Fall 2019 Urban Planning Semester in Review
From the Director

To connect knowledge with collective action, planning education must embrace the myriad challenges that affect our planet and communities. This semester at UP, new program activities and curricular conversations have centered around climate justice, from the concept of resilience as an organizing principle for planning in the age of climate crisis to understanding socio-technical aspects of the Green New Deal and to engaging with urban crises on the global stage. UP students are part of GSAPP-wide initiative Public Works for a Green New Deal, and a group of UP students have founded GreenSAPP to promote a greater engagement with the topic of climate change in the curriculum and student life at GSAPP.

In parallel to these ongoing efforts, we are putting forth a strategic plan of the MSUP program for the next five to ten years. The process of strategic envisioning since Fall 2018 has included a series of faculty discussion, student ideas competition, a survey of alumni who graduated between 2013 and 2017, and focus groups of practicing professionals and APA NY Metro Chapter leadership. In this Draft Strategic Plan, you will see a set of major aspirations for the program and concrete steps to achieve them. I want to invite everyone to review this document, and we would appreciate any thought and feedback that you can provide (via a short form). The plan will be finalized in the early spring, as part of the self-study report prepared for the reaccreditation site visit to take place in November 2020. Again, thanks to all of you who have participated in the envisioning process.

You may remember from the Spring 2019 Semester-in-Review newsletter that we have started a collaboration with the Double Discovery Center (DDC) at Columbia to help underserved community youth to get into and graduate from college. The summer course Introduction to Urban Planning Course: Urban Planners and Communities Working for a Just City, taught by two UP doctoral students, was a success. To continue that momentum, we have planned an Introduction to Urban Planning course for undergraduate students, as part of the Introduction to Architecture summer program. This pre-professional program is for those who are interested in urban planning, may be considering it as a career, or may wish to get a head start for application to graduate school. Please help us spread the word and get more young people to our profession – they can be students from Columbia and any other university.

My best,

Program Updates

We will be welcoming several new adjunct faculty in the Spring: Stefan Al, an urban designer and Senior Associate Principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF); Jason Brody, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Urban Planning at Hunter College specializing in community planning and urban design; Vin Cipolla, Founder and CEO of Five Mile River Co. and former President of Municipal Art Society of New York; Peter Flamm, Vice President of Concert Halls and Operations at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Boyeong Hong, post-doctoral researcher at NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management; Thomas Matarazzo, postdoctoral researcher at the MIT Senseable City Laboratory and Cornell Tech; and Francesco Rossini, visiting from Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Architecture.

New Courses

An exciting lineup of studio projects will take place in Spring 2020:

  • Joint Arch/UP Studio: Vieques, Puerto Rico – Richard Plunz and Douglas Woodward

  • NYC Waterfront Development in Long Island City – Jason Brody and Sybil Wa

  • Reimagining Porta Genova Station Area in Milan – Weiping Wu and Francesco Rossini

  • NYC Grey to Green Energy Transition – Anthony Borelli and Graham Trelstad

  • Reimagining Informality thru Public Space in Buenos Aries – Jose Luis Vallejo and Ryan Devlin

We also will have a number of new or substantially refashioned courses:
  • Circular Cities: A New Urban Future – Malo Hutson
    As traction and momentum around the circular economy builds globally, it will be important for planners and policy makers to understand its implications for urban systems and city residents. The primary question this workshop will seek to explore is “How can the principles of circular economy be applied across the main urban systems (mobility, built environment, water, energy, food) and what are the interlinkages across these systems?”

  • Data Science Methods for Urban Systems – Thomas Matarazzo
    Ubiquitous sensors, the Internet of things, and connected devices collectively establish “digital layers” within cities. These digital layers enable a newfound ability to observe various “invisible” phenomena that occur every day — whether they are environmental, man-made, related to human activities/behavior, etc. — they influence the performance of the urban systems on which we rely, such as transportation, utilities, and emergency services. How can we leverage them to better understand the operation and performance of urban systems? How can we use lessons learned to design more efficient systems or subsystems? This course will introduce recent literature on applications of data science and AI in the urban environment and emerging urban technologies. Students will formulate specific questions about the urban environment that can be addressed through data science and AI, develop an understanding and the ability to select appropriate data science methods (Python, R, Matlab, etc.), learn to source real city data for analysis, and explain the usage of their methods and the impact of their findings. A theme of transportation systems will be emphasized in course assignments and projects.

