard Boebel Chair in Historic Preservation, Assistant Professor of Planning & Urban Studies, University of New Orleans

                  Panel 3: Greenwashing

                  • Austin Allen, Design Jones LLC
                  • Anthony Fontenot, Architecture, Woodbury School of Architecture
                  • Thom Pepper, Common Ground New Orleans
                  • Denise J. Reed, University of New Orleans
                  • Respondent: Daniel Aldana Cohen, Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
                  • Moderator: Carol McMichael Reese, PhD, Director of the City, Culture, and Community Ph.D. Proram; Professor of Architecture, Tulane University

                  Panel 4: Is This Democracy?

                  • Charles Allen, National Audubon Society
                  • Cedric Johnson, African American Studies & Political Science, University of Illinois at Chicago
                  • Margarita Jover, Architecture, Tulane University
                  • Bryan Parras, Sierra Club
                  • Monxo Lopez, Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, Hunter College
                  • Moderator: Reinhold Martin, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia University

                  Urban Design for the Public Good: Dutch Urbanism (2019)


                    Are you an urban planner, designer, policy maker or involved or interested in the creation of good living environments?

                    This course will broaden your scope and diversify your take on the field of urban planning and design. We will focus on a unique Dutch approach and analyze how it can help those involved with urban planning and design to improve the physical environment in relation to the public good it serves, including safety, wellbeing, sustainability and even beauty.

                    You will learn some of the basic traits of Dutch Urbanism, including its:

                    • contextual approach;
                    • balance between research and design;
                    • simultaneous working on multiple scale levels.

                    You will practice with basic techniques in spatial analysis and design pertaining to these points. You will also carry out these activities in your own domestic environment.

                    This course is taught by the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at TU-Delft, ranked no. 4 in Architecture/Built Environment on the QS World University Rankings (2016).

                    All the material in this course is presented at entry level. But since the course has an integral perspective, combining planning and design aspects, it can still be relevant for trained professionals who feel they lack experience in either field.

                    What you will learn:

                    • Dutch Urbanism basics;
                    • How to draw simple maps of your own living environment and perform basic urban analyses of them;
                    • How to apply your findings in small design activities;
                    • Where to find additional literature that will deepen your knowledge and bring you up to date on the latest research findings in urban planning.

                    Urban Design for the Public Good: Dutch Urbanism by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
                    Based on a work at https://online-learning.tudelft.nl/courses/urban-design-for-the-public-good-dutch-urbanism/.

                    Connection and its costs: Ground transportation and climate change (2018)


                      A one-day conference exploring the future of land-based transportation.

                      The urgency of radical action to mitigate the causes of climate change is more apparent every week. In early October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report describing the transformative, systemic changes necessary to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees C, with a window for action of little more than a decade. An even more recent study published in Nature found that the oceans have absorbed much more heat from our warming planet than was previously understood, which means that the impact of burning fossil fuels is even higher than earlier projected. We are moving much more quickly toward perilously high increases in global temperature than we thought, with a much shorter timeframe to diminish and reverse our impact.

                      How do the ways that we move ourselves and the goods we manufacture and consume perform when measured in terms of greenhouse gas production? How do we imagine, and evaluate, transportation futures through this lens? Transportation: Connection and Its Costs, a part of the League’s Five Thousand Pound Life initiative, is a three-part series of programs that looks at air, sea, and ground transportation in the age of climate change. Presentations and discussions from the programs on air and sea transportation, presented in June 2018, are available here.

                      The November 3, 2018 conference looked at land-based transportation of both people and goods. (Videos documenting the day can be found below.) The US EPA says that the transportation sector produced 28% of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 (tied as the largest sectoral producer, along with the production of electricity, also at 28%), and within the transport sector, land-based modes produced 85% of greenhouse gases. The accelerating pace of technological innovation in this arena, along with increasing capital investment and cultural evolution towards the adoption of new modes of movement and new demands for speed and ease in the movement of goods, have all coalesced into a moment of intense activity and discussion. Ride-hail companies have significantly changed the mix and number of vehicles on city streets around the country and around the world; the quality of service of public transportation, at least in New York, is in a sorry state; ambitious start-ups offer new products and services at a dizzying rate; autonomous vehicles are the focus of high-stakes competition among the big technology and car companies. Cultural critics, public policymakers, and designers are rushing to keep up.    

                      Are we asking the right questions as this wave of activity and invention sweeps us forward? What are the energy use and emissions implications of all of these new technologies, and the desires and demand they create? Does the move to electric-powered vehicles offer the benefits we think it does? Even with the intensity of interest in transportation futures, are we moving fast enough, and in the right direction, to do what needs to be done? Who gains and who loses in this transportation transition? Can public policy shape this explosion of activity for our collective benefit? How can architects and planners contribute to a productive future? 

                      The November 3 conference brought together scholars, policymakers, and designers to help understand the relationships between mobility, energy use, and climate change. The League’s hope is that cross-disciplinary conversation about the assumptions embedded in our thinking, the potential unintended consequences of our actions, the choices we face, and the possibilities we can imagine can help set us on the path to a much less carbon intensive and more viable future.

                      The event was organized by The Architectural League and held at the Cooper Union.