MAUD/MLAUD/MUP

The past year has played host to no fewer than four major crises, with pandemic, the brutality and systemic racism resulting in increasing calls for social justice, pronounced climate change impacts, and economic turmoil with historically high unemployment rates. While the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated many aspects of students’ programs, we have been truly impressed by the willingness of all the thesis students to push forward their work under these most challenging of circumstances. Few graduate students have encountered such obstacles to research, and we want to say how impressed we have been by the work of every member of the thesis cohort.

The students whose work is documented in this site, in addition to deploying strong skills in analysis, design, and representation, brought to bear an immense enthusiasm for, and commitment to, their subjects. This is evident in the results of their research efforts. It is this passion that will give these projects life long after graduation and ensure their impact extends beyond the boundaries of the school and the university.

David Gamble
Thesis Co-director Department of Urban Planning and Design

Carole Voulgaris
Thesis Co-director Department of Urban Planning and Design

Mary Taylor

MUP

Urban Planning and Mental Wellness in Black Communities

Advised by Toni L. Griffin

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has received the designation of “Most Livable City” despite widespread structural inequities that harm marginalized people, making it one of the worst cities in the country for Black women. This stark contrast reveals a tale of two Pittsburghs, in which race and class have a significant bearing on health, educational, and economic outcomes.  

These inequities are rendered in the built environment. Structural racism, historic urban planning and policy decisions, and the postindustrial context have contributed to the creation of an apartheid condition in which environmental stressors negatively impact Black residents’ mental health.  Utilizing Pittsburgh as a case study, this thesis proposes a methodology to analyze the linkages between race, the built environment, and community mental health. Building on radical mental health frameworks, such as healing justice, this thesis suggests alternative approaches to urban planning in order to cultivate spaces that are liberatory, caring, mutually affirming, and just. 

Photograph of downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and nearby area as viewed from an overlooking neighborhood hillside.

Kyle Cohen

MUP

The Ends of the Office: A Critique of the “White-Collar” Workplace

Advised by Ann Forsyth

Although it is arguably the primary engine of capitalist urbanization, the modern office has largely avoided critical scrutiny as a physical site of labor. In this thesis, I explore the geohistorical developments that have led to the establishment of the office as a fundamental fixture of the American landscape in order to situate it within the present neoliberal capitalist regime. I hold that the office is (and has been) incompatible with the requirements of accumulation and instead primarily serves an ideological function as an embodiment of inherited power dynamics. These conditions have left the office at risk of a restructuring, similar to what was seen with the American factory and deindustrialization but along digital rather than territorial lines. As such, the office stands at a crossroads between a continuation of the status quo of subjugation or a more pervasive form of exploitation, with implications that extend far beyond the cubicle.

Interior of a single floor of a multiple story building under construction with bare concrete walls and floors, and HVAC and fire sprinkler systems exposed.

Nora A. Tufano

MUP

Planning Climate Philanthropy: Finding Funding for Local Climate Adaptation Plans

Advised by Matthew Kiefer

Nearly every local climate plan in the United States is, in some way, funded by philanthropic sources, whether through direct underwriting of government programs, capacity building, sponsorship of academic research, or support for not-for-profit advocacy organizations. This exchange represents an extension of the historic and ongoing dialogue between public sector planning and philanthropy, which remains a relatively opaque phenomenon. This thesis argues that there is a need for holistic evaluation of philanthropic programs in the public interest rather than solely programmatic or internal analysis. With this goal, I examine foundation-funded climate programs in Boston to determine their success at leveraging future funding, creating policy change, and furthering equitable outcomes. Utilizing this analysis, this thesis puts forth a framework for the evaluation of future funding and best practices for identifying needs moving forward into the next phase of climate philanthropy for adaptation.

Overlay of an early hand-drawn map of Boston, Massachusetts atop contemporary shore outline map of Boston and  Boston Bay.
 Labels include Dorchester Neck, Roxbury, Charles River, Charlestown, Winisimmit, Noddles Island, Hog Island

Martín Javier Quiroga Barrera Oro

MUP

The Global Office: A New Opportunity for Buenos Aires?

