Gordon C. C. Douglas

Associate Professor, Urban and Regional Planning  
Director,The Institute of Metropolitan Studies
Research Associate, Mineta Transportation Institute
Editorial BoardCity & Community


PhD, Sociology, University of Chicago
MA, Global Communication, USC Annenberg School for Communication
MSc, Global Media, London School of Economics and Political Science
BA, International Relations, University of Southern California


I am a teacher, scholar, writer, and photographer of urban places and cultures.  My work centers on issues of cultural identity and social inequality in urban planning and development and people's interactions with their changing physical surroundings in cities around the world.  My writing and photography have appeared in Urban StudiesCity & CommunityArchitect Magazine, The Journal of Urban DesignPublic BooksStreetsblog and numerous other publications. My current research is focused on the architectures and geographies of extreme inequality in California's Bay Area, especially place and community in the informal settlements of unhoused people. A recent publication explored place and placemaking in large settlements. I also published a critical commentary on the possibility of resistance in guerrilla urbanism for a special issue of Urban Design International.

My first book, The Help Yourself City: Legitimacy and Inequality in DIY Urbanism, is now out from Oxford University Press. It concerns the creation of unauthorized "DIY urban design" contributions and what these informal improvement efforts tell us about the political-economy of placemaking and citizenship in the contemporary city. More of my photos of DIY placemaking are here at #helpyourselfcity and you can hear me talking about the book with Roman Mars on an episode of 99% Invisible. 

Additional research of mine has focused on how the ideologies of contemporary first-wave gentrifiers influence the geography of neighborhood change (link), the impact of local cultural expectations on the urban development process (link),
the role mass transit design can play in promoting community identity (link), and the impacts of temporary street closure programs like VivaCalleSJ (link) and Oakland's Covid-era Slow Streets (link). I was also a project research director and curatorial advisor for "Spontaneous Interventions," the U.S. Pavilion at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale, and have served on a number of other boards, juries, architecture teams, and advisory positions.

My research seeks to inform how (and for whom) our cities are organized, designed and understood. I sometimes write about my work and other thoughts concerning urban space and culture on twitter, and you can see some of my landscape and architectural photography on instagram.