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David van der Leer

Executive Director, Van Alen Institute

David van der Leer is specialized in the contemporary urban condition and creates programs that address urban issues through dialogue, academic research and experiments as well as experiential installations. Van der Leer’s programs bring together professionals, and students from the design and art fields, with academics, scientists, policy makers and city officials as well as engaged urbanites in cities around the world.

Currently Van der Leer is Executive Director of Van Alen Institute in New York City, which since its founding in 1894, has promoted innovative thinking about the role of architecture and design in civic life. Today the Institute’s competitions, research, and public programs shape the public conversation and bring design excellence to the built environment of cities and sites around the world. Beyond guiding the Institute through board and committee development, a strategic planning process, an increased fundraising profile, a renovation, and re-branding; Van der Leer instituted multi-year inquiries that guide its competitions, research and public programs. The first initiative, Elsewhere: Escape and the Urban Landscape, explores the experience of escape in the urban environment. The Institute uses this process to expand its focus to the patchwork of suburban, semi-urban, and rural landscapes around cities to better understand the complexities of the extended urban environment, acting beyond the confines of the city and across regions. The Institute’s current projects include Rebuild by Design, a multi-stage, regional design initiative to promote resilience, public health, and prosperity in the Sandy-affected region through innovative planning and design, a project of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in which Van Alen Institute collaborates with New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge, the Municipal Art Society, and the Regional Plan Association.

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