Rahul Mehrotra is Harvard GSD’s new Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design

Ten Years in the Making

Rahul Mehrotra is Harvard GSD’s new Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design

Rahul Mehrotra has been teaching at GSD since 2010. (Courtesy RMA Architects)

Effective July 1, Rahul Mehrotra will become the new Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, succeeding Diane E. Davis, who led the department since 2015. As the John T. Dunlop Professor in Housing and Urbanization, Mehrotra succeeds Professor Emeritus Gerald McCue, who has held that title since 1996. “While our world continues to urbanize, while questions of housing intensify in their urgency and complexity, and as India’s population and role on the world stage both increase dramatically,” Sarah M. Whiting, dean and professor of GSD, explained in a statement, “the GSD’s ability to address these interconnected issues so successfully has been due to Rahul’s unique perspective, as well as his engagements on the ground. As we look toward our collective ‘near future,’ Rahul brings an unmatched depth of insight to this contemporary moment.”

A low-lying complex of spires in a plain, clad in stone
The RMA Architects-designed Rural Campus for the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), in Tuljapur, India, was cast on-site using vernacular building materials and methods of construction. (Courtesy RMA Architects)

Mehrotra studied at the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad, in India, and graduated with a Master’s degree of Architecture in Urban Design from the GSD in 1987. As an architect, urbanist, and founding principal of the Mumbai- and Boston-based firm RMA Architects, Mehrotra has taught within the Urban Planning and Design department since 2010. The research he has led in his various roles in the department has been focused on the “Kinetic City,” a theoretical framework he devised for designing in conditions of informal growth, with an emphasis on Mumbai, Agra, and other densely populated cities throughout India.

In Mehrotra’s newest role, he intends to revise the department’s vision and agenda by focusing on issues of global importance. “The pace and nature of urbanization are challenging how we define and teach planning and design,” Mehrotra explained in a statement. “Today, the world is in a period of extreme transitions, triggered in large part by the inequities caused by globalization as well as climate change and its mark on people’s daily lives.” The skills developed in the Urban Planning and Design department, he argued, should be applied to solving endemic inequalities, “from conceiving innovative housing solutions to imagining entirely new urban formations.”

The news reflects the second major leadership change at the GSD in a year, following the announcement of Sarah M. Whiting’s appointment as the school’s dean last April.