Cities of the Americas: Architecture, Society, Policy, and Culture





     & CULTURE


The Princeton-Mellon Initiative focuses on the cities of North and South America. While the global city is widely recognized as a compelling research subject, it is easy to fall victim to broad generalizations, treating the global city as a generic problem. Cities need to be studied in detail, and in a specific historical and cultural context. Operating on a North/South axis allows us to focus on cities with a common historical legacy, distinct from both European models and developing cities in Asia and Africa. Within this shared geographic context, research and teaching topics are diverse.

North/South migration has become an important phenomenon, with many North American cities at or approaching majority Hispanic populations. Within the vast landscape of the North and South American continents, a distinct relationship between the city and nature has emerged, with important consequences for present-day environmental issues. By foregrounding the cities of North and South America, and highlighting North/South axes of trade and migration, we examine the commonalities and divergences in the urban landscape and generate innovative, multidisciplinary perspectives to shed new light on this seminal topic. The framing of “North and South Americas” engages some of the most powerful assumptions guiding policy today and historically—assumptions also evident in the divides constraining academy-based humanities research.

The Princeton-Mellon Initiative considers questions such as: How do the categories of ‘North and South Americas’ organize our thinking in scholarship, policy, and design? How are borders crossed? What insights does a comparative and hemispheric approach bring to the study of the built environment in the Americas? What are the tensions between particularities of place and international models? How can ‘good ideas’ (and ‘bad ideas’) from a city in one nation/region be translated or transplanted into cities in other nations/regions? What are the mechanisms in law, politics, ecology, design, that make the implementation of ideas from other places possible, or limit them? How are quantitative and qualitative, text and visual, and other methods, integrated? How might ‘globalizing’ the curriculum in this particular way erode various forms of American parochialism?

The Princeton-Mellon Initiative examines these issues through three interrelated program components:

  1. New interdisciplinary courses with project-based outcomes.
  2. A visiting research fellowship program that brings together scholars, architects, critics, curators, artists and filmmakers to explore interdisciplinary perspectives and new pathways of thinking.
  3. Public programs, workshops, and events that spark debate around architecture and cities.


The Princeton-Mellon Initiative works with a wide range of departments, programs and schools across the Princeton campus.

Our primary partners are:

The School of Architecture
The Urban Studies Program
Council of the Humanities
The Program in Latin American Studies
The Program in American Studies