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Current and Former Fellows

The Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks offers semester-long fellowships to academics and designers, with additional opportunities for field research funding, and shorter-term invitational residencies for senior practitioners.

Spring 2019

Sheila Crane, “Inventing Informality”

Sheila Crane

Sheila Crane is associate professor and chair of the Architectural History Department at the University of Virginia. Her research examines the history and theory of modern architecture and urbanism, with a particular interest in cities in France, North Africa and the Mediterranean region. Her book Mediterranean Crossroads: Marseille and Modern Architecture (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) received the 2013 Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. Her current book project, Inventing Informality, traces the emergence and migrations of the bidonville (shantytown) between the Maghreb and France, from the late 1920s through the 1970s. With reference to constructed landscapes and land rights, maps and urban plans, administrative records and sociological surveys, oral histories and literary descriptions, the bidonville is examined as an urban landscape, object of reengineering, site of knowledge production, and place of sociospatial reinvention by residents. She is currently the book reviews editor for Europe, Africa, and Asia from 1750 for the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

Sara Zewde, “Cotton Kingdom, Now”

Sara Zewde

Sara Zewde is a founding principal of Studio Zewde, a design firm practicing at the intersection of landscape architecture, urbanism, and public art. In parallel with practice, Sara regularly writes, lectures, and exhibits design work and research and is the recipient of a number of awards, including the 2014 National Olmsted Scholar Award by the Landscape Architecture Foundation, and the Hebbert Award for Contribution to Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. Sara holds a master in landscape architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, a master in city planning from MIT, and a BA in sociology and statistics from Boston University.


Fall 2018

Sahar Hosseini, “The Zayandehrud River Speaks: Reading the Riverine Landscapes of Seventeenth-Century Isfahan”

Sahar Hosseini

Sahar Hosseini is a researcher and strategist at the Center for Migration and the Global City at Rutgers University–Newark. With a background in landscape and urban design and a PhD in architecture, she explores the potentials of employing landscape as a framework to study, conceptualize, and design cities. In particular, Hosseini is interested in rereading urban cultures from the vantage point of water. She is currently working on adopting her doctoral dissertation for a book project, which examines the dynamic relationship between seventeenth-century Isfahan and its Zayandehrud River, and the multifaceted role that the river played as a geographic feature, a natural resource, and a social construct. She has published and presented her research in national and international venues, and her work has been supported by multiple grants and fellowships from institutions such as Andrew Mellon Foundation, Society of Architectural Historians, and Golda Meier Library.

Sarah Klassen, “Agro-Urban Environments and Implications for Resilience in Medieval Cambodia”

Sarah Klassen

Sarah Klassen is the codirector of the Cambodian Archaeological Lidar Initiative (CALI). In recent years, imagery from two lidar acquisitions were used to map seven previously concealed and undocumented dense urban landscapes surrounded by much lower density peripheries in medieval Cambodia (9th–14th centuries CE). The revelation of these urban areas suggests that a complex web of agricultural and occupation spaces linking more densely inhabited urban nuclei may have been a ubiquitous, defining feature of Khmer landscapes. Klassen’s research contributes to interdisciplinary dialogues of urbanism, resilience, and water management by providing empirical evidence of the resilience of these cities over the long-term.


Spring 2018

Jake Boswell, "Urban Space and Climate in the Progressive-Era American City"

Jake Boswell

Jacob Boswell is Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Chair of the Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture Program at Ohio State University. Jake’s research traces Social Imaginaries or what the philosopher Charles Taylor has called, “the ways in which people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations that are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images that underlie these expectations” (Modern Social Imaginaries 106). Jake is interested in the way that social imaginaries produce landscapes and the built environment with a specific focus on the role of climate, both social and environmental, in shaping reactions to landscape. He comes to this interest through an education and training in landscape architecture, city planning and cultural anthropology and he pursues this work through a hybrid practice centered on historical inquiry and design speculation. His historical research has been published nationally and internationally and his speculative and applied design research has received recognition in a number of prestigious international design competitions.

