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Ford Professor of Urban Design and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

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 nine books 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.

His most recent book, 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. He is currently at work on new book project that explores the variation of HOPE VI public housing redevelopment practices across the United States, as well as a co-edited book, with Nicholas Bloom and Fritz Umbach, entitled “Public Housing Myths: Beyond Victims and Villains” (Cornell University Press, 2015).

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); and co-editor, with Bish Sanyal and Christina Rosan, of Planning Ideas That Matter: Livability, Territoriality, Governance, and Reflective Practice (2012). 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), as well as departmental awards for advising and service to students.


  • –present
    Ford Professor of Urban Design and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology