Fall 2018 Urban Planning Semester in Review
UP Students from the “Planning for Resilience” practicum led by Professor Marcela Tovar-Restrepo visited Santiago de Los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic to study the Benito Monción, a historical site in the city center, and its connectivity to the Yaque River North.
From the Director

Season’s greetings!

Fall 2018 has been a time of introspection and envisioning for the Urban Planning Program. Having crafted about 20 new elective courses in the last two years and substantially revamped much of the core curriculum, we are now delving into student learning outcomes. How do we know students have mastered the knowledge, skills, and values that are built into our master’s curriculum? For a long time, programs gauged student learning by mapping out what courses were taught and what contents were in each course (the so-called inputs). This is necessary but insufficient. Time has come to rethink how we teach: student learning is really the “ends,” while the curriculum is the “means.” These ends are shaped by the vision and orientation of our program, what our graduates hope to do, and the needs and expectations of planning and related fields. We have begun to clarify a set of learning goals, particularly through the core course, studio, and thesis, as well as envision the program’s future in the next five to ten years. This is a process involving many stakeholders: faculty, students, alumni, planning professionals, and more. I hope to connect with and hear from many of you as we move forward with the process.

An exciting lineup of studio projects will take place in Spring 2019. We also have new adjunct faculty joining us and a set of new electives, as you will see in the Program Updates. Accompanying this continuous momentum is the ongoing renovation of the UP suite in Fayerweather, in fact, the entire second floor of the building. When you come to visit in the new year, you may just be pleasantly surprised. Stay tuned and stay connected.

My best,

Program Updates

Please join us in welcoming several new adjunct faculty members in the Spring: Jit Bajpai, Adjunct Faculty (Sustainable Cities) at Earth Institute, SPS, Columbia University; Leon Hovsepian, Former Executive Director of Credit and Special Underwriting at NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development; Brendan McLaughlin, Director of Special Underwriting, Executive Office of Development at NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development; Sybil Wa, Senior Associate at Diamond Schmitt Architects; and Kate Wittels, Partner at HR&A Advisors.

This Spring we are expanding our curriculum to include six new courses: Mobility Workshop; Real Estate Finance and Development;Sustaining Access and Mobility in Cities; Urban Datascapes; and Urban Informatics II.

First-year students will participate in five studios next spring. Of the five, three are travel studios to Madrid, Spain; Santa Olga, Chile; and Vieques, Puerto Rico. The other two studios will work with local clients including Hudson River Park Trust and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. The full list of studios is below:

  • Section 001 Madrid Future City Lab: Exploring Urban Commons, Jose Luis Vallejo and Megan Marini, Wednesdays 3-7pm
  • Section 002 Disaster Management and Recovery in Post-Disaster Chile, Malo Hutson and Maria Garces, Wednesdays 3-7pm
  • Section 003 Future of Pier 76: Expanding and Sustaining Hudson, Maxine Griffith and Anthony Borelli, Wednesdays 3-7pm
  • Section 004 Neighborhood Impacts of Supertall Development, Ethel Sheffer and Sybil Wa, Fridays 1-5pm
  • Section 005 New Paradigms for a Resilient Vieques, Joint Arch/UP Studio (9 points), Richard Plunz and Douglas Woodward, Mondays and Thursdays 2-6pm
Faculty Updates

Hiba Bou Akar has a new book published by the Stanford University Press titled For the War Yet to Come: Planning Beirut’s Frontiers. Bou Akar also received a major grant from The Ford Foundation to support her research on access to affordable housing among Syrian refugees and low-income Lebanese families in Beirut’s peripheries. The grant will also support her newly established Post-Conflict Cities Lab at GSAPP. Bou Akar was also awarded the prestigious writing fellowship and residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center.