John King, “New Forms of Urban Public Space and the Publics They Serve”

John King

John King is the Urban Design Critic at the San Francisco Chronicle – a post he created in 2001, and one that ranges from architecture and planning to the public realm of cities in all its forms. An honorary member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, his work has been honored by such groups as the California Preservation Foundation, the Urban Communication Foundation and the California Newspaper Publishers Association. His work has been published in such periodicals as Architectural Record, Metropolis and Landscape Architecture Magazine, and he is the author of two books.

Maria Taylor, “Between Town and Country: The Soviet City-Landscape Nexus in Global Perspective”

Maria Taylor

Maria C. Taylor is a historian of modern urbanism and landscape design, professionally trained in landscape architecture, with regional specialization on Russia and the USSR. She is currently a Ph.D Candidate at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in Architecture. Her dissertation research focuses on the contact zone of industrialization and environmentalism in the rapid post-WWII urbanization of Siberia, and the ramifications of this quintessentially modern nexus for urban environmental design and politics. In working at the intersection of urban, landscape, and cultural history, she seeks to understand how “environmental” attitudes and policies have effected a global range of political, cultural and material outcomes.


Fall 2017

Basak Durgun, "The Cultural Politics of Urban Green Spaces: The Production and Reorganization of Istanbul’s Parks and Gardens”

Basak Durgun

Basak Durgun is a Ph.D. candidate in the Cultural Studies Program at George Mason University. Her dissertation examines the cultural politics of urban green spaces in Istanbul and how these vulnerable landscapes are engulfed in the social, economic and political processes of urbanization. Building upon the premise that green landscapes have a key role in both urban redevelopment policies and the cultural imaginary, Basak’s dissertation analyzes how different social actors (such as the state, real estate developers, social movements and gardeners) invest in these sites, and reimagine Istanbul’s future through their engagement with urban nature. Committed to participatory research, she engages with diverse efforts to extend the lifetime of Istanbul’s historical market-gardens and community gardens. Basak holds a B.A. in Sociology from Ohio State University and an M.A. in Cultural Studies from Istanbul Bilgi University. Her interdisciplinary training is rooted in globalization studies, with a particular focus on urbanization, political ecology, cultural politics, gender and sexuality studies, and social movements.


Spring 2017

Sara Jensen Carr, “The Topography of Wellness: Health and the American Urban Landscape”

Sara Jensen Carr

Sara Jensen Carr is an Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the School of Architecture and Office of Public Health Studies at University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. Her teaching and research focuses on the connections between landscape and wellness, urban ecology and design. Her current book project, The Topography of Wellness: Health and the American Urban Landscape, examines landscape responses to six historical urban epidemics and the implication for current and future practice.

Sara holds a Master of Architecture from Tulane University, and a Master of Landscape Architecture and PhD in Environmental Planning from University of California Berkeley, where she was the co-founding editor of the ASLA Award-winning GROUND UP Journal. She is a licensed architect who has worked professionally in New Orleans and the San Francisco Bay Area. Her research and representational work has been exhibited at San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) gallery, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. 

Peter Ekman, “Suburbs of Last Resort: Landscape, Life, and Ruin on the Edges of San Francisco Bay”

Peter Ekman

Peter Ekman is a cultural and historical geographer who received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2016. He maintains broad-based interests in urban form and urban life during America’s long twentieth century, in the intellectual histories of planning and urbanism, in theories of materiality and material culture, and in questions of ruination. Articles of his have appeared in the Journal of Urban History and the Journal of Planning History. His research has been supported by long-term fellowships from the Bancroft Library and the Huntington Library. At Dumbarton Oaks, as Mellon Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies, he will be adapting his dissertation manuscript, “Suburbs of Last Resort: Landscape, Life, and Ruin on the Edges of San Francisco Bay,” for publication as a book.


