Improving land‑use‑based urbanism through award‑winning planning practice and scholarship: a North American case study

Carlos Balsas

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Metropolises in the Sunbelt region of the USA are in need of sensitive land-use-based urbanism comprised of more compact development, sustainable transportation, efficient infrastructure, low-carbon energy, and greenway and environmental planning. Sustainable urbanity can be partially accomplished via co-creative planning pedagogies, which in turn can lead to place-and evidence-based planning practice and scholarship. However, student work is often underappreciated because academia does not create the visibility that it requires. Planning studios and other applied disciplines are invaluable opportunities to conduct in loco research and to produce professional or near-professional documents. Town-gown collaborative projects offer many rewards. This article showcases how various undergraduate and graduate disciplines offered at Arizona State University resulted in state-level professional planning awards. It is stated that students ought to go beyond the delivery of planning documents to their instructors and clients to also seek recognition from their professional associations. More encompassing recognition of award-winning work is sure to receive further visibility not only from professionals but also from the community at large. The methodology comprised mostly qualitative policy evaluation of plan making processes. A set of lessons learned and implications is offered for those who wish to venture out in this type of academic collaborations, namely instructors, students, stakeholders, university administrators, elected officials, and professional planners. The key finding is that the land-use-based urbanism strategies discussed in the paper can encourage land preservation in arid cities and above all increase the quality of urban life in desert environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-291
Number of pages17
JournalSocio-Ecological Practice Research
Issue number3
Early online date19 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 19 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We should like to thank the co-instructors of the 2005 Capitol Mall planning studio as well as the various teaching assistants, and all those who directly or indirectly helped to make these planning projects a reality. We should also like to thank the Editor-in-Chief Prof. Wei-Ning Xiang and the reviewers for their thoughtful and timely comments and suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Professional practice
  • Urban planning
  • Geography
  • Planning studios
  • Awards


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