City and Regional Planning

A middle-aged man in a blue blazer in front of a chalk board gesturing
Crossways Professor of City and Regional Planning Tom Daniels is offering a new course on the science and politics of the climate crisis. The course, a complement to work being done at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy and The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology, is focused on planning responses to climate change, with case studies on mitigation and adaptation. “The course really gets at the complexity of the climate-change issue,” Daniels says. “It’s not just a matter of: Let’s stop burning fossil fuels. There are lots of aspects, including how do we adapt to the effects of climate change, and what are the economics of making a transition?”
Ken Steif and cover of "Public Policy Analytics" book
As the world marks one year since COVID-19 upended everyday life, governments around the world have often touted that they are “guided by data” or are “following the science” as they close or open different sectors of the economy.
Megan Ryerson wears a helmet outfitted with clear eye-tracking glasses as she travels in a bike lane on a Philly street

Photo Thomas Orgren

Public transportation is a cornerstone of urban infrastructure, with agencies like the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) making millions of trips every year.
Aerial photo showing the street grid of Philadelphia with skyline in the distance
Penn Institute for Urban Research has released the latest iteration of their Expert Voices series, which this year gives many diverse responses to the question “what will be the ‘new normal’?” Contributors include a number of faculty members from Weitzman, including Lance Freeman, a distinguished visiting faculty fellow in the Department of City and Regional Planning, who points to the worsening problem of inequality in cities during the pandemic. 
Illustration showing a stone wall with lettering reading Angola Memorial Justice Center

“It was really exciting how [the students] did not even try to pretend that landscape architecture or other design professions are neutral,” says Beka Economopoulos, an artist, activist and founder of the Natural History Museum, who served as a guest critic and juror for the studio. “They’re always serving some end.”

A Fall 2020 interdisciplinary studio at Weitzman called Designing a Green New Deal asked students to produce a digital “atlas” documenting three different American regions’ carceral, fossil fuel, and industrial agriculture landscapes. Billy Fleming, the Wilks Family Director of The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology, then asked the students to create set of ‘futures’ based on the Green New Deal. “Rather than focusing on a piece of technology or faux-ecology, we asked them to think about how they might produce speculative work that advances the project of abolition and climate justice, as described to them by the movements we worked with in the studio,” Fleming says.
SEPTA 52 Street Station crossing over a street
Transport Justice, a one-credit elective class, Transport Justice, was taught by Joshua Davidson, a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department. Students spent most of the semester reading and writing about critical theory in transportation planning and spatial justice. They finished the semester by researching the neighborhoods along the 52 bus line, studying possibilities for extending or improving its service, and thinking through the best ways to empower adjacent communities in the process of change. And last week, they presented their work to a panel of reviewers, including faculty at the Weitzman School and planning officials at SEPTA.
Lily Cheng sitting on the steps going up to the front porch of her house
The Office of Professional Development and Career Services at Weitzman coordinates an annual externship program for students in architecture and landscape architecture; for the 2020-2021 Academic Year, externships were scheduled for January and March. Lily Cheng is a Master of City Planning student who completed a virtual externship with the Philadelphia-based planning and urban design firm Interface Studio LLC in January of 2021. 
Plan of southeast Philadelphia site showing location of urban farm system and public spaces.
A team of Master of City Planning and Master of Landscape Architecture students at Weitzman won an Edmund N. Bacon Urban Design Award from Philadelphia’s Center for Architecture and Design. Asked to reimagine the 1300-acre Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery site located along the Schuylkill River in Southwest Philadelphia, the winning students proposed re-imagining the site as the hub for vertical farming and a food share system, new transit connections, and outdoor recreation spaces.
Watercolor showing a rundown house next to a river

Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Weitzman faculty and students are re-examining the role of designers, planners, and preservationists in meeting a host of societal challenges that came to a head in 2020. Many new seminars and studios for Academic Year 2020-2021 respond directly to them, by looking at the history of epidemics; tools to empower residents of low-income neighborhoods to engage in redevelopment; and the ways in which racial identities are constructed through the built environment.
Camille Boggan, a second-year Master of City Planning student at the Weitzman School, has received an Outstanding Student of the Year Award from the U.S. Department of Transportation for her work on public transit.
A terraced hillside is interrupted by low rise buildings and ends with a green space
For years, students in David Gouverner's interdisciplinary Urban Design Studio have helped to build an understanding of how cities can manage and improve informal settlements that develop on their peripheries. In the 2020 version, they pushed the limits of remote learning to study three sites, in three countries. 
Black and white photo of Standard gas station

Streets of Los Angeles Archive. The Getty Research Institute, 2012.M.1. © Ed Ruscha

Francesca Russello Ammon, an associate professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning and Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at Weitzman, is part of a team that has been awarded an $86,000 digital humanities grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Sunset over Sunset, as the project is called, will tap the vast body of photographic work by legendary Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha which has been begun to be digitized by The Getty Research Institute (GRI) to analyze small-scale urban change in a manner never before possible.

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