We are deeply saddened to share the loss of Peter Marcuse, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at Columbia GSAPP. Peter passed away on March 4, 2022, at the age of 93 in Santa Barbara. In addition to teaching for three decades at GSAPP from 1975 to 2005, Peter served as the Chairman of the Division of Urban Planning (1975–1979) and the Director of the Urban Planning Ph.D. Program (1991–1994, 1996–2002).
“I see Peter’s imprint on the GSAPP Urban Planning Program everywhere, in the teachings of our faculty and in the aspirations of our students. Peter would be pleased to know that generations of planning students and graduates continue to pursue social justice in ways that he so firmly established in the program,” said Interim Dean and Professor Weiping Wu, who also serves as the Director of the Urban Planning Program at Columbia GSAPP.
Peter was born in Berlin in 1928 and moved to Switzerland before immigrating to the U.S. with his family in 1934. After graduating from Harvard College in 1948, he attended Yale Law School where he earned his J.D. in 1953 and afterward practiced law in New Haven and Waterbury, Connecticut. He later earned Master’s degrees in Public Law and Government from Columbia University in 1963, and in Urban Studies from Yale University in 1968. After completing his Ph.D. dissertation Home Ownership for Low-Income Families: Legal and Financial Implications in 1972 at the University of California in Berkeley, Peter joined the UCLA planning faculty.
Peter relocated to New York City in 1975 to direct the Urban Planning Program at Columbia GSAPP, where he introduced a strong programmatic emphasis on issues of urban social equity and social justice. Since the 1970s, these topics have suffused the curriculum. Even today, the program emphasizes issues of economic development, environmental sustainability, reconnection with physical planning, community participation, advocacy planning, and concepts of social justice. Peter was one of the first to define and use the term gentrification, as well as many other names and phrases to define and distinguish ideas and concepts. Always engaged in civic activities, Peter served on and chaired a Manhattan community board, served on the American Civil Liberties Union’s board of directors, and led New York City’s triennial study of housing conditions in 1978 alongside his position at Columbia University.
Peter wrote prolifically, even after his retirement. His most recent writings include Searching for a Just City: Debates in Urban Theory and Practice (2009), Cities for People, Not for Profit (2011), In Defense of Housing (2016), and his blog Critical Planning and Other Thoughts.