Fall 2016

Burak Erdim, “The Academy and the State: Situating Land Economics and Development Planning in the Cold War Middle East”

Burak Erdim

Burak Erdim is an Assistant Professor of Architectural History and Architecture in the College of Design at North Carolina State University where he teaches lecture and seminar courses on the history of modern architecture and urbanism with a focus on the post–World War II period. His current work explores the operations of transnational planning cultures and the conceptualization of architecture and community planning as the central component of social and economic development projects during this period. He has recently been awarded a Mellon Fellowship in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks (Fall 2016) and a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at MIT (Spring 2017) in support of the work on his book manuscript. His book examines the establishment of the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey in 1956 as one of the most ambitious and comprehensive projects of postwar planning cultures. Dr. Erdim contributes regularly to publications and symposia on Transnational Modernisms and his recent essay on METU appeared in, Mid-Century Modernism in Turkey: Architecture Across Cultures in the 1950s and 1960s, edited by Meltem Ö. Gürel (Routledge, 2015). He received his Ph.D. in December 2012 in the History of Art and Architecture from the University of Virginia where he also completed a Master’s degree in Architecture.

Megan Asaka, “The Unsettled City: Migration, Race, and the Making of Seattle’s Urban Landscape”

Megan Asaka

Megan Asaka is an assistant professor of history at the University of California, Riverside, where she specializes in Asian American history, urban history, and public humanities. Trained as an interdisciplinary scholar and public historian, her work seeks to develop new methodologies and frameworks of analysis for understanding the urban past and present. Her current project, “Unsettled City: Migration, Race, and the Making of Seattle’s Urban Landscape,” explores the role of mobile populations in shaping urban regions through a case study of early twentieth-century Seattle. It links the historical erasure of migrant sites and spaces, including lodging houses, labor camps, and shantytowns, to their absence in the contemporary memory of the city. The dissertation on which this project is based won awards from the American Historical Association (Pacific Coast Branch) and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society. She received her PhD in American Studies from Yale in 2014. 


Spring 2016

Alpa Nawre, “Adaptive Land-Water Edges in Indian Cities”

Apla Nawre

Alpa Nawre is assistant professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional and Community Planning at Kansas State University and partner at her design practice, Alpa Nawre Design. Issues pertinent to the design of urban water infrastructure and resource challenges in the context of rapidly urbanizing developing countries inform her research, teaching, and design practice. Her writings have been published as book chapters and in journals such as Landscape Journal, Journal of Landscape Architecture, India, and JoLA (Journal of the European Council of Landscape Architecture). As a Spring 2016 Mellon Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, Nawre’s research focuses on the land-water edges of ponds (or talaab in Hindi), rivers (ghat), and canals in India. The multifunctional use and adaptability of these culturally embedded landscape systems builds a compelling argument for rethinking the design of rigid, monofunctional, and culturally disconnected contemporary urban water infrastructure throughout the world. 

Nawre holds a post-professional master’s degree in Urban Design from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Louisiana State University, and a bachelor in architecture from NIT, Raipur, India. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Architectural Education (JAE) and on the Alumni Advisory Board of Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, LSU. Alpa is a licensed landscape architect in Kansas, a licensed architect in India, and a LEED AP, and has worked internationally in design offices in India, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland. 

Kara Schlichting, “The Nature of Urban Coastal Resiliency: Twentieth-Century Governance, Environmental Management, and Design”

Kara Schlichting

Kara Schlichting is an assistant professor of history at Queens College, CUNY. She earned her PhD from Rutgers University in 2014. Her work in late-nineteenth and twentieth-century American history sits at the intersection of urban, environmental, and political history, with a particular focus on property regimes and regional planning in greater New York City. She is currently working on a project on tideland property development to investigate how legal theory, coastal resiliency planning, and land politics shape American waterfronts. As a Mellon Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies this spring, she is working on a her new project entitled “The Nature of Urban Coastal Resiliency: Twentieth-Century Governance, Environmental Management, and Design.”


