The Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative is a multi-year project funded by Harvard University and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand understanding about urban life, social and political structures, design, and history across diverse sites and scales. The Initiative aims in particular to link humanistic approaches to cities with spatial investigations of the built and natural environments.

The primary goals of the project include

a hand reaching to a map on a table and an iPad showing a photograph of New York

The development of sustained research projects that incorporate new visual and digital methods in the study of urban environments

Harvard Graduate School of Design

Contributing to the Harvard curriculum with urban studies courses co-taught by the faculty of the Graduate School of Design and Faculty of Arts and Sciences 

group working in a public garden

Curating and co-organizing a comprehensive series of public programs

Institute of Contemporary Art Boston

Producing publications and exhibitions


group of scholars around a table

Nurturing intellectual community-building across disciplines

The initiative will play a significant role in shaping long-term goals for urban studies at Harvard’s undergraduate and graduate levels.

Programs sponsored include urban-related research by faculty and students, public events, exhibitions, course activities, community engagement, and workshops. Housed in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Design, the project engages scholars and students from throughout Harvard and the Boston area. The Initiative intends to pave the way to an interdisciplinary secondary field in urban studies for Harvard students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Our People

We bring together scholars and resources to establish a vigorous, interdisciplinary and coordinated study of urban environments in the humanities.

Meet our people