In weekly blog posts, the City Builder Book Club will hear input from people who are working locally on issues of urban migration – from innovative planning, policy and design solutions to entrepreneurship to impromptu social organizations that are responding to the phenomenon of urban migration. These posts will serve as starting points for an energetic online dialog on local issues related to the global processes of this massive migratory shift.

A diverse cast of global contributors will fuel this conversation, responding to each chapter with a unique local perspective and encouraging discussion and comments.

Arrival City: Winter 2015 Contributors

Mary Rowe picMARY ROWE, Municipal Art Society – New York City, USA
introducing the Arrival City Book Club, January 13

Mary W. Rowe is currently Director, Urban Resilience and Livability at Municipal Art Society of New York City (, a century-old advocacy organization working to promote the livability and resilience of New York City through effective urban planning, land use, design and civic engagement. Mary directs resilience work at MAS, including convening and community engagement to build local resilience-building strategies, and support of the regional Rebuild by Design, a collaborative initiative of the federal Hurricane Sandy Task Force and the MAS Global Network, a peer-to-peer learning platform connecting urban practitioners contributing to the livability and resilience of cities around the world. Previously she spent five years learning about granular approaches to urban innovation while supporting the New Orleans Institute for Resilience and Innovation, a loose alliance of initiatives that emerged in response to the systemic collapses of 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Originally from Toronto, she has a particular interest in self-organization in cities, as the underpinning of urban social, economic, cultural and environmental resilience, and is a contributor to several volumes on urban life.

1278678712668LIZA FIOR, muf architecture/art – London, UK
in response to Chapter 1: On the Edge of the City, January 20

Liza Fior  studied  architecture. She  was born in London  where she continues to practise as one of the  founding partners of muf architecture/art.
The work of the practice negotiates between the built and social fabric  and between public and private in projects that have been mainly focused in East London but not exclusively so.muf  were winners of the  European Prize for Public Space and nominated for the Mies Van de Rohe Prize and the Swiss Prize for Architecture  for projects with limited budgets and briefs enriched by the unsolicited research which was and continues to be, entwined into every project.
These range from urban design, critical research, small-scale temporary interventions , landscapes and buildings and the relationship between them (often all) —a continual dialogue between detail and strategy.Co-author of, “This is What We Do: a muf manual” (London: 2001) muf were awarded a Grahame Foundation grant for the next iteration.

Nithya Raman HeadshotNITHYA RAMAN, Transparent Chennai – Chennai, India
in response to Chapter 2: Outside In: The Lives of the New City, January 27

Nithya V. Raman is an urban planner who has been working in India for more than a decade. Her research and writing has focused on urban governance, slums and access to land and services, and transparency and accountability. In 2010, she founded Transparent Chennai, which creates maps and information about neglected civic issues to support advocacy by and for the urban poor. Transparent Chennai’s research is cited widely, and has informed public discourse and decision making on urban policies in India.​

JamesJAMES ROJAS, Place It! and the Latino Urban Forum – Los Angeles, USA
in response to Chapter 3: Arriving at the Top of the Pyramid, February 03

James Rojas is an urban planner, community activist, and artist. He has developed an innovative public-engagement and community-visioning tool that uses art-making, imagination, storytelling, and play as its media. He is an international expert in public engagement and has traveled around the US, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and South America, facilitating over four hundred workshops, and building fifty interactive models. He has collaborated with municipalities, non-profits, community groups, educational institutions, and museums, to engage, educate, and empower the public on transportation, housing, open space and health issues. His award-winning method has been implemented all across the globe.
He is also one of the few nationally recognized urban planners to examine Latino cultural influences on urban design and sustainability in the US. He has written and lectured extensively on how culture and immigration are transforming the American front yard and landscape, and he is the founder of the Latino Urban Forum, an advocacy group dedicated to increasing awareness on planning and design issues facing low-income Latinos.
He has lectured and facilitated workshops at MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, Cornell, and numerous universities, schools and public forums.  His work has been installed at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Venice Biennale, the Exploratorium, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Bronx Museum of Art, the Getty and on streets and sidewalks of major cities. His research has appeared in the NY Times, LA Times, Dwell, Places, and in numerous books.

TanzeelTANZEEL MERCHANT, Ryerson City Building Institute – Toronto, Canada
in response to Chapter 4: The Urbanization of the Village, February 10

Tanzeel Merchant is Executive Director of the Ryerson City Building Institute, a non-partisan centre focused on urban issues relevant to city regions nationally and globally. Prior to this role, as a Manager at the Province’s Ontario Growth Secretariat, Tanzeel led the development and implementation of the award-winning Places to Grow initiative. He has also worked with government and the energy industry in Alberta in leading the development of a long-term framework for a more sustainable and coordinated response to the rapid growth in Canada’s Oil Sands.
In July 2014, Tanzeel was featured in the Toronto Star as one of 24 Canadians nationally with ideas that would shape the future of the country. He also sits on the board of Heritage Toronto, the Friends of the Pan Am Path, and the Canadian Urban Institute. Tanzeel is a graduate of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology and the University of Toronto. He brings to the board experience in architecture, urban design, journalism, growth management and planning, with several awards to his credit.

kenstewartKEN STEWART, Rebuild Foundation – Chicago, USA
in response to Chater 5: The First Great Migration: How the West Arrived, February 17

Ken Stewart, Chief Operating Officer at Rebuild Foundation and Associate Director of Strategic Planning, Arts + Public Life at The University of Chicago.  Ken manages operations and planning across both Arts + Public Life at the University of Chicago and Rebuild Foundation, a non-profit founded by the artist Theaster Gates in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood in 2010.  Currently he is also finishing his MBA at the Booth School of Business, where he is studying entrepreneurship, marketing strategy, and finance, and he holds an MA in the Humanities from the University of Chicago.  Prior to this he worked in strategic communications at the University of Chicago and was a University Fellow in the Department of English Studies at the University of Illinois—Chicago.

