City and Regional Planning

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.
Piles of trash and furniture left on the curb in front of a small house
Will a nationwide wave of evictions from rental properties emerge amid weak economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis Among the experts tapped to answer the question is Weitzman’s Vincent Reina, assistant professor of city and regional planning and faculty director of the Housing Initiative at Penn.
Winka Dubbeldam and Peter Eisenman on Zoom
Renowned architect Peter Eisenman received the Kanter Tritsch Medal in Architecture at the Weitzman School’s virtual gala last week. Greenplan Philadelphia, a plan created by WRT for the City of Philadelphia, received The Witte-Sakamoto Family Medal in City and Regional Planning. In a conversation with Winka Dubbeldam, Miller Professor and chair of architecture, Eisenman noted that the challenging quality of his buildings makes it “hard for my work to win prizes.”
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.
Park along a waterfront with a modern skyline on the opposite shore

Photo Zhongjie Lin

Last month, as part of the Penn in China Faculty Speaker Series, Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning Zhongjie Lin shared highlights from his research on urbanization in China. The panel, called “The Past, Present, and Future of Chinese New Cities,” was presented by Penn Global, Penn Alumni Relations, and the Penn Wharton China Center. Lin was joined on the virtual panel by Wu Jiang, senior vice president of Tongji University in Shanghai, and Liu Jiang, vice dean of the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Photo Eric Sucar

In a year marked by COVID-19, renewed calls for racial justice, a contentious presidential election, and an active wildfire and hurricane season, Weitzman faculty from the departments of city and regional planning and landscape architecture suggest what’s needed to make urban areas more resilient to future crises.

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