Advised by Diane Davis

Across industries, companies are reducing costs by minimizing office space and sourcing talent from geographic areas with lower salaries. These two changes have accelerated the adoption of teleworking and could foster an exodus of jobs from leading innovation hubs (“sending cities”) to emerging areas (“receiving cities”). In response to the pandemic, municipalities have launched programs to lure workers worldwide and underpin sectors such as tourism and hospitality. This thesis analyzes the main enablers and barriers for teleworking in the City of Buenos Aires and explores the potential socioeconomic, spatial, and urban implications, particularly considering the influx of high-income earners. Understanding the factors that affect these initiatives and their implications can contribute to the design of national and local policies that attract new visitors and residents while preserving urban inclusion, resilience, sustainability, and livability.

Daytime photoggraph of downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina

Carlee Griffeth

MUP

Charging America: Car Access and Incentive in a Decarbonized Future

Advised by Carole Turley Voulgaris

Throughout the 20th century, the US invested heavily in a national highway network and sprawling inequitable and unsafe communities that prioritize cars over people. Today, as we rush to find solutions to tackle the climate crisis, electric vehicles (EVs) should be a compliment to the decarbonization puzzle, not the primary solution. While safer, more equitable modes of decarbonized transportation must be a priority, such modes are not possible everywhere. For some, EVs may be the best solution for addressing the climate crisis. This thesis analyzes where and how the public and private sectors have developed EV charging stations to date. As the new Biden administration and the private sector prepare for rapid development of EV infrastructure, understanding current patterns of development can inform future decisions to ensure EV infrastructure is prioritized for areas that lack alternative modes rather than continue to incentivize a culture of cars over people.

Bar graphs comparing the numbers of electric vehicles and charging stations today, with projections for the year 2030. Stock today 1-million electric vehicles; In 2030, 15-million. Stock today four hundred forty seven thousand electric charging stations; In 2030, five hundred thousand.

Elifmina Mizrahi

MUP

Reparative Planning in Theory and Practice

Advised by Lily Song

This thesis investigates the case of the Alliance for Community Transit Los Angeles (ACT-LA) as an example of reparative planning “in action.” Over the past few decades, urban planning not only moved from a technocratic, top-down approach toward a more participatory one but also became more attuned with the harms and wrongs caused by the field in the past. Although there is a growing body of work on how repair and healing relate to planning theory, there are few empirical case studies that examine how reparative planning translates into practice. This research explores how a regional coalition of grassroots organizations advocates and plans for equitable development and transit justice in the Los Angeles area, specifically analyzing the tools and methods used by ACT-LA to better understand how these processes can be scaled up and implemented in planning practice to move the field toward a more reparative direction.

Line drawings of objects and text labels including title “what does a sanctuary look like?” Objects are: cooler with sodas, music, trees, little free library, food vendors, shade, water fountain, fruit trees, parklet, tables & chairs, maps & signage, free art supplies, misters, plants, hopscotch, benches

Steven Gu

MUP

Lost in Translation: Creative Urban Regeneration in Bangkok, Thailand

Advised by Jerold Kayden and Diane Davis

Over the last decade, creative industry-focused urban regeneration is becoming more popular for developing countries and their postindustrial urban spaces. Narratively led by national government agencies, the creative regeneration occurring on the ground not only deviates from policy intentions, but also escapes market-based development explanations. To understand this gap between image and reality, my thesis proposes an alternative framework that delineates the urban processes, developments, and actors based on socioeconomic class intentions and differentiation. Examining the creative district initiatives in Bangkok, Thailand, I argue that the creative districts in developing contexts are a form of government-sanctioned regeneration that makes properties legible for lifestyle-led redevelopment. Utilizing a mixed-methods approach, I identify the urban imaginary of next-generation Thai landowners as the impetus for development rather than market-led economic viability. This research aims to expand factors behind international regeneration practices by centering the globalizing middle class and cultural capital in regeneration efforts.

Overhead view drawing of a developed town or city site showing buildings and streets and divided by a river. One side is tinted red, the opposite is tinted blue