IMG_0573_bPARAMITA NATH, Documentary Filmmaker – Toronto & Mumbai, India
in response to Chapter 7: When the Margins Explode, March 03

Paramita Nath, who moved to Canada from India in 1996 to study music, is a documentary maker based in Toronto and New York. Paramita’s award-winning debut short Found (2009), which premiered at TIFF, has been described as “visually remarkable” (Huffington Post) “like a poem… a cinematic gem” (DOK Leipzig). Her second short, Durga (2012) won the prestigious Banff Quebecor Production Fellowship and premiered at Hot Docs. Since 2009, Paramita has been part of the critically acclaimed NFB HIGHRISE web-doc project team, which has won every major award for digital non-fiction nationally and internationally. Paramita was the Interactive Producer for 17.000 Islands (2013), an experimental web-doc in collaboration with Norwegian filmmaker Thomas Østbye and Indonesian filmmaker Edwin. Current projects include Shadow Waltz (in production), a creative doc about acclaimed Canadian jazz musician Phil Dwyer’s battle with mental illness; and Word and the World (in development), an interactive web-doc about the global arms trade having had unique access to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty negotiation process.

EsraESRA KÜCÜK, Junge Islam Konferenz – Berlin, Germany
in response to Chapter 8: The New City Confronts the Old World, March 10

Esra Kücük is Director of the Junge Islam Konferenz, an organization dealing with the role of Islam and Muslims in Germany’s transforming society. Before Esra developed the Junge Islam Konferenz in 2011, she studied Social Sciences and European Studies in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Currently, she is also working on her doctoral thesis on living environments of young Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany between normalization and exclusion.


ROBIN LAUMANN, Junge Islan Konferenz – Berlin, Germany
in response to Chapter 8: The New City Confronts the Old World, March 10

Robin Laumann​ started working at the Junge Islam Konferenz in 2013 and has since been responsible for the fields of political communication, advocacy, and research. Prior to joining the Junge Islam Konferenz, Robin studied Islamic Studies, History, and Near and Middle Eastern Studies in Germany, Egypt, and the United Kingdom.

IMG-20141121-WA0001BEATRIZ VICINO, Oksman Arquitetos Associado – São Paulo, Brazil
in response to Chapter 9: Arrival’s End: Mud Floor to Middle Class

Beatriz is a recent graduate of architecture and urbanism at Escola da Cidade in São Paulo, where she completed her thesis “Mobility in the Metropolis consolidation: The Pendulum movement and the Deterritorialization” in 2013. She studied architecture for one year at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Marseille in France. She is now a student at Escola da Cidade in the Architecture, Education and Society post-graduate program.
Beatriz collaborated with the French atelier mosségimmig in 2011-2012. In 2013 she worked at São Paulo City Hall as part of the Urban Development Department team. She is currently working at Oksman AA, a firm that specializes in heritage intervention, with experience also in urban planning. She is also an assistant professor at Escola da Cidade in the urbanism program, with Professor Dr. Pedro M R Sales and Professor Newton Massafumi.

gerben_helleman blackwhiteGERBEN HELLEMAN, Urban Springtime – Rotterdam, The Netherlands
in response to Chapter 10: Arriving in Style, March 24

Gerben Helleman is an urban geographer from the Netherlands. At this moment he works at a housing association. An organisation that let accommodation and provide homes for those who cannot obtain housing on the open market. Here he focuses on urban/neighbourhood regeneration, the livability in and around residential complexes and supporting households on social themes. Before that he has been working by the Dutch Expert Centre for Urban Regeneration. A non-profit foundation providing an impulse on the issue by collecting, exchanging and availing expertise. He also has been a researcher and advisor at the OTB Research Institute for Housing, Urban and Mobility Studies, part of the Delft University of Technology.
Since 2011 he writes about different urban issues as a freelance publicist. Among others on his blog Urban Spingtime. This blog is about the interface and connections between the Planned and the Lived city. He writes about the beautiful, funny and exciting sides of the city. This on the basis of inspiring projects, articles, books and observations. The blog is made for everybody who works on cities or who loves cities!

CYNTHIA FISHER + BESSIE NELLOPOULOS, Toronto Public Library – Toronto, Canada
providing a weekly reading list, January 20-March 26

Cynthia Fisher, a librarian at the Toronto Reference Library, has spent many years working in the area of urban affairs with the former Urban Affairs Library and both the Metro and City of Toronto governments.

Bessie Nellopoulos has worked at TRL for many years. She has been a social sciences librarian and selector since 2009 and has enjoyed getting to know the Urban Affairs collection since it migrated to TRL in 2011.

The Toronto Reference Library at 789 Yonge St. now houses the collection of the Urban Affairs Library (formerly located at Metro Hall), a specialized collection devoted to all aspects of urban planning and local government. Each week, TPL librarians Cynthia Fisher and Bessie Nellopoulos will select titles of books that can be found at the Library that complement the themes discussed in each chapter of Arrival City. 

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