Students, Faculty Receive 2021 Harvard Mellon Initiative Awards for Urban-Focused Research

The Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative recently awarded 29 grants for urban-focused research projects undertaken by Harvard University undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and fellows. Of the 2021 grantees, four are affiliated with the GSD: Adriana David Ortiz Monasterio (MDes ADPD ’21), Steven Gu (MUP ’21), Thomas Shay Hill (PhD candidate in Urban Planning), and Assistant Professor of Urban Design Charlotte Malterre-Barthes.

Part of HUMI’s larger initiative to advance cross-disciplinary approaches to urban studies, the program seeks to sponsor “sustained research projects that incorporate new visual and digital methods in the study of urban environments, contributing to the Harvard curriculum, producing publications and exhibitions, and generating a wide variety of urban studies programming and community-building,” according to its press release.

Adriana David Ortiz Monasterio (MDes ADPD ’21)

David’s project, The Architecture of Food Sovereignty, investigates “the Milpa”—companion crops essential to the Indigenous cultures of North America. “This project will look at the evolution of Milpa’s supply chain for the Mexico City area, from precolonial times, until today. It intends to expose the land they are grown in, the seed variety used, the type of agriculture employed, the cycles needed, the industrial process, the packaging, the storage, the transportation and the final process for consumption in order to reveal the main reasons for today’s urban food instability,” writes David in her project statement.

Steven Gu (MUP ’21)

Gu’s HUMI grant was awarded for The Right to Consume: Human Rights, Protest, and Commodities in the Built Environment. With this project, Gu aims to “document and delineate the negotiation of protest movements, spaces of consumption, and role of commodities in the built environment. The research will focus on three cities: Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Philadelphia. Each case study will highlight how civic demonstrations engage with urban spaces planned for consumption.”

Thomas Shay Hill (PhD Candidate)

Data and the Built Environment by Hill will “use GIS and other computational approaches,” in order to “synthesize historical datasets with archival material to visualize the urban transformations wrought by successive phases of intense development and contraction.”

Assistant Professor of Urban Design Charlotte Malterre-Barthes

The project Material World from Malterre-Bathes looks to “engage in understanding the ways that design disciplines intersect with territories of extractivism and resource exploitation, and how seemingly irrelevant composition details fit in the global enterprise of ‘extractive neoliberalism’ that fuels injustice, social struggles, and climate change.”

Read more about these and other HUMI funded projects.