  • Practicum: Planning the Cultural Space – Douglas Woodward, Vin Cipolla and Peter Flamm
    This practicum will provide a complete picture of the current trends and issues in planning for cultural spaces, especially performing arts centers (PACs), cultural innovation districts (CID), and creative clusters. We will investigate the paradox of the tremendous surge in cultural planning and development in the face of the dwindling appeal of the traditional performing and visual arts. As competing options in all the arts and the increasing accessibility of personal digital platforms for popular music and performances are changing the ways the arts are curated, produced, and consumed, cultural organizations are facing existential questions about the shape of what their future should be. The course will have intensive interaction with the planners, curators, architects, fundraisers, board members, and cultural leaders to discover the techniques and change in planning paradigms that are necessary to address the challenges for cultural production. Among the case studies will be Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Shed, BAM, Carnegie Hall, Perelman Center, MoMA, Folk Art Museum, Whitney, Museum of Art and Design (MAD), and one or two international examples like the new hall at the Southbank Center in London by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Elbephilharmonie by Herzog and De Meuron in Hamburg.

  • Urban Design for Planners – Stefan Al
    How should urban designers give shape to the city? What urban design methods could they apply? This course helps students acquire the principles that can inform urban design practice. It has three major pedagogical objectives. First, it helps students understand the contemporary city through a series of urban design tools. Second, it covers both historical and modern urban design principles. Finally, it includes all the scales in which urban designers operate, ranging from the fundamentals of social interaction in public space, to environmental sustainability of a region. The course is structured around the most typical problems that urban designers will be asked to solve. Each week, students will apply key urban design readings to research and design exercises that will build a fundamental urban design understanding and skill set.

  • Urban Informality – Ryan Devlin
    In cities of the Global South and Global North, informal practices play an important role in the urbanization processing and the structuring of urban space, social life, and economic activity. In this course, students will learn about the informal city from a variety of perspectives. We will review the history of the concept of informality in the social sciences, analyze various examples of informal practices (e.g. housing, income generating strategies, transportation), and critically evaluate past attempts by cities to address informality. In addition to surveying empirical examples, the class will also delve into theoretical questions about informality. What are the politics of informality? Can informal practices of the urban poor be seen as a claim for the right to the city? As a form of communication by doing? Should an analysis of informality focus primarily on strategies of the urban poor? What do we learn from opening up the study of informality to practices of states and development/business interests in cities? Is the informal a space of freedom from control or simply a rearticulation of control? By the end of this course, students will have a deeper understanding of the multiple dimensions of the phenomenon of urban informality and the many debates surrounding the issue. Just as importantly they will also be better equipped to plan and design with and for the informal city, with an eye towards equity and social justice.

Faculty Updates
Moshe Adler wrote two pieces about the US trade war with China. You can find the first piece here and the second piece here.

Professor Emeritus Robert Beauregard recently gave two talks: “Government Complicity Revisited” at “The Urban World” conference at Columbia University in November and “Flexible Categories” at the Atlantic Crossings Revisited workshop in Paris in October. The workshop was organized by Professor Malo Hutson and his students. His paper with Sonia Hirt, “Must Shrinking Cities Be Distressed Cities?: A Historical and Conceptual Critique,” was accepted for publication by the International Planning Studies journal. His book Advanced Introduction to Planning Theory will be published in April by Edward Elgar Publishers.

Professor Hiba Bou Akar won two best book prizes for her book For the War Yet to Come: Planning Beirut’s Frontiers (Stanford University Press): The 2019 Nikki Keddie Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association, and the 2019 Anthony Leeds Prize in Urban Anthropology from the American Anthropological Association’s Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology.

In September, Ebru Gencer attended the Urban Climate Change Research Network’s (UCCRN) Science for 1.5 Degrees session during the UN Climate Session and at its strategic meeting at the Roosevelt House. Later that month, she participated in University College London’s (UCL) Local-Level Data Workshop as a panelist. This fall, Gencer also joined Universitat Internacional de Catalunya’s (UIC)’s Emergency Architecture Program as a thesis supervisor, and had two new publications. She was one of the chapter authors in Resilient Policies in Asian Cities: Adaptation to Climate Change and Natural Disasters (ed. Mitsuru Tanaka, published Springer 2019). She also authored an invited piece on the New Cities issue on Resilient Cities available here.

Brendan McLaughlin was recently appointed the Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Strategy at the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (HPD). The office cuts across traditional areas of responsibility within HPD’s organizational structure to support and strengthen the work of the Agency’s various divisions, in close collaboration with the Commissioner’s Office. Brendan will oversee the divisions of Strategic Operations and Analytics, Housing Policy, and Credit & Special Underwriting. Brendan joined HPD as a Senior Underwriter in 2015, and most recently served as Executive Director of Credit & Special Underwriting in the Office of Development. He currently serves as the Chair of HPD’s Credit Committee, and also represents HPD on the New York City Acquisition Loan Fund and Down Payment Assistance Fund Credit Committees. Brendan is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at both Columbia GSAPP and the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.