Ebru Gencer, chair of the Urban Planning Advisory Group to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, attended the annual Steering Committee meeting of the UN’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign that took place during the Barcelona Resilience Week in November. The Steering Committee provides directions to the Campaign that currently supports over 4,000 cities for urban risk reduction and resilience building. Gencer is also currently authoring a chapter on local disaster risk reduction strategies in urban areas for the UN’s “2019 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.” In December, Gencer will present her project titled “Participatory Planning for Climate Resilient and Inclusive Urban Development in Latin America” at the Reframing Urban Resilience Implementation Conference in Barcelona. An article about this project was recently published in Spanish at the Medio Ambiente y Urbanizacion Journal of IIED-America Latina and currently in process for publication in the Environment and Urbanization Journal of the International Institute for Environment and Development.

In November, Malo Hutson and the Urban Community and Health Equity Lab at Columbia GSAPP organized a workshop called “Disaster Management and Post-Disaster Recovery: Lessons and Challenges for a Resilient Chile.” This event took place in Santiago, Chile and is part of a larger academic research initiative, sponsored by the Columbia President’s Global Innovation Fund, with additional support by the Lab’s partners, Columbia Global Center Santiago, Centro de Estudios Urbano Territoriales, Universidad Católica del Maule, and the Instituto de la Vivienda at the University of Chile. This initiative explores the Chilean experience responding to disasters and recovery to learn about applicable strategies and lessons to inform other countries and regions worldwide.

Floyd Lapp wrote a letter to the editor on fair housing issues for the October issue of Planning Magazine. Lapp also has an article published in the Journal of the American Planning Association titled, “Up Close and Personal: What One Planner Learned in a 55-Year Career That Has Paralleled the Major Events of the Time.”

Peter Marcotullio is the lead author of the “Energy Systems” chapter in the second report of the State of the North American Carbon Cycle, an inter-agency assessment being led and developed by the Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

In October, Lee Miller gave a lecture at the University of Vienna called “Influence for Innovation: How to Gain Support and Resources.” He also ran a workshop on influencing sustainable innovation for the City of Vienna and the public utility organizations.

Elliott Sclar, Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning, was selected as one of City & State’s 2018 list of 100 of New York’s most responsible corporate citizens. City & State reports on the politics and policy of current events in New York City and New York State.

After 22 years at AKRF, Graham Trelstad moved to WSP in May 2018 where he is responsible for overseeing environmental impact assessment on transportation and infrastructure projects in the northeast region. Recognizing that many agencies are embracing alternative project delivery and ways to streamline environmental review and permitting, Graham is eager to develop strategic solutions that lead to better outcomes – not just for the project and sponsoring agency, but the general public as well. Graham continues to teach Site Planning in the Fall and Environmental Impact Assessment in the Spring.

In the Fall 2018 semester, Jose Luis Vallejo, Principal of Madrid and Miami-based Ecosistema Urbano, was a visiting professor for the Ateneo program at the Sapienza University of Rome. He was also a keynote speaker at the Cordoba Design Biennale in Argentina. Vallejo is currently leading urban transformation projects for local and national governments, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank with work spanning across several countries, such as the United States, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Bangladesh, and Paraguay.

Anthony Vanky has been developing and leading a series of workshops on urban technologies with Seedstars Asia, in collaboration with Ananda Development. These workshops with a network of entrepreneurs and civic technologists have been focused on identifying opportunities for venture building that addresses the challenges faced by urban residents in Southeast Asia. Vanky will be teaching the Mobility Workshop and Urban Informatics II class in the Spring.

Weiping Wu was featured in the October 2018 issue of Planning Magazine (Theory and Practice section), reflecting on her experience connecting seasoned practitioners with the UP program. A news program Heat, of the China Global TV Network (CGTN) America, also featured her in a discussion on urbanization changing China. She is serving as a founding editorial board member to Oxford Bibliographies in Urban Studies, as well as external advisor to the School of Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at KAIST (Korea). In addition, she was invited to become a faculty member in the Columbia Population Research Center. Speaking at The Third University Mission conference, she visited Moscow for the first time.

