Summer [IN]STITUTE in Environmental Design


July 8 - August 16, 2019

Program Description

[IN]CITY is a comprehensive six week introduction to the study and practice of urban planning through the lens of sustainability. By attending daily lectures and engaging in studio work, participants acquire the skills necessary to inform planning proposals. [IN]CITY assignments are real projects with actual clients who represent a diverse group of stakeholder organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. These organizations actively aim to influence sustainable planning policy at the local, county and regional levels.

[IN]CITY students develop in-depth recommendations, analyses and proposals for these client projects, which run the gamut of planning practice: housing and design, bike mobility and transportation, public health and environmental justice, community development and gentrification, urban design, climate action and art in public spaces. In doing so, participants have an opportunity to influence planning in the Bay Area by exploring institutional, political, social, economic and environmental policy challenges. 

[IN]CITY is geared towards post-baccalaureate students who are considering graduate study in city and regional planning. No previous planning or design experience is necessary to be eligible.

Summer Institute

“[IN]CITY was a fun and challenging experience! I learned valuable skills and information that enhanced my ability to change career paths from green building to community and economic development planning in a surprisingly short amount of time.”

Nicole Jesslyn Agbayani, [IN]CITY Alumna

Daily Seminar

The daily seminar offers an overview of sustainability issues related to several different areas in sustainable urbanism including community development, housing, land use, transportation, urban design and water. Internationally-renowned faculty from CED’s Department of City and Regional Planning provide engaging lectures and discussions around these topics. During the seminar, students also participate in site visits and tours of cutting-edge projects and programs, and meet with the local officials involved.

Planning Studio Instruction

[IN]CITY's Planning Studio is designed to provide practical, hands-on experience. Past clients include the City of Berkeley, City of Oakland, Kala Institute, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, among others. Instructors with many years of experience in sustainability planning teach the studio. The studio products are designed for students to explore key policy challenges (institutional, political, social, economic, environmental, among others) and to develop tangible design and planning strategies.

To develop these strategies, students conduct data analysis related to demographics, land use, and transportation; learn city and street design and drawing techniques; and critically evaluate complex and sometimes contentious real-world policy and planning options. A key aspect of [IN]CITY is the practice of oral presentation skills through ongoing pin-ups, reviews, desk crits and presentations. These skills are crucial for a successful career in planning, where much time is spent communicating with non-technical audiences and working in multi-disciplinary teams.

Summer Institute

Thank you for a great summer. I’m at the school I strived for, thanks to the [IN]CITY program.

Alvaro Arias, [IN]CITY Alumnus


Typical [IN]CITY Weekly Schedule

*Please note: students often dedicate evenings and weekends to Institute projects

9AM [IN]CITY Guest Lecture: “Resiliency & Sustainability in Planning” [IN]CITY Lecture: “Complete Streets” [IN]CITY Guest Lecture: “Information & Data Visualization” [IN]CITY Guest Lecture: “Place-Making in Urban Planning”  
10AM Site Visit: Complete Street Walking Tour
NOON Break Break Break Break
1PM Urban Analytique Pin Up Media: Adobe Illustration Media: Spatial Analysis Media: ArcGIS
3PM Studio: Working Session, Desk Crits  Studio: Precedent Study Presentation Practice Run
4PM Studio: Working Session, Desk Crits
5PM [IN]STITUTE Lecture Series  


2018 [IN]CITY Academic Lead

Alison Ecker

Alison Ecker

Alison works at the intersection of both planning and design and will soon complete a dual Master of City Planning and Landscape Architecture graduate degree at the College of Environmental Design. She is interested in how urban and landscape design can be used to address urbanization challenges of globalized and fluctuating economic systems, spaces of active industrialization, and shifting local ecosystems.

Prior to graduate school, she worked with various urban-based initiatives both domestically and internationally. This included leading a local vacant land redevelopment effort in New Orleans as well as managing program development with a road safety organization working throughout Southeast Asia. While at Berkeley, Alison has focused on opportunities bridging both disciplines. This includes work with the San Francisco Planning Department; the SWA group, an urban and landscape design firm; and UC Berkeley’s Center for Community Innovation. She has additionally been a university graduate instructor for various courses in planning, design, and research.


The contemporary city presents increasingly complex and seemingly unavoidable challenges, including gentrification and displacement, overburdened transportation systems, and the impacts of climate change. To learn how to effectively respond to these urban systems requires a certain flexibility of thought, research, and action. Insights developed through visiting sites and meeting with locals should be matched with a review of studies, policies, precedents, and theory. By continuously reconsidering and recombining experience and ideas students can arrive at novel and contextual solutions.