Thaddeus Pawlowski and the scholars at the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes have been conducting workshops around the world throughout 2019 to help cities advance transformative policies and projects that confront the climate emergency. Topics for workshops this fall included mitigating the urban heat island effect in Tel Aviv, unpacking the root causes of wildfires in Southern California, and mobilizing local leaders in Western Pennsylvania to consider the many potential benefits of a Green New Deal.

Anthony Vanky’s chapter “Imagining a City Full of AI-Mediated Urban Services (at a fictional Disney-style DMV)” in How to Run a City Like Amazon, and Other Fables was published in October, and the anthology is available at your local bookstore or your favorite e-book vendor. Anthony also organized a workshop in December for APA New York Metro Chapter entitled “Digital x Physical Queer Spaces” on issues related to the lack of data on LGBTQIA+ communities.

After 15 years of working on three proposed renovations of historic David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center (previously Avery Fisher Hall, né Philharmonic Hall), Douglas Woodward is part of the design team that just announced the $550 million renovation of the hall, with Diamond Schmitt Architects (with faculty member, Sybil Wa) and the firm of Tod Williams & Billie Tsien, architects of the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia and the Obama Library Center in Chicago.

As part of the 70th anniversary series of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Weiping Wu and Qin Gao (Columbia’s School of Social Work) led a successful Urban China Forum, titled Urbanization and China: Understanding Impacts, Projecting Future. GSAPP, UP, Urban China Network (a UP student organization), and Columbia Global Center in Beijing all supported the forum, which brought together a group of prominent scholars to discuss the impact of China’s sweeping urbanization on the country’s economic growth, environment and land resources, urban form and lifestyle, social fabric and welfare, and population and health. She also spoke at the International Growth Center in London for World Cities Day, on Paths to Urbanization: Comparing the Stories of Chinese and African Cities. At the annual conference of the National Council for Social Studies, she delivered a keynote speech on China’s Cities in Global Context. She is traveling to China for another keynote speech at the conference on Innovation and Regional Development for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, as well as speaking at the School of Architecture at Tianjin University.
The 6th Urban China Forum helped celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. With the theme of “Urbanization and China: Understanding Impacts, Projecting Future” this year, the forum welcomed 9 speakers, including renowned scholars and emerging practitioners from the U.S., China, Canada, and the U.K. Centered on political and sociological dynamics as well as built environment, panelists shared their latest research on housing policy, urban poverty, land finance, migrants, smart city, air pollution, and public health. Each lecture was followed by a panel discussion, shedding light from different perspectives. Finally, Professor Weiping Wu concluded the forum with a summary of urbanization of Chinese cities. For full summary of the 6th Urban China Forum, please click here.
Organized by Professor Leah Meisterlin, 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. The keynote speaker featured Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor, African American Studies, Princeton University. The conference was recorded and can be found here.
This year’s GSAPP Urban Planning Dean’s Lecture Series featured Richard Sennett, Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and a Senior Fellow of the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University. His talk, entitled Climate Change in Cities: A Problem in Urban Ethics, called upon a cultural change in “living with less” for meaningful solutions that could have wide scale impact if fully practiced by the majority of the population. Sennett also raised critical points about the high cost of technology centered solutions that is increasingly sought after by many developing countries today. Ultimately, Sennett believes that a shift in cultural attitude so that a sustainable, eco-friendly diet and minimal consumer spending habits are practiced to “undo the notion of the cornucopia.” The lecture was recorded and can be found here.
Student Organization News
Urban Planning Program Council welcomed Yuning Feng (M.S. UP'21), Elaine Hsieh (M.S. UP'21), and Gina Liu (M.S. UP'21) who were selected as the First-Year Program Council Representatives. They joined Jean Kim (M.Arch/M.S. UP'22) and Ri Le (M.S. UP'20) who are the Second-Year Program Council Representatives. This semester, Program Council launched BREAKS as a monthly event series where UP students come together over food and refreshments to reflect on the academic year and collaborate with other GSAPP student organizations. Additionally, they successfully hosted their annual Fall Picnic in October and Thanksgiving Potluck in November.

URBAN Magazine will be launching its Fall issue at the beginning of the Spring semester in late January 2020. The theme, Obsolescence, interrogates how our urban systems have become obsolete in the face of major challenges such as climate change and growing inequality. Contributions come from students across GSAPP, and vary in format from essay to poem to painting. This academic year’s senior editors are Conor Allerton (M.S. UP ‘20), Maya Ephrem (M.S. UP '20), and Kirthana Sudhakar (M.S. UP '20) accompanied by junior editors Tihana Bulut (M.S. UP '21), Geon Woo Lee (M.S. UP '21), and Zeineb Sellami (M.S. UP '21). Look out for updates on the release party and grab a copy!

