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Our Mission


The Douglas C. Allen Institute for the Study of Cities seeks to advance our understanding of how cities grow and evolve over time. The Institute promotes a holistic view of city building by studying the relationship between the process of planning and the built environment. By linking an historical study of cities to contemporary issues, the Institute’s research is grounded in established precedent. By putting this knowledge to work, design and policy decisions made today can more accurately reflect their intentions for tomorrow, bringing us closer to our a vision for a more sustainable, adaptable, and enjoyable built environment.

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Doug Allen worked for over 30 years on his History of Urban Form course, crafting his presentation and material for maximum clarity and applicability. His work paid off; the course was rated the most popular elective by students on the entire Georgia Tech campus–not just in the School of Architecture.

It is our initial focus to ensure that this material continues to inspire, motivate, and inform students and professionals. We are working to package and release the History of Urban Form in various formats and platforms. We are producing videos, online lecturesinfographics, short summaries, long-form essays, and transcriptions.

This is where we need your help. Please visit our support page to make a financial contribution or to offer your time and skills to help execute our action plan. We sincerely appreciate it!


Why is the study of town and city design important?

Cities are the largest man-made artifacts in history. They are assembled over long periods of time and are constructed by many hands. They affect and shape our lives in every conceivable way, from where we sleep and eat to how we travel and meet. And their impact on our world only broadens as populations become increasingly urbanized.

Despite the intimate familiarity we may think we have with our cities, many of the implications of planning decisions are difficult to comprehend given the number of variables involved. Additionally, the relative successes and failures of decisions can become clouded over time, making it difficult to accurately assess one design from another.

The Douglas C. Allen Institute for the Study of Cities was established to advance our understanding of how cities grow and evolve over time. With a continual reference to the past, we can make better decisions for our future. To this end, the consequences of past design decisions can be studied critically and comprehensively.

This emphasis on history is not intended to appease luddites or reside in history books. Urban history is not a dead history; it is very much alive. Many of the streets we use everyday were inscribed centuries ago. Manhattan’s grid, for example, was determined in 1811, decades before the arrival of steel and elevators. Despite the grid’s continual use since then, it has proven to be incredibly resilient and flexible to our ever changing needs. Using our benefit of hindsight, we can learn from places like Manhattan and our many design experiences to determine what has worked and what hasn’t.  And we can use this knowledge to guide our decisions today.

This historical approach to planning is the tool  that Doug carefully honed over many years as he examined the principles of good urbanism with an eye toward sustainability, longevity, and vibrancy. He was gracious enough to lend this tool to his many students during his long tenure at Georgia Tech. It is our primary goal at this Institute to ensure that Doug’s search for good urbanism continues. And it is our hope that the direct beneficiaries of this endeavor will be the rural towns and large cities he spent his life studying.