Lawrence Vale

Professor of Urban Design and Planning

Associate Dean Lawrence Vale is Ford Professor of Urban Design and Planning at MIT, where he served as Head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning from 2002 until January 2009.  He has taught in the MIT School of Architecture and Planning since 1988, and he is currently the director of the Resilient Cities Housing Initiative (RCHI), a unit of the School’s Center for Advanced Urbanism. He was president of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History for 2011-2013. Vale holds degrees from Amherst College (B.A. in American Studies, summa cum laude), M.I.T. (S.M.Arch.S.), and the University of Oxford (D.Phil.), which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He is the author or editor of twelve books and more than sixty articles examining urban design, housing and planning.

Much of Professor Vale's most recent published work has examined the history, politics, and design of American public housing. These books include From the Puritans to the Projects: Public Housing and Public Neighbors (2001 "Best Book in Urban Affairs"); and Reclaiming Public Housing: A Half Century of Struggle in Three Public Neighborhoods (2005 Paul Davidoff Award). This research has been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, and has also received the Chester Rapkin Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, an EDRA/Places Award for “Place Research,” and the John M. Corcoran Award for Community Investment.

More recently, he has completed another trio of books on public housing. Purging the Poorest: Public Housing and the Design Politics of Twice-Cleared Communities (University of Chicago Press, 2013) focuses on Atlanta and Chicago, comparing the slum clearance era that yielded the first public housing with the current spate of public housing demolition and redevelopment. This book has received "best book" awards from both the International Planning History Society (2014) and the Urban Affairs Association (2015). He his also co-editor, with Nicholas Bloom and Fritz Umbach, of Public Housing Myths: Perceptions, Reality and Social Policy (Cornell University Press 2015; 2016 Best Edited Book Award, International Planning History Society). His latest book, published in early 2019 by Oxford University Press, is After the Projects:  Public Housing Redevelopment and the Governance of the Poorest Americans. This explores the variation of HOPE VI public housing redevelopment practices across the United States, with a focus on New Orleans, Boston, Tucson, and San Francisco. Prior to his work on public housing, Professor Vale was the author of Architecture, Power, and National Identity (1992), a book about capital city design on six continents, which received the 1994 Spiro Kostof Book Award for Architecture and Urbanism from the Society of Architectural Historians.  A revised, 2nd edition of the book was published by Routledge in 2008. He is also the author of The Limits of Civil Defence (Macmillan and St. Martin’s Press, 1987), a book based on his dissertation.

Additionally, Vale is co-editor, with Sam Bass Warner, Jr., of Imaging the City:  Continuing Struggles and New Directions (2001); co-editor, with Thomas J. Campanella, of The Resilient City:  How Modern Cities Recover From Disaster (2005);  co-editor, with Bish Sanyal and Christina Rosan, of Planning Ideas That Matter: Livability, Territoriality, Governance, and Reflective Practice (MIT Press, 2012; 2014 Best Edited Book in Planning History, IPHS); and co-editor, with Justin Steil, Nicholas Kelly and Maia Woluchem, of Furthering Fair Housing: Prospects for Racial Justice in America’s Neighborhoods (Temple University Press, 2021). Finally, he is the author of a monograph about the history of the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Changing Cities:  75 Years of Planning Better Futures at MIT (SA+P Press, 2008).

At MIT, he has won the Institute’s highest award for teaching (MacVicar Faculty Fellowship), and the Institute's highest award for graduate student advising (Frank Perkins Award), as well as multiple departmental awards for advising and service to students. He is the 2022 recipient of the Laurence Gerckens Prize from the Society for American City and Regional Planning History, “awarded to a scholar-teacher who has demonstrated sustained excellence and educational leadership in the field of planning history.”