Future of the American City Initiative

“The future of the American city is very much linked to questions of urban development and urbanization across the globe. Therefore, I think there’s something very exciting to really think about the future of the American city in the context of this worldliness.” – Mohsen Mostafavi, 2019

The Future of the American City project is an urban study initiative aimed at helping cities tackle urgent challenges. Building on the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s unique, multi-disciplinary model, the effort will use architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning and design to come up with actionable, efficient solutions that take into account community needs.

Research on Miami will form the first phase of the project, a broader initiative intending to also examine the cities of Los Angeles, Detroit, and Boston. The school plans to host a summit to convene experts from each city to create a national discourse on the future of cities and urban life in America.

To engage Miami residents in creating new approaches to address pressing urban issues—including affordable housing, transportation and sea level rise—the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is providing $1 million in support to the Harvard GSD. With the funding, the school will embed urban researchers in Miami and Miami Beach to better understand the cities’ opportunities and challenges, and launch a multi-year study toward building solutions shaped by residents.

Researchers at the GSD have been actively connected with the City of Miami and the City of Miami Beach for several years. Since 2012, the school has conducted six courses focused on Miami and held several major events in the city. Expanding on this work, the school will convene a range of experts, policy-makers, and members of the public to contribute to this new effort.

In its research, the school will focus on urban mobility, affordability, and climate change, themes that emerged from a series of previous discussions among its researchers and members of the Miami and Miami Beach communities. Following their analysis, students and faculty will offer toolkits, white papers, and other materials for review and use by city managers, mayors, and other civic leaders, many of whom will be directly involved throughout the study.

Project Team: Mohsen Mostafavi (PI), Charles Waldheim (co-PI), Jesse Keenan (co-PI), Chris Reed, Sean Canty, Lily Song, Aziz Barbar, Charlie Gaillard, Mercedes Peralta, Jessy Yang, Tam Banh, Theodore Kofman, and Jonah Susskind.

Partners: Michael Rock / 2 × 4.