Research Interns





Richard A. Plunz

Director, Urban Design Lab
Director, Urban Design Program, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University

Richard Plunz is a leading figure in all aspects of urban design and is considered one of the world’s leading authorities in urban housing. The Housing Studio, which he developed at Columbia, has now become an integral part of architectural curricula everywhere.

Prof. Plunz moved to Columbia University in 1974 and in 1977 became chairperson of the Division of Architecture, with oversight on the renewal of the professional Masters Curriculum. Since 1992, Plunz has been director of the Urban Design Program, one of the most substantative curricula in the field.

His research into the evolution of housing in New York City has led to a number of projects including his landmark study, A History of Housing in New York City, (1990).

In his long term research interests, he completed a fourteen-year project on the urban expropriation of the High Peaks Region of the Adirondack Park in New York State, with the help of J. M. Kaplan Fund and others; a three-decade study of physical and social transformation at Turgutreis, (Bodrum), on the Turkish Aegean Coast. The study was in part supported by The Aga Khan Award.

In 2005, Plunz was appointed director of the Urban Design Lab at Columbia's Earth Institute.

After receiving professional degrees in engineering and in architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Plunz specialized in urbanism related to both urban history and application of cybernetic and information theory to urban development. Plunz has held professorships at Rensselaer, Pennsylvania State University, Columbia University, and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium). He has taught and lectured extensively and internationally.

At Rensselaer and Penn State, Plunz developed pioneer research related to hospital design and public secondary education related to inner city contexts. With the support of the United States Public Health Service, Plunz conducted pioneering research in digitized environmental modeling for a low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia (Mantua). He developed anthropological field techniques toward built form considerations. Here he initiated his long-term research interests related to housing design and development of sustainable higher-density alternatives to the suburban single-family house. He continued his involvement with the anthropology of building with an extensive study on the two-century transformation of a utopian industrial community in San Leucio, Caserta, (Italy).

Plunz's work has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the J. M. Kaplan Fund, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Aga Kahn Award, the United States Public Health Service and the Ford Foundation. In 1991, he received the Andrew J. Thomas Award from the American Institute of Architects for his pioneering work in housing.

Plunz is the author of many articles, studies, and reports. Among his publications are many books, including A History of Housing in New York City, (1990), translated in French and Japanese, The Urban Lifeworld. Formation, Perception, Representation (2002); After Shopping (2003), Eco-Gowanus: Urban Remediation by Design (2007).  His last co-edited book is Urban Climate Change Crossroads (2010).

B.S., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1965; B.Arch., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1966; M.Arch., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1967.


Patricia Culligan

Co-Director, Urban Design Lab
Professor, Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia University

Patricia Culligan is an expert in geo-environmental engineering whose research is currently focusing on issues related to urbanization and sustainable urban design, including urban water and waste management, brownfields redevelopment and the use of green industries for urban reindustrialization.

Together with Richard Plunz, Patricia Culligan oversees the teaching activities of the Lab. Culligan is the author or co-author of over 100 technical articles, including 2 books, 3 book chapters and over 60 publications in refereed journals and conference proceedings. Culligan is also the founder of Columbia University’s Education Center for Sustainable Engineering.

B.Sc (hons) Leeds University UK, 1982; M.Phil Cambridge University UK, 1987, PhD Cambridge University, 1989; Member, American Society of Civil Engineers and Chartered Engineer, UK.



Michael Conard

Project Coordinator, Urban Design Lab
Adjunct Associate Professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University

Michael Conard is a registered architect in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. He holds an NCARB certificate, is a Fellow of the Institute for Urban Design and is a Past Fellow of the Design Trust for Public Space.

Michael Conard has directed applied and academic urban design research in both the public and private sectors. His work has bridged urban and architectural design and environmental sustainability with public health, local economic development and equal access. Most recently he edited The Carbon Studio: Bankok (2008), which addressed urban sustainable redevelopment along the Padung Lungkasem Canal Site in the historic core of Bankok.

Michael Conard has directed numerous studios and studies at the GSAPP and Urban Design Lab. Some of his recent projects include Curbing Childhood Obesity (2008), a design and systems recommendations to address the current epidemic, and Creating a Cultural Corridor: 125th Street (2007), a local cultural sustainability plan.  He co-directed Hell's Kitchen South: Developing Strategies (2002), a set of design and planning recommendations to the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association and the Design Trust for Public Space. His work has also been published and exhibited internationally.

B.S., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1980; B.Arch., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1981; M.S. in Architecture and Urban Design, Columbia University, 1993.


Maria Paola Sutto

Program Coordinator, Urban Design Lab

Maria Paola Sutto is a biologist and a journalist. Her research interests focus on environmental impacts at different scales, from molecular markers to the organized urban systems that allow human species to develop. She moved to the United States in 1992 as Foreign Correspondent for the emerging field of multimedia (1993-2001) while writing extensively for all aspects of urban life. In Italy she began her career as research scientist for molecular transport mechanisms in diabetes. She continued to apply her skills in multiple ways and in a variety of fields: environmental consulting, publishing, and for a decade was Theatre Director in Rome. In 2008 Maria Paola joined the Urban Design Lab. Among her activities have been the establishing of the Sullivan County Green Energy Fair which pioneered locally-based green enterprise (2007), the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition (2005), and together with other scientists the Columbia Green Roof Consortium (2009). She continues to be an active promoter of initiatives that foster effective research like the recent New York City Town and Gown Initiative, that coordinates the research platform between city agencies and national academic institutions. Maria Paola is the co-editor of Urban Climate Change Crossroads (with R. Plunz, 2010).

B.S., M. Sc. in Biology, University of Milan, 1985.


Morana M. Stipisic

Research Advisor, Urban Design Lab
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University

Morana Stipisic, trained as an architect and planner, has worked in New York City on various projects of differing types and scales. Striving to bridge the gap between architecture and planning, she entered the Urban Design Program at Columbia University where her team received the Lucille Smyser Lowenfish Memorial Prize for the best final semester project. After graduation, Morana accepted a position with Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates where she expanded her experience working on large scale master-planning projects. 
Morana has taught architecture at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and collaborated with Hong Kong University. She continues to expand her academic involvements, serving as a guest critic at several universities for architectural and urban design studios, and she lectures on topics of sustainable development with a focus on urban infrastructure. Morana is collaborating with the Urban Design Lab on development of guidelines for competitive and liveable cities, jointly with the Environment and Development Division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific where she is under contract as an urban design consultant.

M.S. in Architecture and Urban Design, Columbia University, 2005; M. Arch. and Urban Planning, University of Zagreb, Croatia, 1999;  LEED® Accredited Professional with the United States Green Building Council and AIA Associate Member.