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Urban Planning

Lance Freeman

Director: Urban Planning

Robert Beauregard

Director: Ph.D Urban Planning

The Urban Planning Program has as its mission the education of individuals in the (1) fundamental economic and political processes that shape the built environment of cities, (2) ways in which governments, community-based organizations, private sector actors, and political mobilizations produce and influence these processes, and (3) crafting of collective efforts to improve the quality of life of city residents. The tensions among market forces, civil society, and the goals of planning are of major concern. Particular attention is given to the importance of expert knowledge and the quest for social justice.

In pursuit of these goals, the program focuses on the ideas and techniques developed by planners and social activists since the emergence of the planning profession in the early twentieth century. To this, the faculty adds knowledge from the social sciences, architecture and urban design, historic preservation, and the humanities.

Columbia University’s Urban Planning faculty consists of leading national and international scholars who conduct research in the field of planning as well as highly regarded practicing professionals who connect students to practical issues and perspectives. Recent faculty research has focused on gentrification in African-American neighborhoods of New York City, slum dwellers in African cities, minority small business development, office building conversion in Lower Manhattan, and informal sector work and gender relations in India. The faculty has broad interests that range from water and sanitation in Calcutta and social housing in Germany to affordable housing and the problems of low-wage immigrants in New York City to the rebuilding of neighborhood economies in New Orleans.

Throughout the curriculum, the emphasis is on real-world problems and how planners can act to improve the lives of urban residents. In doing so, the program takes the cities of the world as its laboratory.

With the program located in New York City, one of the global centers of international commerce and culture and a city experiencing population growth, it looks to the city’s planning issues for studios, classroom examples, and thesis topics. Still, the problems of cities — whether they be London or Sao Paulo, Las Vegas or Nairobi — can be understood only in a global context. By the end of their time in the program, students are competent to analyze issues, develop plans, and advise policymakers on the important issues related to the growth and development of cities. They do so with the intent of making cities more just, more equitable, and more prosperous.

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