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Clara Irazábal Zurita, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Director, Latin Lab: The Latin American and Caribbean Laboratory

(212) 854-3414

208 Buell Hall

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Clara Irazábal, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Urban Planning in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, New York. She received a Ph.D. in Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley, and has two Masters in Architecture and Urban Design and Planning from the University of California at Berkeley and the Universidad Central de Venezuela, respectively. Irazábal has worked as consultant, researcher, and/or professor in Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Germany, Spain, Vietnam, and the US; and has lectured in many other countries.

Irazábal's scholarship can be synthesized in two interrelated research questions: What has planning done and what can planning do to serve as an instrument of community emancipation? The former question, what has planning done, uses an empirical methodological approach rooted mainly in qualitative (and often comparative) examination of case studies. The latter question, what can planning do, relies on normative approaches to scholarship composed of explorations into planning theory- and policy-making. She mainly performs these tasks through the examination of exemplary case studies in Latin America and the US, which are undercriticized in the planning literature.

Irazábal's scholarship is motivated by her concern for understanding social justice struggles as these are manifested in processes of transformation of urban space. Implicit or explicit in virtually all planning scholarship is the normative premise that acts of planning should be emancipatory, i.e., they should liberate communities from socio-spatial conditions that oppress them individually and collectively. But the evidence in all too many places is that acts of planning easily become the opposite—oppressive. On that premise, her “what has planning done” research aims to uncover the many guises under which planning does not deliver its emancipatory promise, and instead compounds the disenfranchisement of the subjects upon which it is deployed—a planning paradox. The challenge of her second question, “what can planning do,” seeks to point to ways of overcoming this paradox.

Irazábal's work also explores how markers of minoritized identity (gender, ethnicity, race, age, national origin, dominant language proficiency, ideological and religious affiliations, sexual orientation, etc.) and their intersections with one another are negatively impacted by planning processes, when the supposed mandates of planning urge respect, celebration, and nurturing of diversity. The urgency of this works grows steadily because urban communities around the world (and particularly in the US) are becoming rapidly and increasingly multicultural.


PLA4008: History and Theory of Planning
PLA4609: Introduction to International Planning - The Politics of International Placemaking: Spatializing Urban Cultures
PLA6205: Transnational Planning: Spaces and Institutions 


GSAPP Faculty Profile
Latin Lab


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