Jesús J. Lara, professor of City and Regional Planning in the Knowlton School, has been awarded a 2022-2023 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program research award to Germany for his project “A Place to Call Home: A study of the relationship between social change and the built environment, and the role of immigrant populations in the process of sustainable urban design, informality and placemaking.”
The Fulbright award allows Lara to teach courses and conduct research as a visiting professor at two universities during the 2022-23 academic year. For fall 2022 and spring 2023 Lara will be hosted at the Institute for Sustainable Urbanism at the Technische Universität Braunschweig. In spring 2023, he will be hosted at the Technische Universität Berlin as Fellow at the Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability.
“By better understanding the issues involved in each part of the creation of an immigrant neighborhood, policy makers, civic leaders, urban planners, and designers can more effectively facilitate the development and growth of healthier urban immigrant communities, contributing to the economic revitalization of derelict urban areas. Ultimately, learning from best practices.”
The research will explore ways in which public space has been created in geographically and socially uneven ways by immigrants and refugees as part of the core of urban planning, design, and informality in Berlin, Germany. Lara will also investigate new directions of the revitalization efforts in immigrant communities that enhance local assets and support the implementation of sustainable urbanism strategies and promotes the development of socially and culturally healthier communities.
“This study has two research objectives,” Lara explained. “Objective 1: to understand the factors that contribute to the establishment of immigrant neighborhoods in specific urban and suburban areas. Objective 2: to explore how these immigrant communities contribute to social, economic, and cultural resiliency in their neighborhoods.”
Lara will conduct both qualitative and quantitative research as well as outreach engagement activities on selected neighborhoods in Berlin (Wedding, Neukölln, Moabit and Kreuzberg).
“A three-part approach will be used to address my research objectives and determine the relationship between social change, the built environment and the influence that immigrants have on neighborhoods and cities,” Lara noted. “Part I will investigate current changes in the demographic landscape and patterns of consumption. Part II will explore the issues and topics relating to neighborhood selection based on the presence of sociocultural infrastructure and support networks. Part III will examine in detail the physical aspects of urban composition and neighborhood structure.”
This project expands the transnational migration and cities literature by identifying specific forms of social capital, configurations, and representation of placemaking processes as the relate to the built environment. Additionally, it brings new empirical insights to the study of migration and its impact on neighborhoods and cities. Finally, the project develops the future- oriented literature on the right to the city and placemaking by considering the experiences and social characteristics that refugees and immigrants groups bring with them to a new city and contribute to the process of placemaking.
For the past 15 years Lara’s research has examined how Latino immigrants have influenced the phenomenon of urban revitalization through the (re)appropriation of physical space for their own use and the consequent transformation of what were previously economically depressed areas into vibrant commercial and residential centers in cities across the country.
“Now I want to take this research approach by learning from best practices from abroad. Berlin, as the federal capital of Germany and its biggest city uniquely illustrates the intersection of immigration and refugees and the impacts they have on both society and the built environment,” Lara clarified.
This will be a second Fulbright experience for Lara. He was a Fulbright Fellow at Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University, the Netherlands, in 2003-2004.
The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program is administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.