Johns Hopkins Magazine -- September 1999
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Urban Planning Today:
Beyond Buildings and
Zoning Codes

Pick an industrialized country on the globe, and chances are you'll find a Hopkins international urban fellow who is hard at work there.

"The program has created a worldwide network of professionals who are dedicated to solving pressing urban problems," says Sandra J. Newman, interim director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), where the program is based.

The fellows represent a cross section of over 240 urban professionals from 40 countries. Among their ranks are Pasqual Maragall, the Barcelona mayor who brought the Olympics to that city; Jerzy Regulski, a longtime Solidarity activist who is currently Poland's ambassador to the Council of Europe; a member of the Italian Supreme Court; and the chief of policy planning in Zurich.

IPS interim director Sandra Newman with Cork's lord mayor Damien Wallace and urban fellow John O'Donnell.
Each year four to six senior fellows, who are urban studies scholars, come to Hopkins to conduct cross-national research on topics ranging from fiscal imbalance to poor quality of schools.

The Iinternational Urban Fellows Program traces its roots back to the American-Yugoslav Project in Urban and Regional Planning in Ljubljana, set up by Jack Fisher, now a professor of geography and environmental engineering at Hopkins, during the height of the Cold War. With Ford Foundation support, Fisher trained Yugoslavians in the latest city planning techniques, including the use of computerized data as the basis for land use plans. He not only imported well-trained Americans to help, he brought computers into the country and trained a cadre of Yugoslavians as planners. The result: a modern network of roads and a solid working infrastructure.

Known throughout Europe for his early success in breaking through the Iron Curtain, Fisher was soon besieged by Europeans who wanted to come to the United States to study urban planning. He organized the first group of international urban fellows, including a number of Eastern Europeans, at Wayne State University in Detroit in 1968. Steve Muller, then president of Johns Hopkins, lured the program to Hopkins in 1972.

Over the years, the program has generated a rich cross-national fertilization of ideas and practical solutions, resulting from the fellows' diverse backgrounds, says Fisher.

As cities make the transformation from heavy industry to the information age, their structure changes and so do the principles that guide those who shape urban spaces.

Today urban planning has broadened from buildings and zoning documents to focus also on policies and how they affect the people who live in those spaces. The new crop of urban fellows at Johns Hopkins this fall reflects this broadened emphasis, as they explore such issues as "environmental racism," or how the urban poor have been displaced by development.

Program director Newman says the shift reflects the growing realization that the deterioration of older inner cities results from a mix of social, economic, and spatial forces.

"We've learned the hard way that we can't save distressed inner city neighborhoods solely by building nicer housing or improving the roads--the so-called 'place' policies," Newman explains. "We now know we also have to address the needs of the residents of these areas through 'people' policies." --LE