Gordon  Douglas

[thinking and writing about urban culture, space, identity, and design]




gordon.douglas [at] sjsu [dot] edu

Dept. of Urban and Regional Planning
San José State University
One Washington Square
San Jose, California 95192


Curriculum Vitae




I am a writer, researcher, teacher, and photographer of urban places and cultures. After completing my PhD in sociology at the University of Chicago and working for several years at NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge, I was recently appointed Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at San José State University, where I also serve as Director of the Institute for Metropolitan Studies. My writing and photography have appeared in Urban Studies, Architect Magazine, City & Community, The Journal of Urban Design, Public Books, GOOD and elsewhere. I served as a project research director and curatorial advisor for "Spontaneous Interventions," the U.S. Pavilion at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale, for which I also co-edited the exhibition catalogue.  My work centers on issues of cultural identity and social inequality in urban planning and development and people's interactions with their changing physical surroundings in cities around the world. 

My book, The Help Yourself City, is now out from Oxford University Press. It concerns the creation of unauthorized "DIY urban design" contributions and what these informal improvement efforts tell us about the political-economy of placemaking and citizenship in the contemporary city. More of my photos of DIY placemaking are here at #helpyourselfcity.

Additional recent studies of mine have focused on how the ideologies of contemporary first-wave gentrifiers influence the geography of neighborhood change at the 'urban frontier' (link), the impact of local cultural expectations on the urban development process (link), and the role mass transit design can play in promoting community identity (link).  I'm currently working on new projects on grassroots responses to disaster and the architectures of extreme inequality in the Bay Area. My research seeks to inform how (and for whom) our cities are organized, designed and understood, as well as contribute to the discourse on urban political economy and critical social theory. I sometimes write about my work and other thoughts concerning urban space and culture on twitter, and you can see some of my landscape and architectural photography on instagram.

I hold additional graduate degrees in sociology from the University of Chicago, and in media and communication from the London School of Economics and USC's Annenberg School. I also did my undergrad, in international relations and journalism, at USC. I'm an avid cyclist, gardener, and neighborhood enthusiast. I was born in London, England and raised in Davis, California. 


Links to some writing and media appearances are available below (see C.V. for up-to-date list and full citations): 
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H. P. Lovecraft for Our Time, Public Books (2017)

Urban Resilience for a Changing Climate, United Nations Academic Impact (with Eric Klinenberg, 2016)

DIY Urban Planning is Happening All Over the Country. Is it Only for White People? The Washington Post [quoted] (2016)

The Formalities of Informal Improvement: Technical and Scholarly Knowledge at Work in Do-it-Yourself Urban Design, The Journal of Urbanism (2015)

Do-It-Yourself Urban Design: The Social Practice of Informal "Improvement" Through Unauthorized Alteration, City & Community (2014)

Guerillas on Two Wheels, Outside [quoted] (2014)

Can Graffiti be Good for Cities? Fast Company Design [quoted] (2014)

The Edge of the Island: Cultural Ideology and Neighborhood Identity at the Gentrification Frontier, Urban Studies (2012)

L.A.'s Do-it-Yourself Urbanism Featured in International Architecture Exhibition, Streetsblog (2012)

Honey, We Shrunk the Parks: Reclaiming Public Space, Inch by Inch, In These Times [quoted] (2012)

Do-It-Yourself Urban Design in the Help-Yourself City, Architect / Spontaneous Interventions (2012)

Guerrilla Bike Lanes and Other Acts of Civic Improvement Through Civil Disobedience, Architect / Spontaneous Interventions (2012)

Open-Source Urbanism: Venice Biennale Puts Spotlight on Renegade Designers, GOOD (2012)

Mapping Babel, Harvard Political Review [quoted] (2012)

Cultural Expectations and Urban Development, Sociological Perspectives (2012)

The Awkward Art of Neighborhood Naming, The Atlantic [quoted] (2012)

Do-It-Yourself Urban Design: Improving the City Through Unauthorized Creative Contributions, ASA Las Vegas (2011)

DIY Urban Design, from Guerrilla Gardening to Yarn Bombing, GOOD (2011)

Rail Transit Identification and Neighborhoood Identity, Journal of Urban Design (2010)

The Back Garden Project series, GOOD (2010)

What is Glamour?, Magazine for Urban Documentation, Opinion and Theory (2009)

Why Save a Community Garden?, GOOD [quoted] (2009)

A Social and Spatial History of Chicago's Near South Riverfront (2008)

A Tirade About Corporate Graffiti (2006)

The Global Urban Network of Street Art (2005)

Postmetropolitan L.A.'s Evolving Urban Core (2004)



   Other places worth visiting:


Indy Media

Guerrilla Postering

Guerrilla Gardening

Critical Mass


Reclaim the Streets

National Park(ing) Day

Wooster Collective

Underground Publishing





website design by cosmetropolis <tree>, 2011

created for free with FCKeditor demo and other things

goats on Bunker Hill by Brian Vander Brug, L.A. Times

© 2008 and beyond