Cities Research Seminar Series: Urban Informality as a Way of Life

Nearly a hundred years ago, sociologist Louis Wirth identified urbanism as a way of life. Today, in both rapidly urbanizing and already urbanized places, urban informality has become a way of life. Focusing on this phenomenon, Eugenie Birch will explore its incidence in several areas of city dynamics, including the housing, transportation, employment, and public space systems. She will address its benefits and challenges including issues of transitioning from informal to formal economic, social, and planning institutions.


Speaker: Eugenie Birch

Professor Birch is the Lawrence C. Nussdorf Chair of Urban Research and Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the founding co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research, dedicated to integrative research and instruction in sustainable urban development. She is co-editor of Penn Press’s The City in the 21st Century series that has published more than twenty volumes since 2005.Dr. Birch has served in many leadership positions including editor, Journal of the American Planning Association, chair, Planning Accreditation Board, president, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, Society for American City and Regional Planning History and the International Planning History Society.

Professor Birch’s current research focuses on global urbanization with her most recent publications being: Slums, How Informal Real Estate Markets Work, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press (2016) (edited with Susan Wachter, Shahana Chattaraj); “Midterm Report: Will Habitat III Make a Difference to Global Urban Development?” Journal of the American Planning Association 84:4 (Fall 2016); “The Institutions of Metropolitan Governance,” in D.A. Gomez-Alvarzez, E. Moreno and R. Rajack (eds), Steering the Metropolis: Metropolitan Governance for Sustainable Urban Development (Nairobi: UN Habitat, 2017); “Inclusion and Innovation: The Many Forms of Stakeholder Engagement in Habitat III,” Citiscape (July 2017); “Implementing the New Urban Agenda in the United States, Building on a Firm Foundation,” Informationen zur Raumentwicklung (Information on Spatial Development) (Summer 2017).

Dr. Birch has served as a member of the New York City Planning Commission and on the jury to select the designers for the World Trade Center site. She is currently chair of the Board of Directors, Municipal Art Society of New York and chair, UN-HABITAT’s World Urban Campaign.