Career Services

UP students attended three office visits this fall to gain exposure to various career paths in the field. The first was to NYC Emergency Management on September 21, where M.S. UP alum Heather Roiter (M.S. UP ‘07) led a presentation about the agency’s history and current initiatives alongside colleagues Shraddha Ramani (M.S. UP ‘14) and Andrew Mark (M.S. UP '05), with a visit from Ray Noble (M.S. UP '18) as well. At the end of the presentation, the students toured the facilities and walked through a post-disaster housing prototype on the agency’s campus. On October 19, our students visited the offices of Arup. After hearing from several planners working at the independent firm, the students toured the office and the Exploration Lab, where they tested using VR to envision signage system design for the 42nd Street Times Square subway station. Finally, UP adjunct professor Graham Trelstad hosted our students at WSP on November 30 for an introduction to the firm’s planning and urban design divisions and office tour, joined by colleagues Peter Liebowitz (M.S. UP '84) and Maxwell Sokol (M.S. UP '12). If you’re interested in hosting a group of UP students for an office tour in Spring 2019 or later, please email Margaret Wiryaman at mjw2228@columbia.edu.

We introduced several new sessions to our career services programming this fall as well. First, UP adjunct professors Purnima Kapur and Douglas Woodward led an informational session called Working in NYC Department of City Planning on November 8. It was a great opportunity for students to learn about their former work at DCP, and we hope to organize more informational sessions highlighting adjunct faculty next semester. On November 15, six students participated in an Internship Roundtable to share their recent and current internship experiences. They answered questions about their internship search and what worked for them, application and interview tips, highlights and challenges, balancing school and work, and how the internship influenced their future career plans.

The UP Alumni Mentorship Program has grown substantially in its second year, with 23 second-year UP students matched with alumni based on their career goals and areas of interest (up from 10 pairs last year). Francis Yu (M.S. UP ’19) describes his experiences in the program so far: “Meeting with and getting to know Naomi Hersson-Rinskog (M.S. UP '09) has inspired new ways of thinking and approaching post-grad opportunities. I had the intention of getting a mentor to help strategize both a long-term career arc and how to best use my skill sets and interests in the present NYC context, and Naomi has helped me to both expand my current plans and to dig deeper in thinking about what drives my goals. In the course of the fall semester, we’ve met a few times to get to know each other’s current and intended career paths, attended an APA panel event, and discussed how to aim my thesis work to potential job opportunities after the program.”

Student Organization News
This year, Urban China Forum welcomed 12 speakers, including renowned scholars and emerging practitioners from the U.S., China, and Italy. The morning session focused on China’s current social challenges: the welfare system, the land policy, and the housing market. In the afternoon sessions, the panelists shared their perspectives on regional development, urban form, green building, and historical preservation. The last session concluded with a panel discussion led by Professor Weiping Wu on the globalization of Chinese cities. Read the full report here.
Latin GSAPP Roundtable
On November 13, the Latin GSAPP Student Association held its first official event. GSAPP students were invited to showcase their academic and professional work on Latin America as well as build an agenda for the organization. Students presented a variety of topics, which ranged from the innovation of biomaterials and local techniques in Chilean vernacular architecture, to migration and urban inclusion, multiculturalism, hurricanes influence and local architecture in the Dominican Republic. Other topics presented also include urban strategies for upgrading and/or resettling in Sao Paulo and Santiago, and economic feasibility to support the implementation of resiliency in Latin American cities. The UP program presenters were alumnus Stephanie Yee-Kay Chan (M.S. UP ’18) and current students Guilherme Rocha Formicki (M.S. UP ’19) and Pauline Claramunt Torche (M.S. UP ‘19). The UP students who organized the roundtable were Guilherme Rocha Formicki, Pauline Claramunt Torche, Laura Postarini (M.S. UP ’19), and Tyrene Calvesbert (M.S. UP ’19).
On October 31, Urban Planning Council held its General Student Body Meeting to introduce new reps, hear from Weiping regarding facility renovation updates, and present their new Small Group Initiatives. Currently divided into three categories (sustainability, professional development, and social), the aim of these groups is to allow more students to get involved in specific initiatives that improve areas of Urban Planning and GSAPP based on feedback from the 2017 Student Body Meeting survey.
Additionally, UP Council hosted another successful annual Thanksgiving Potluck on November 15.
On December 7, the contributors and editors of URBAN Magazine in partnership with the UP Council held a magazine release event. For the Fall 2018 semester, by exploring the theme of Mortem, URBAN examines why some cities thrive under stress, and why others fade. Mortem is not solely about how cities decline, but also about how cities and planners respond to ongoing problems, and prepare for future challenges. It is about how the portrayals of destruction and death in popular culture affect our perceptions of the built environment. It is about rebirth, what leads to rebirth, and how roadways and sea routes can shape cultures and cities during the process of resurrection. Mortem is about the disquieting metamorphosis that occurs when a city loses its economic foundation. We may have all heard of ruins and ghost towns, but do cities ever truly die?
Student News

