Catalyzing transformative urban design and planning solutions

Boston Aerial (Credit: Lynn Media Global)


The Norman B. Leventhal City Prize is a new interdisciplinary prize aimed at catalyzing innovative urban design and planning approaches worldwide to improve both the environment and quality of life. It was established in honor of Norman B. Leventhal, the visionary developer and philanthropist whose contributions transformed Boston’s urban landscape. In its inaugural cycle 2022-2024, the prize solicited novel responses on Digital Urbanism.


Drawing Together is a social and ecological resilience project in New York City that aims to scale community participation in urban design. Drawing Together is a collaboration between Green City Force (GCF) a non-profit organization that trains young leaders to power a green and inclusive economy through service in New York City, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and MIT faculty, researchers, and students. GCF enlists and trains young people from low-income housing communities into their Service Corps, through which they drive large-scale environmental and health initiatives in public housing and other local communities. Proposed as a co-design effort, Drawing Together will create a new digital platform to support a community-led planning and design process for the siting, design, and operation of GCF’s Eco-Hubs. Eco-Hubs are community spaces that align local green service for food, water, waste and energy behavior change and neighborhood transformation strategically with local, city, state, national and global goals for climate and equity. Additionally, this digital platform will support the scaling-up of community engagement within the city’s Eco-Hubs. The team will also expand workforce development training currently offered by GCF to incorporate digital skills with the goal to develop and integrate a sustainability-focused, data science curriculum that supports the farms development and operations within the Eco-Hubs. The project seeks to serve as a model for community-led resilience efforts within other civilian urban corps networks and communities nationwide.


Ozymandias: Using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to Map Urban Power Structures and Produce Fairer Results for All Many digital applications aim to use technology to make better-informed decisions on issues like mobility, affordable housing, public safety, education, and livability of communities. However, even when these applications help inform better outcomes, the results may not end up being significantly different, in part because the power structures that make decisions do not respond to these inputs. Ozymandias proposes to utilize Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to view municipal decision-making processes and map power structures, index relationships, quantify influence and uncover bias in the murky backwaters of representative democracy. Using Portland, Maine as a pilot area, the project will use this information to improve the chances to make meaningful change. The goal is to trace the invisible power structures that shape how projects are selected, approved, delayed, or stymied. The team will work with community groups to enable data transparency, increasing public engagement in the creation of more equitable and fair decisions.

Team: Jeff Levine, Addy Smith-Reiman, Liz Trice, Chris Miller, Tom Nosal, Tim Wallace

Co-HATY Accelerator: Digitally mediated co-housing for internally displaced peoples in Ukraine Co-HATY Accelerator proposes to develop a co-housing development tool with local community partners in Ukraine. Current mechanisms for identifying housing during disaster events prioritize temporary housing; Co-HATY Accelerator instead identifies unused or underused housing in existing areas that can be rehabilitated for inhabitation at low cost and during a rapid timeframe, providing quality long or longer-term housing for displaced individuals. Co-HATY Accelerator utilizes a digital platform to establish collaboration between actors involved in housing creation and affected communities; promoting resident connectivity to existing communities. Co-HATY aims to serve hundreds of people displaced in the Russian war against Ukraine, identifying optimal locations for potential building renovation projects by facilitating a process that emphasizes community building. The Co-HATY’s site identification will occur through four phases including: crowdsourcing, social media scraping, visual AI, and GIS analysis. Co-HATY will also occupy a renovated building to provide actual emergency housing for IDPs. The project blends an inclusive co-design process for co-housing site selection and development, with the renovation of thirty units to provide emergency housing that will be hosted on the Co-HATY platform. Co-HATY aims to provide a new model for participatory design within disaster responses.

Team: Brent D. Ryan, Kateryna Lopatiuk, Anastasiya Ponomaryova, Yegor Vlasenko, Herman Mitish, Maryna Osnach, Marjo van Schaik, Maria Gryshenko, Anna Pashynska, Bohdan Volynsky


Jose Castillo

Principal, a|911; Professor of Urbanism, CENTRO University

Lilian Coral

Director, National Strategy & Technology Innovation, Knight Foundation

Nigel Jacob

Senior Fellow, Burnes Center for Global Impact, Northeastern University

Garrett Dash Nelson

President & Head Curator, Leventhal Map & Education Center, Boston Public Library

James L. Wescoat Jr.

Aga Khan Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture and Geography, MIT

The Greenway, Boston (Credit: Greenway Conservancy and Kyle Klein Photography)


The Norman B. Leventhal City Prize has been established in honor of Norman B. Leventhal, the visionary developer and philanthropist whose contributions transformed Boston’s urban landscape. His civic leadership drove Boston’s urban revival, resulting in projects such as Rowes Wharf, Center Plaza, South Station, and One Post Office Square. In keeping with the mission of the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism (LCAU) the Leventhal City Prize seeks to catalyze innovative urban design and planning approaches that will improve the environment and quality of life for citizens.


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Post Office Square, Boston (Credit: Ed Wonsek)