Celebrating DUSP Harold Horowitz Student Research Fund Winners

The Harold Horowitz (1951) Student Research Fund, established in 1999 through the generosity of alumnus Harold Horowitz (AR ’51), is awarded annually to one or more students - graduate or undergraduate - enrolled in a degree program in the MIT School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P). The fund seeks to support: research assistantships and student-initiated research projects; extraordinary expenses of research for students working on advanced degrees; and costs of publication of research results that are of exceptional merit or importance.

During his time as a graduate student in the Department of Architecture, Horowitz considered his experience conducting research at MIT formative, research that was made possible in part due to research funding from SA+P. Later, as the Director of the Research Division for the National Endowment for the Arts, Horowitz served on several UNESCO task forces which provided opportunities to travel the world while working. Horowitz found the interaction and sharing of cultural differences with individuals from other countries around important international issues both stimulating, rewarding, and important for the development of more robust research. These combined experiences led Horowitz to create the student research fund to support similar experiences for students within SA+P.

Award winners are chosen by a selection jury of SA+P faculty members. In 2019, Delia Wendel (Assistant Professor of International Development & Urban Planning), Jason Jackson (Assistant Professor of Political Economy and Urban Planning), and Nida Sinnokrot (Assistant Professor) served on the jury. Awards range from $1,000 to $4,000.

“The applicant pool for the Horowitz fund came from across the entire School of Architecture and Planning, from both master’s and PhD students with a diverse selection of impactful topics,” said Delia Wendel. “We read proposals that sought to leverage machine learning for public health policy, advance our understanding of the politics of 18th century French architectural sculpture, explore the spaces of cryptocurrency, collect data on the practices and partnerships of water utilities across the African continent, and treat user errors as opportunities for creativity in CNC digital fabrication, among many others. These projects are a testament to the rigorous and innovative work of SA+P students. Across the entire pool, we were impressed by the desire to use academic research to implement meaningful change to enhance our world.”

Listed below are the DUSP award winners and brief descriptions of the research that will be supported by the Harold Horowitz Student Research Fund.

Amelia Taylor-Hochberg
Community Governance and Researcher Collaboration in the Lakewood Ranch Brain Health Study
The momentous rate of global urbanization has brought renewed focus to the link between our environment and our mental health. To better understand this, health researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have partnered with community leaders in Lakewood Ranch, a collection of master-planned, multi-generational and mixed-use developments near Sarasota, Florida — to launch the Lakewood Ranch Brain Health Study. The Study aspires to do for mental health what the Framingham, Massachusetts Heart Study did for our understanding of cardiovascular health, by helping identify risk and preventative factors for mental health, as well as evaluating potential interventions. The study will last multiple generations and, to succeed, will require longstanding collaboration with local leaders and study participants. Just having wrapped its "pre-pilot" phase, Taylor-Hochberg’s research aims to understand the governance and collaborative structure established between researchers and community entities thus far, and how this might influence the study as it moves forward. Interviews and site visits with key study stakeholders will help illustrate how researchers and community representatives are collaborating to accomplish this ambitious and momentous goal, as well as how this relationship is impacted by Lakewood Ranch being a private, master-planned community.

Andrea Beck
Fluid Alliances: Peer Learning and the Politics of Solidarity in Water Operator Partnerships
Water Operator Partnerships (WOPs) are an alternative partnership approach for strengthening public water and sanitation utilities in cities of the global South. In contrast to public-private partnerships (PPPs), WOPs are aimed at peer-to-peer capacity building on a not-for-profit basis. According to official UN discourse, mentor operators share their expertise and knowledge with mentees out of solidarity and a commitment to improving the lives of the poor. However, in light of the long-standing privatization debates in the water sector, activist researchers, civil society groups, and trade unions have raised doubts about the role of solidarity as a mentor motivation. What are the implications of different motivating factors for the collaboration that occurs between mentors and mentees? With support from her Harold Horowitz (1951) Student Research Fund Award, Andrea Beck will extend her fieldwork in Europe to interview mentor operators in Africa about their motivations for participating in WOPs. Beck’s findings will be of direct relevance to those trying to promote and scale up the WOP approach in different parts of the world.

Alexander Meeks
Small Business Disaster Recovery in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew
Hurricanes Matthew and Florence wrought a double impact on southeast and eastern North Carolina in 2016 and 2018. The storms disrupted the livelihoods of small business owners along small-town main streets and across rural contexts, which exerted larger economic impacts across these businesses’ local communities. Meeks’ research seeks to characterize the impact of these storms on small businesses – defined as businesses employing fewer than 50 employees -- the process of economic recovery after the storms and the prospects for longer-term resilience among small businesses in the future.

Jeff Jamawat
Redesign, Redeploy, and Re-envision Urban Corporate Headquarters: Amazon’s Seattle Campus Case Study
Urban corporate headquarters have tremendous impacts on cities and built environment. When Amazon moved to South Lake Union located just north of downtown Seattle, a complete transformation of land use and neighborhood character ensued. In less than a decade, industrial properties, vacant blocks, and marginal architecture that populated underutilized lots have been actively redeveloped into Class A office space and high-quality housing stock, creating a new, large-scale, mixed-use urban neighborhood that becomes an extension of downtown. Jeff Jamawat is researching design and real estate strategies to redeploy urban corporate headquarters, using Amazon campus in Seattle as a case study.