M.S. UP Students

Kevin Borja (M.S. UP ’19) participated in the Urban Planning and Historic Preservation joint studio, headed by Professors Erica Avrami and Will Raynolds, entitled “Historic Narrative, Spatial Power, and Social Justice,” which attempts to answer the question at the nexus of Alabama’s first comprehensive master planning effort in over 50 years. The City of Montgomery, Alabama holds a complex history fraught with conflict. From the forced removal of native populations to becoming a center for domestic slave trading, the landscape is entangled with narratives that are often at odds with each other. This entanglement is perfectly illustrated by the city’s seal that heralds itself as the Cradle of the Confederacy and the Birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement. How, then, can the city begin to think about its future before it has fully wrestled with its past? The studio team took a week-long trip to encounter Montgomery’s historic assets and conditions. What was found will help identify critical physical and socio-political narrative issues that often preclude the strength of the city’s history and need to be addressed in the city’s Envision Montgomery 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

Aline Estefam (M.S. UP ’20) recently contributed to a book, A New Perspectives in Interdisciplinary Cultural Heritage Studies, which was published by the European Studies in Cultural Heritage. Estefam also published a paper titled “City for Children Aged Seven to Twelve: Alternatives to Encouraging and Recognizing the Cultural Heritage Using Video Games.”

Guilherme Rocha Formicki (M.S. UP ‘19) published a paper about social rent in the currently run-down central area of São Paulo, Brazil. The paper titled “Social Rent in São Paulo: Assessment of the Conditions for a Turning Point in the City’s Housing Policies” was presented by Formicki’s co-author at the V Meeting of the National Association of Research and Post-Graduate Studies in Architecture and Urbanism in Salvador, Brazil.

Emilio Felipe Flamenco (M.S. UP ’20) traveled to Santiago, Chile as part of the Urban Community and Health Equity Lab led by Professor Malo Hutson who facilitated a workshop called “Disaster Management & Post-Disaster Recuperation: Lessons & Challenges for a Resilient Chile.” Flamenco served as a research assistant, recorder, translator, and note-taker during the trip.

In October, Tara Heidger (M.S. UP/M.I.A ’19) presented a TED-style talk for the Pat Tillman Foundation regarding her summer fellowship research in Rwanda. Tara was selected as a fellow for the Earth Institute’s Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity and this past summer she traveled to Rwanda to research how rural planning is contributing to sustainable peace in a post-conflict context. Her research examined the use of Integrated Model Villages in the government-led allocation of resources and how they contribute to the more equitable distribution of services. In November, Tara was a delegate for the inaugural Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders at the United Nations in Bangkok, Thailand.

Cheryl Lim (M.S. UP ‘19) is interning at Karp Strategies, an equity-focused urban planning consulting firm, for the Spring and Fall 2018 semesters. She is currently engaged in the community engagement process for the Brooklyn Public Library’s New Utrecht Branch renovation. She also works on project management, proposal development and graphic design for various other projects.

