Harvard Graduate School of Design student Marcus Mello (MArch/MUP ’18) has been named the 2016–2017 Daniel J. Curtin, Jr. Fellowship by the American Planning Association’s Planning and Law Division. As the APA writes, the fellowship aims to foster increased interest in the study of land use planning and its interrelationship with the law, and to encourage increased participation in the planning profession as well as greater service to communities across the nation.
Mello is a rising fourth-year student at the GSD, where he is pursuing dual master’s degrees in architecture and urban planning. He is interested in how policies and laws shape the social and economic conditions of disadvantaged communities, and how designers and policymakers can improve the built environment through physical design and effective policy implementation.
In addition to his studies, Mello serves as co-president of the African American Student Union and is a freshman proctor for Harvard College. Last summer, he was an associate at the New York City Economic Development Corporation, working in the Real Estate Transactions Services division.
Mello initially became interested in land-use planning and law through related classes at both the GSD and Harvard Law School, including GSD professor Jerold Kayden’s course “Land Use and Environmental Law.”
“Our work as designers is so heavily coded and regulated that I was interested in learning about these overlaps between urban planning and law,” Mello says. “Having knowledge of that discipline, for me, was very important.”
Through the Curtin Fellowship, Mello has been investigating the use of drones, including their current and future impacts on the form and coding of built spaces. He also organized a webinar that gathered leading professionals across the public and private sectors to discuss current regulatory and ethical challenges regarding drone use and emerging forms of drone design. The webinar explored differences between the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) treatment of recreational and commercial drones use, issues of data privacy, urban design proposals to zone for drones and potential ways in which planners can harness drone technology in their work.
“At the GSD, we continuously envision what future spaces could and should look like, and I think drones will soon emerge as everyday elements we must collectively learn to work with,” he says.
In addition to this work, Mello has produced several reports for the APA’s Planning and Law Division, including a piece spotlighting research he conducted for the May 2017 APA National Conference.
Learn more about the Daniel J. Curtin, Jr. Fellowship and Mello’s work on the APA’s website.