Fall 2015

Christina Milos, “Anticipatory Urbanization Strategies for In-Situ Oil Sands Extraction in Nigeria”

Christina Milos

Rooted in historical awareness of Nigerian oil extraction practices and subsequent informal urban growth, Christina’s project at Dumbarton Oaks explores how Nigeria’s productive landscapes could engage in future urbanization processes. Nigeria’s oil sands development is expected to trigger a transformation of earth across a 140 km territory accompanied by rapid informal urbanization.This research asks: How might Nigeria’s future in-situ oil sands industry transform urban and rural landscapes? What are potential transformative actions and decision points that may structure this future landscape? The objective of the fellowship period is to use the findings from case studies, spatial mapping, and interviews to model explorative scenarios for Nigeria’s future oil sands landscapes.

Christina Milos is presently pursuing a PhD in Landscape Architecture at the University of Hannover, Germany, where she managed research projects and taught undergraduate and graduate level classes from 2012–14. Prior to becoming a Mellon Fellow, she spent a year in Nigeria on a Fulbright grant conducting field interviews and participatory mapping exercises as part of her PhD fieldwork. Christina received her Master in Landscape Architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. At Harvard, her master's thesis was completed with distinction and awarded several awards, including a national Honor Award in Analysis and Planning from the American Society of Landscape Architects. She has worked on regional planning and urbanization projects in several countries, including Nigeria, Sierra Leone, China, and Haiti. Recent consulting work includes developing regional policy recommendations for conflict-affected northern Nigeria for the World Bank and analyzing potential social and environmental impacts of oil sands development in Nigeria for the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

David Wooden, “Washington’s Sewer History: Ideological, Technological, and Environmental Evolution”

David Wooden

David’s project explores the origins, development, and present-day workings of the District’s sewer system. In particular, he traces the various technologies recommended and implemented at critical junctures of the system’s history in order to analyze how evolving understandings of environment and public health were translated into physical constructs. The ultimate objective of the fellowship is to inform future infrastructure projects and policy decisions in the District: The District’s water utility (DC Water) is currently constructing a $2.6 billion tunnel to convey combined sewer overflows to the Blue Plains water treatment plant at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. This mammoth grey infrastructure plan is the latest fix in a long line of sewer interventions in the District. An analysis of its place in a larger story of technological change and unintended consequences will ask whether we are repeating old mistakes or learning from them.

David Wooden is an Environmental Protection Specialist at the District’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), where he manages green infrastructure grant programs for public and private properties and designs stormwater retrofits for District school sites. He also assists with implementation and plan reviews for the Green Area Ratio landscape regulation. David received his master of landscape architecture from the University of Virginia. His graduate research focused on urban stormwater management and won the international 2010 Delta Cities design competition, as well as an Analysis and Planning award from the Virginia chapter of ASLA. Prior to joining the DOEE, David worked with Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.


Jeanne Haffner, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies (2015–2017)

Jeanne Haffner

Jeanne Haffner was the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks from 2015 to 2017. A historian of urbanism and the environment, her work brings together environmental history, the history of science and technology, science and technology studies (STS), and urban planning history and theory. She is the author of The View from Above: The Science of Social Space (MIT Press, 2013), an exploration of how the military technique of aerial photography shaped the discourse surrounding the problem of housing and the suburbs in postwar France. The book was supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and showcased in the exhibit New Work on Aerial Vision at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2013. Jeanne’s writings on contemporary urbanism have appeared in The Guardian, BBC Radio 3, Next American City magazine, ArchitectureBoston, and Arch+ magazine, among other publications. She has been a visiting fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the ETH (Zürich), the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin) and the Center for Metropolitan Studies (Berlin), and has taught at Brown and Harvard Universities.