Kadeem Khan
Getting to the Nitty Gritty of Urban Poverty: The Applications of Machine Learning for Mapping Quality of Life in Nairobi, Kenya
According to the United Nations, by the year 2050, 68% of the world’s population will live in cities. However, the UN also estimates that 1 in 8 people in the world currently live in slums; furthermore, slum populations are growing at a rate of 4.5% per year. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is known for having large slum settlements and a high degree of residential fragmentation. Moreover, Nairobi experienced an immense growth in population, with estimations of population growth potential to 46.6 million by 2100 – or said another way, the 12th most populous city in the world. While slums are expanding at a rapid rate, cities in the Global South lack the crucial data to monitor and react to deepening inequalities. Most urban poverty assessments rely on census or survey data, poverty maps or slum demarcation maps, which are subject to planning limitations. The need for innovative data-driven techniques which address these limitations are becoming increasingly urgent. Machine Learning (ML) is applied in business and technology; nonetheless, its applications in the realm of policy are relatively nascent in comparison. Kadeem Khan aims to apply ML techniques to generate useful insights on poverty in Nairobi by analyzing data from multiple sources including: census, satellite imagery and data derived from geographic information systems. Khan will explore two ML methods. One will be designed to predict the level of poverty for small areas, while the second method will identify the typology of poverty, in an attempt to examine the nuances across different neighborhoods in the city.

Madeleine Daepp
Is the U.S. Housing Affordability Crisis Spreading Along Domestic Migration Networks?
Despite the 2009 crash, median housing prices now exceed median income by a factor of four in many coastal cities and by a factor of eight or more in some areas of California. The least affordable cities are places that share similar industries and thus share many of the same populations. That is say, people who live in San Francisco may be more likely to move to Boston or New York than to other U.S. cities making the effective distance along migration networks far shorter than the geographic distance between those cities—but contemporary research on housing markets often fails to account for the possibility of such interrelationships. In this study, Madeleine Daepp will use a novel migration data set to examine whether the interconnectedness of major cities could make housing prices "contagious," enabling positive shocks in one city’s housing market to spread rapidly across the country.

Nicholas Kelly
Expanding Choice in Housing Opportunities: A MIT-Boston Housing Authority Collaboration
Voucher families consistently report barriers to realizing their housing goals and exercising true choice in the housing market. These barriers include discrimination, a lack of information on different communities, high housing costs, scarce rental units, and lack of accessible transit. The Expanding Choice in Housing Opportunities program aims to provide counseling and subsidies to Section-8 voucher holders to help them move to higher opportunity communities in the greater Boston Area. Nicholas Kelly has been working on the ECHO project since its inception, helping translate the latest in social science research on the impact of neighborhoods to practical policy solutions for the Boston Housing Authority. Through a number of collaborations with a number of actors in the private and public sectors, working with transportation experts, the Massachusetts Area Planning Council (MAPC), as well as raising funds from the Boston Foundation, the Sasaki Foundation, and through a Sagalyn and Hack grant to support the project, Kelly has been integral for the development of a digital interface, the ECHOLocator, that will be used in the ECHO program to help low-income families decide which high-opportunity areas best suit their needs.

Shin Bin Tan
Where We Eat is Who We Are: Analyzing Food-Related Travel Patterns in Singapore and Johor Bahru
Unhealthy food environments are believed to contribute to rising rates of obesity. There has been increasing interest in interventions to change the obesogenic nature of urban environments. Empirical evidence of the link between food environments, dietary behaviors or health-related outcomes has however been inconclusive and limited, in part to the many different methods of defining and analyzing food environments. Furthermore, studies on food environments have been conducted largely within the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Given the differences between different countries’ food environment patterns and social/ cultural food norms, more research in non-Western contexts is needed. Shin Bin Tan will explore how the boundaries of one’s personal food neighborhood may vary with individual-level characteristics (e.g. gender/sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status), environmental characteristics (e.g. built density, land use diversity), types of anchor points (e.g. home, work, school etc.), as well as time dimensions (e.g. time of day or weekend/ weekday). Tan’s work will be based in two multi-ethnic cities in South East Asia.

Xi Qiu
Green Growth Commitment: Can Eco-Environmental Urbanization Promote Sustainable Development in China?
Governments across the globe pool tremendous resources and concentrate efforts in designated urban areas to experiment with new, eco-environmental approaches, hoping to generate scalable paradigms of sustainable development. These spaces are often proclaimed as “eco,” “low-carbon” or “green” cities. They are planned as engines of green growth, instrumental in transitions toward environmentally friendly societies. With continued aspirations to grow, the world’s largest developing countries are at the forefront of sustainable development, searching for an optimal paradigm for urbanization; one that would be both a motor for economic development and a cornerstone of environmentally responsible societies. Using Chinese cities as laboratories of investigation, Xi Qui will identify eco-environmental principles of planning and design and investigate their roles in shaping local development policies as well as industrial, ecological and sociocultural dimensions of urbanization. I emphasize the notion of eco-(re)development as a comprehensive set of context-driven and evolving planning and design strategies in contrast to one-size-fit-all models of “eco-cities." Qui aims to establish a common vocabulary for discussions about emerging urbanization patterns and the next phase of eco-(re)development characterized by eco-environmental principles of planning and design.

Yonah Freemark
Shaping Metropolitan Mobility: The Multi-Level, Multi-Jurisdictional Politics of Transportation Infrastructure
How do local politics shape urbanism? Through case studies of major infrastructure investments, Yonah Freemark challenges a widespread assumption among practitioners and scholars that decision making regarding planning tends to be apolitical, and develops an alternative theory of urban governance within the context of the overlapping jurisdictional oversight of local policy and often-contrasting political and ideological viewpoints among actors from those various jurisdictions. Through a cross-national, cross-case comparison, Freemark explores this question in the U.S. and France, two countries featuring fragmented regions where investments are subject to input from elected representatives and residents with diverse political views. By focusing on the routes of new public transportation lines; the urban design of areas surrounding stations; and the programming of adjacent development; Freemark demonstrates how municipal officials’ partisan affiliations and worldviews, as well as the ideologies of the people they represent, shape infrastructure design.