Anna Stokes (M.S. UP ‘19) was awarded the Women’s Transportation Seminar - Greater New York Chapter Leonard Braun Memorial Graduate Scholarship at the organization’s Annual Gala on October 10th. This scholarship is intended to support women in the transportation field and is awarded to one graduate student annually. To qualify, students must be enrolled in a graduate program related to transportation, meet certain academic criteria, and plan on pursuing careers in transportation. Anna was selected as a recipient for this award based on her academic and professional merits. In addition to financial support, this award has provided Anna with the opportunity to meet and network with many inspiring women working within the transportation field.

In September, Pauline Claramunt Torche (M.S. UP ‘19) took part in a panel event titled, “Indigenous Approaches to Understanding and Practicing Sustainable Development” at the International Conference on Sustainable Development at Columbia University. Torche described an ongoing project that relied on partnerships with universities, communities, NGOs and the Municipality of Icalma to build an intercultural school and education system.

UP Ph.D. Students

Lauren Ames Fischer, Valerie Stahl, and Bernadette Baird-Zars published an article in the Journal of Planning Education and Research that provides one of the few empirical investigations of zoning relief, or the process of granting exceptions to zoning regulations for individual proprieties.

Magda Maaoui will have a paper published titled “A granny flat of one’s own? The households that built Accessory-Dwelling Units in Seattle’s King County” in the upcoming issue of the Berkeley Planning Journal. She also recently published a piece titled “Biological Metaphor: the Grand Paris, the Biopolis and Promise of Town-gown Partnerships” in urbanNext. In October, Maaoui took part in a panel event on metropolitan governance and sustainability at the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization. In October, she was selected to represent GSAPP at the Columbia University’s Alumni Leaders Association Weekend.

In September, Wenfei Xu gave a presentation on modeling population mobility dynamics using cell phone data at the Open Data Science Conference Europe. In October, she organized the Spatial Data Science Conference. Currently, she is organizing Data through Design, an annual cartography exhibition hosted during the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics’s Open Data Week. Please reach out to her if you would like to participate or provide assistance.

Alumni Updates

Avery Dement (M.S. UP ’18) was recently hired as a project manager in the Multifamily Preservation Finance Department at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. She will be administering loan programs geared toward improving the sustainability of New York’s housing stock, with a particular focus on energy and water conservation.

Jennifer Jacobs Guzman (M.S. UP ’08) recently accepted a position as chief of staff for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s new construction division, which oversees a number of key loan programs focused on the development of mixed-income, low income, senior, supportive and homeless housing. She is excited at the opportunity to work with many wonderful, talented people advancing the city’s affordable housing goals.

Charlie Romanow (M.S. UP ’18), a transportation planner at WSP, has passed the AICP exam as part of the AICP Candidate Pilot Program.

In October, Sonal Shah (M.S. UP ’08) presented a talk titled, “Integrating Gender in Urban Transport” at the Side Event of the Second Committee in the 73rd Session of the General Assembly at the United Nations, New York. The theme of the event was “Infrastructure and Sustainable Development: Making Infrastructure Investments Work for Women and Girls.” She highlighted the role of gendered mobility indicators in influencing investments in urban transport. Shah outlined a multi-pronged approach for gender-responsive urban transport focusing on physical planning, design, and operations, transforming social behavior and encouraging women’s economic empowerment. In November, Shah presented at the opening panel of the East Africa Women in Transportation Conference in Nairobi. She highlighted how gender relations affect women’s mobility patterns and highlighted the role of transportation systems in facilitating women’s access to opportunities. She also moderated a panel called “Women on the Move: Experiences, challenges & solutions of women as commuters and users of public transportation.”

In September, Jawaher Al Sudairy (M.S. UP ‘15), curator of the Saudi Arabia Pavilion and director of the Al Nahda Center for Research, spoke at the Columbia GSAPP at the 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture. The event explored how research and practice emanating from the school are playing out within the global context of architectural showcases.

Yuan Tang (M.S. UP ’09) was recently promoted to executive director and head of Asia at the Related Companies. She is based in Shanghai, China.