Systemic Design© Can Change the World

Systemic Design© Can Change the World calls attention to the larger scale forces in the built and natural environment. When these forces are revealed and understood, it radically affects the way planners and designers conceive and define projects and thus avoid superficial cosmetics or post-rationalized form. Systemic Design seeks to reveal interactions between environmental, economic, and programmatic stresses across larger territories beyond the project site, rather than restricting focus to isolated locations and strict building envelopes.

Students Attend Geneva Global Mercuty Negotiations

A group of MIT students and faculty, including Leah Stokes and Danya Rumore (both DUSP PhD candidates in Environmental Policy and Planning)are attending the negotiations for a global treaty on mercury, which are taking place in Geneva from 13-18 January, 2013. Their goal is to help present the latest scientific results for the information of negotiators. You can follow their progress on their blog and twitter.

Event Recap: Regional Economic and Development Planning in East Africa

On Wednesday, November 7, DUSP, urbanAfrica and the MIT Energy Initiative (MITei) hosted a panel discussion called “Regional Economic & Development Planning in East Africa: Natural Gas – Fueling Tanzania Forward." The panel, moderated by MITei Associate Director Rob Stoner, included Joseph Simbakalia (Mtwara Regional Commissioner). Professor Calestous Juma (Harvard Kennedy School), Professor Donald Lessard (Sloan International Management) and DUSP Professor Balakrishnan Rajagopal.

DUSP Seeks Lecturer in Urban Design (part-time position)

Position: Part-time two-year non-tenure track position as Lecturer for the period September 2013 through May 2015. This is a nine-month academic year position from September to May of each year.


This paper describes the urban design of the digital city called AlphaWorld. AlphaWorld is a digital community created in 1995 and accessed daily through the internet by thousands of users. Unlike other digital communities, AlphaWorld’s users may also settle land and construct objects within the world. The design and content of these constructions are determined autonomously, and the cumulative result of this settlement is an organically evolved digital city.

Morphological Change Through Residential Redevelopment

This study examines the morphological changes that occur when residential redevelopment takes place in severely deteriorated inner-city areas. Six large redevelopments completed between 1990 and 2000 in Detroit, Michigan, USA are examined. Seven morphological characteristics of the new housing are compared with those of the housing that existed in 1951.

Incomplete and Incremental Plan Implementation in Downtown Providence, RI, 1960-2000

Between 1960 and 2000, Providence, Rhode Island, transformed its downtown through physical redevelopment. This article examines the proposals and implementation of seven major downtown plans issued for Providence during this period. Each plan proposed significant physical changes like the redevelopment of city blocks, the relocation of railroads, or the construction of open space. Despite Providence’s successful redevelopment reputation, the study found that Providence’s downtown plan implementation was both incomplete and incremental.

Valuing New Development in Distressed Neighborhoods

We estimate the effect of design on the assessed values of new housing units in high-poverty Chicago census tracts with a parcel-based hedonic regression in which we distinguish between three urban design types: enclave, traditional neighborhood development (TND), and infill. We find that urban design significantly affects housing values, and infill housing is more highly valued than either enclave or TND housing.

The Entertainment Zone

This paper describes informal, small-scale leisure and nightlife districts or entertainment zones (EZs) which have developed in or near the downtowns of mid-sized and large American cities in recent years. Occupying older vernacular buildings in marginal areas of downtown, the bars, cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and performance spaces of EZs have developed largely without the large-scale design, planning, government action or subsidy common in formal urban entertainment districts.

The Restructuring of Detroit

This paper examines the dramatic changes to city block morphology that occurred during the 20th century in Detroit, MI, USA. The study area is comprised of four square miles (10.4km2) of downtown Detroit. The paper measures the amount and causes of city block frontage change between the years 1896 and 2002, and finds that 37% of Detroit’s 1896 city block frontage was removed by 2002. Only 50% of the removed frontage was replaced with new frontage.