APA Student Representatives welcomed Regina Alcazar(M.S. UP’21) and Savannah Wu (M.S. UP’20) who were selected as the APA student representatives for the 2019-2020 academic year. Going forward, they are excited to work on professional networking events with other APA Student Representatives from the NYC metro chapter.

Urban China Network (UCN) held the 6th Urban China Forum in Avery Hall on October 5, as one of the core annual events and part of the celebration of Weatherhead East Asia Institute’s 70th Anniversary. With the theme of “Urbanization and China: Understanding Impacts, Projecting Future” this year, the forum welcomed 9 speakers, including renowned scholars and emerging practitioners from the U.S., China, the U.K., and Canada. The speakers shared their latest research on housing policy, urban poverty, land finance, migrants, smart city, air pollution, and public health.
Student News
Conor Allerton (M.S. UP ‘20) is a Community Planning Fellow for the Fund for the City of New York. He is currently working with Manhattan Community Board 11 in East Harlem, assessing the commercial corridor along East 125th Street. The focus of his research is on the potential implementation of a Business Improvement District to help local businesses with sanitation, marketing, and other services.

Maya Ephrem (M.S. UP ‘20) is a 2019-2020 Morgan Stanley Community Development Fellow at CLOTH, where she has been working on the creation and adoption of a social service plan for the nearly 1700 households impacted by the NYCHA PACT Renaissance Collaborative development project. She was also involved in the Buell Center’s A Green New Deal: Public Assembly event held at Queens Museum.

After completing her summer internship at advocacy non-profit New Yorkers for Parks, Yining Lei (M.S. UP ‘20) is excited to continue exploring parks and open space with a spring internship at New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. As a Park Management Intern, she will assist regional manager for southern Manhattan in mapping, volunteer training, creating management plans for specific parks, and devising budget and material lists.

Stefan Norgaard (Ph.D UP) traveled to Detroit on a November 2019 Fellowship with Humanity In Action (HIA), supported by the Open Society Foundations and RNR Foundation. In Detroit, Stefan partnered with local institutions on community-centered efforts engaging urban redevelopment initiatives in the city of Detroit.

Caroline Thompson (M.S. UP ‘20) completed her second semester interning as a Planning and Preservation Intern with the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), where she has worked on MAS positions and testimony and the MAS-New Yorkers for Parks joint report, Bright Ideas. Caroline will continue with MAS through the spring semester, working on a critique of NYC’s CEQR development potential analysis in partnership with RPA and NYU’s Guarini Center.

For Haoran Zhang (M.S. UP ‘21), being a New Yorker and being part of the UP community in GSAPP is pretty exciting. During this semester, she focused on urban analytics and learned quite a lot about data analysis in an urban context. Also, as a “work-study” student, she is trying to balance school work and working at the alumni office.
Alumni Updates
APA Conference GSAPP Alumni Reception
Saturday, April 25, 8-10PM in Houston, TX (Location TBD)

Save the Date!! This spring, during the APA National Conference in Houston, we will be holding a reception for our alumni and students attending the conference. This has become a beloved annual tradition, and we hope to see you there!! More details to be released early next year.

Anjali Singhvi (M.S. UP'16) was part of the New York Times team that won a News & Documentary Emmy Award for the project “One Building, One Bomb: How Assad Gassed His Own People” in the category of Outstanding New Approaches: Current News. The project can be found here.

Sonal Shah (M.S. UP’08) is the founder of Urban Catalyst, an urban planning firm in India which seeks to catalyze sustainable and equitable transport, public spaces, urban planning and design through research, technical advisory and implementation support. The firm’s website can be found here.

We would like to thank the following alumni for their participation in the UP mentorship program over the last 3 years. The growth of the mentorship program has been rather impressive since its inception in 2017. In its first year, 10 students registered for the program. This year, 29 students signed up. In the future, we hope to connect even more students with alumni mentors. This program is a great way for alumni to remain involved with Columbia’s UP community, and for students to explore the profession before they graduate. For more information about the program, please contact Michael Montilla here.

Lisa Blake
Alyssa Boyer
Amy Boyle
Vivian Castro-Wooldridge
Judy Chang
Robert Cumella
Jack Darcey
Tim Douglas
Violeta Duncan
Aleena Farishta
Naomi Hersson-Ringskog
Dan Hewes
Lily Langlois
Andrew Lassiter
John Hosung Lee
Jessica Mathew
Alex Moscovitz
Cuthbert A Onikute
Alexandra Guadalupe Paty Diaz
Michael Perles
David Perlmutter
Michael Phillips
Shraddha Ramani
Cameron Robertson
Heather Roiter
Justin Romeo
Josh Saal
Matt Schwartz
Justine Shapiro-Klein
Charlie Stewart
Josef Szende
George Todorovic
Amy Zhou