The MIT School of Architecture + Planning has named Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America, winner of the 2013-2014 Kevin Lynch Award. The award is presented biannually for outstanding scholarship and practice in urban design, planning and landscape design.

Pahlka founded Code for America in 2009 to connect city governments with the innovative and creative skills of technology and web-industry professionals. Since 2011, Code for America partners web developers and designers with local governments to create open-source applications that help solve pressing urban problems. The apps, such as LocalData, a platform that creates new and more effective avenues for community participation, are open source – allowing them to easily spread to other cities and avoid costly bureaucratic red tape.

As Pahlka said in her 2012 TedTalk, Code for America “suggests that government could work better, not more like a private company --as many people think it should-- and not even like a tech company, but more like the Internet itself.”

Pahlka is currently serving as the United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer for government innovation, on leave from Code for America while she performs this role.

The Lynch award was established in 1988 to honor the memory of Kevin Lynch, an MIT alumnus, urban designer, author and 30-year faculty member in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Conferred to individuals or organizations whose work embodies and advances Kevin Lynch’s research as developed in his seminal books Image of the City (1960), What Time is this Place? (1972), Good City Form (1981) and Site Planning (1984), nominees are selected for their plans, books, research, designed projects, media productions, public processes or similar contributions.

According to Eran Ben-Joseph, head of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, “The Lynch award recognizes Jennifer Pahlka’s impact on the growing trend toward valuing the everyday citizen’s view of his or her community. A grass-roots perspective is a vital component to urban design and planning.”

In selecting Pahlka, the committee noted:

Kevin Lynch defined the efficient city as one that “offers a high level of access without any loss of local control.” Pahlka and Code for America work towards providing local residents with more access and control over city government functions. By enabling citizens to report transparently on the small urban problems most affecting their daily lives, Code for America facilitates a more responsive local government at a fraction of the traditional costs. Lynch believed policy makers and planners couldn't understand any site without first talking to the people who used the space; but lamented that doing so was often beyond economic feasibility for projects. Code for America uses new technology to bridge that communication gap between the planners and residents that is possible even in these austere times. 

The award will be presented on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at a special event in the new Media Lab. For additional information on the award and the upcoming event, see http://kevinlynchaward.mit.edu/