Designing greener and more sustainable cities is what most architects and urban designers aspire to and advocate. But while an increasing number of global cities embrace the green-city movement as a marketing strategy, the dynamics of uneven investment and municipal abandonment often create unequal and unsustainable urban communities. The consequences of these processes include loss of rural livelihoods and rural migration, uncontrolled development in the global south, and deindustrialization, urban flight, unequal development in the global north. In both places, gentrification and displacement have emerged at the top of local political agendas.
The intersection of urban planning and policy, social inequality and development studies is the subject of research of our guest professor Isabelle Anguelovski. A social scientist with a PhD in Urban Studies and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she examines in her work the extent to which urban plans and policy decisions contribute to more just, resilient, healthy, and sustainable cities, and how community groups in distressed neighbourhoods contest the existence, creation, or exacerbation of environmental inequities as a result of urban (re)development processes and policies.
Isabelle Anguelovski and her colleague Dr. James Connolly, both co-directors at the Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability (BCNUEJ), teach the Environmental Justice and Urban Development course within our masters program. Here the students examine the theory and practice of building green, healthy, and equitable cities, and look most specifically at the community and neighborhood scale and considering the experience and needs of historically marginalized groups. Furthermore, the political economy, policy, and planning processes that lead to or exacerbate unequal and unsustainable conditions are explored. The course also introduces a variety of cases from around the world where innovative principles, tools, and techniques have been used to equitably revitalize neighborhoods and enhance the environmental quality and livability of places for people. Another important discussion includes the environmental justice dimensions of climate change impacts and climate change adaptation.
“In this course we attempt to equip students with theories, analytical tools, research methods, and case studies, so they can understand the challenges of designing and planning cities that can be green, climate-resilient, healthy, and equitable,” explains Anguelovski. “We encourage them to critically look at urban plans, design projects, green interventions or redevelopment/regeneration schemes which might, at first glance, look desirable for residents and attractive for investments, but, in reality, might create new forms of displacement, exclusion, and privilege for whiter, wealthier, and more-educated residents.”
Featured Image: Matt Brown (Creative Commons licensed), image edited
New York Highline: Sigrid Ehrmann
Other Images: Courtesy of BCNUEJ