David de la Peña

David de la Peña

Position Title
Assistant Professor

Human Ecology


De la Peña, an assistant professor of landscape architecture in the Department of Human Ecology, is an architect and urban designer who specializes in participatory urbanism—how citizens and designers collaborate in the making of cities. De la Peña completed his Ph.D. in landscape architecture and environmental planning at UC Berkeley before joining the UC Davis faculty. He also has a master’s degree in urban design from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Texas, Austin.

Research interests:

Urban design, sustainable cities, citizen participation, design activism, collaborative design, collective architecture, informal urbanism

Brief overview:

The aim of my research is to foster sustainable and equitable urban design practices in which community engagement empowers citizens. I study how design professionals interact with communities to improve urban life. I am interested in designers’ motivations, their social networks, and the actions that they employ. For example, in Barcelona, Spain, I evaluated the practices of design collectives, which over the past decade have increasingly rejected the top-down traditions of city planning. These groups have engaged in urban activism that aims either to reform institutions or to sidestep them through community self-management. The successes of these groups, while particular to Barcelona, resonate with an upwelling of institutional reform and do-it-yourself (DIY) approaches to urbanism evident across the globe. Through critical analysis, I examine the potentials and pitfalls of adopting these emerging approaches and the lessons they offer for sustainable urban design elsewhere.

Current projects:

  • Participatory urbanism in Barcelona, Spain
  • Anarchism and self-management (autogestión) in urban design practice
  • Frameworks for tactical and DIY urbanism
  • Community design in Sacramento, California
  • Service learning in landscape architecture