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Letter from the Editor

Dear Reader,

In its second iteration, The Urban Forum facilitates a dialogue between budding urban planners at four schools across the U.S. Authors from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the University of Michigan, the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology all share unique perspectives on planning, but their ideas naturally converge on four themes: encountering structures of power, empathizing with the everyday, engaging in critical discourse and envisioning the future.

The wide range of perspectives reflects the interdisciplinary, sometimes indecipherable nature of our field; indeed, nearly every planning student has faced that incredulous look from a family member or friend, followed by the ever-skeptical: and what is urban planning, exactly? In the Spring 2019 edition, sixteen planning students seek to answer this question, turning first to the question of power: who participates, who protests, who colonizes, who plans the city?

Dani Cocco Beltrame from MIT DUSP makes the case for participatory planning in her study on Barrio 31 in Buenos Aires. She sheds light on how governments and communities can form long-lasting relationships, “aimed at re-balancing power structures for greater equity.” Radhika Singh of MIT DUSP shares a different story of government-community relationships in the Palestinian artwork on the barrier of the West Bank. Lorena Galvao from Columbia GSAPP spatially analyzes the impact of colonization on the Amazon Rainforest indigenous communities, while Jimena David Garza from Harvard GSD considers the Mexican president’s proposed decentralization of the government.

Turning to the everyday, planning students at the GSD, MIT, and Columbia share meditations on daily spaces: the home, the street, the workplace and the internet. Kirthana Sudhakar from Columbia GSAPP maps out the daily routine of a woman in an informal settlement in Banglore, India, while Shail Joshi of MIT DUSP offers glimpses of life in a Mumbai fishing port through his photo essay. HK Dunston of Columbia presents a very different sidewalk ballet in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Finally, Emma Ogiemwanye of Harvard GSD spatializes the abstract in her think-piece on the internet as a city.

Four Harvard GSD students then share critical theories of insurrection, design politics, dominance and conceptions of urbanization. Brett Merriam critiques how public, common spaces have been co-opted by the private realm, Rui Su reveals the political nature of aesthetics, and Evan Hazelett analyzes how planning ideology has conceived of industrial slums. Timothy Ravis finishes this section with an interpretation of urbanization in the Global South through the lens of James C. Scott’s theory of state simplification.

The final section envisions a future for affordable housing, public-private development, and sustainable and equitable development. Ethan Levin from the University of Michigan says we have much to learn from the legacy of Austin’s smart growth, considering environmental, racial and economic tensions, while Amaya Bravo-France from the GSD warns that sustainable branding will only take cities so far. Jeremy Pi from the GSD presents challenges for the future of public housing in Hong Kong and Kevin Borja from Columbia GSAPP pushes back against megaprojects like Amazon H2Q.

Read on and share with fellow urbanists,

Margaret Haltom

Editor-in-Chief, 2019

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