Cultivating Dialogue about Urban Development
Inspiring Design: Creating Beautiful, Just, and Resilient Places in America

Hosted in partnership with the Northeastern University School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy as a part of its 2021 Spring Myra Kraft Open Classroom, Inspiring Design: Creating Beautiful, Just, and Resilient Places in America explores the role of design in cities.

The series is presented in partnership with the Association of Architecture Organizations, Association of Collegiate Schools of ArchitectureBoston Society for Architecture, and the Boston Society of Landscape Architects.

Design is all around us, yet why is there so little dialogue about its impact on our lives? Boston Globe columnist Renee Loth moderated a conversation with Raj Mankad, Houston Chronicle Op/Ed Editor; and Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer Architecture Critic and author of Becoming Philadelphia: How an Old American City Made Itself New Again, about the role of writers and writing in helping people understand the impact of planning and development in cities. They discussed the challenges of writing about the architecture and urban development and why discussing the impact of investments like Buffalo Bayou Park (2019 RBA Silver Medalist) in Houston is so important.

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the importance of interpreting and communicating the impact of architecture and urban design and its influence on community welfare and the economic, environmental, and social vitality of cities.
  • Understand and discuss the value of engaging in collaborative partnerships that promote public engagement and dialogue about planning, design, and development.
  • Describe examples of how writing and public programming about architecture and cities can influence public opinion and attitudes about planning and design.
  • Identify and discuss the challenges of communicating and writing about architecture and design and strategies for overcoming them.

This session was recorded on Wednesday, March 31st, 2021 as part of Northeastern University’s Myra Kraft Open Classroom 2021 Spring series. ASLA and APA continuing education credits are available thanks to partnerships with Boston Society of Landscape Architects and the American Planning Association, Ohio Chapter.

Renée Loth, Columnist, The Boston Globe
Renée Loth is an opinion columnist for The Boston Globe. In a distinguished journalism career, Renée has held several high-profile positions, including presidential campaign reporter, political editor, and editor of the editorial page, where she was for nine years the highest-ranking woman at the newspaper. She was editor of ArchitectureBoston magazine, the quarterly ideas journal of the Boston Society of Architects, and in 2018 won the Women in Design Award of Excellence. She is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a former fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, and was twice a judge for the Pulitzer prizes in journalism. Through traveling fellowships she has reported from 14 countries. She is married to the jazz pianist Bert Seager, and they have a grown son. They live in Brighton.

Inga Saffron, Architecture Critic, Philadelphia Inquirer
Inga Saffron writes about architecture, design and planning issues for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her popular column, “Changing Skyline” has been appearing on Fridays in the paper’s Home & Design section since 1999. Pushing beyond the usual boundaries of architectural criticism, her columns focus on the buildings and public spaces that Philadelphians encounter in their daily lives. Saffron applies a reporter’s skills and sensibility to explore the variety of forces – political, financial, cultural – that shape the city. Her columns on waterfront development, zoning and parking issues have led to significant changes in city policy. Saffron launched Built, an innovative new web page that allows her to curate Inquirer stories on architecture, development and transportation. By packaging this related content together and updating it daily, Saffron has focused attention on a group of inter-connected issues that are crucial to Philadelphia’s future. In 2012, she completed a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University’s GSD. She received the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism.

Raj Mankad, Op/Ed Editor, Houston Chronicle
Raj Mankad is the op-ed editor at the Houston Chronicle. He believes in making room at the table for voices from across the political spectrum and all our diversity. It’s a job he was born to do. At least that’s what he tells himself when trying to make sense of growing up South Asian in Alabama and Kentucky and never feeling like he belonged anywhere until he moved to Houston 20 years ago. Raj has a PhD from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, and has edited and written for publications that specialize in economics, philosophy, literature, architecture, science and health.

Anne-Marie Lubenau (moderator), FAIA, is the director of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence at the Bruner Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An architect, educator and writer, she is an advocate for engaging people in the design of the built environment and increasing awareness of its impact on our lives. She contributes regularly to national and international publications and forums on design and urban development and is a member of the Boston Civic Design Commission, Harvard GSD Alumni Council, and the Association of Architecture Organization’s board of directors. She holds a BArch from Carnegie Mellon and was a 2012 Harvard Loeb Fellow.

Ted Landsmark (facilitator) is a Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs; Director, Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. Ted is an architect, attorney, academic, and civil rights activist who serves as one of five members of the Boston Planning and Development Agency.




Buffalo Bayou Park Cast Study (2019 RBA Silver Medalist)

Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston (Courtesy Jonnu Singleton)
  • Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston, Texas is a 160-acre park and a critical urban green space located in one of Houston’s primary drainage ways, Buffalo Bayou, Houston’s major and most historic waterway. For more information about Buffalo Bayou Park check out the Rudy Bruner Award case study to learn about the project’s urban context and history, leadership and vision, collaborative partnerships, design and development, financing, operations and programming, and impact.

Rice Design Alliance

Planning and Zoning in Houston: A Cite Literature Review by Falon Mihalic. Courtesy Paul Hester.

Architecture Boston

  • Over more than a decade, the Boston Globe engaged the Boston community in the planning and development of the Rose Kennedy Greenway via articles, editorials and public forums including the Beyond the Big Dig Forum in 2001.

Becoming Philadelphia: How an Old American City Made Itself New Again

Becoming Philadelphia: How an Old American City Made Itself New Again. Courtesy Rutgers University Press.
  • Becoming Philadelphia: How an Old American City Made Itself New Again by Inga Saffron – Once dismissed as a rusting industrial has-been—the “Next Detroit”—Philadelphia has enjoyed an astonishing comeback in the 21st century. Over the past two decades, Inga Saffron has served as the premier chronicler of the city’s physical transformation as it emerged from a half century of decline. Through her Pulitzer Prize-winning columns on architecture and urbanism in the Philadelphia Inquirer, she has tracked the city’s revival on a weekly basis. Becoming Philadelphia collects the best of Saffron’s work, plus a new introduction reflecting on the stunning changes the city has undergone.


Interested in gaining more insight into the process of designing and planning buildings and urban landscapes and the evolution of cities over time? Renée Loth shared the following recommendations:


  • The Power Broker by Robert Caro—A Pultizer prize-winning profile of Robert Moses and his drive to remake the built world.
  • From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe—An acidly funny take-down of Modernism.
  • The Devil in the White City by Eric Larsen—A serial killer is on the loose in Chicago as Daniel H. Burnham is meticulously designing the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
  • “A Clearing in the Distance” by Witold Rybczynski—The beautifully written story of Frederick Law Olmsted’s life and times.
  • Broken Glass by Alex Beam—A nearly soap-opera-like drama of the disputatious relationship between Mies van der Rohe and the client for whom he designed the Farnsworth House.
  • House by Tracy Kidder—The Pulitzer prize-winning author’s exquisitely crafted narrative of a couple’s realization of their dream house with Boston-based architect William Rawn.
  • Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King—Travel to fifteenth Century Florence when the Renaissance genius Filippo Brunelleschi unlocks the puzzle of vaulting in this eminently readable tale.