• History of the Present: Cities in Transition
    Nancy Levinson and Josh Wallaert
    Places Journal

Top right: Chris Brown, Che, Camilo and Jose, December 2007, Havana, Cuba. Photo: Creative Commons. Top left: Staff photographer, Zimbabweans Wash Dirty US Dollars, July 2010, Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo: NewsOne for Black America. Bottom left: Technical Sargeant John L. Houghton, Jr., USAF, US Tanks at Hands of Victory monument, Ceremony Square, November 2003, Baghdad, Iraq. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Bottom right: Mahdin Mahboob, Traffic Jam, June 2013, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: Creative Commons.

Cities today confront unprecedented social, political and environmental challenges. History of the Present will explore these challenges via in-depth articles, written by leading public scholars and literary journalists, on cities undergoing profound transition. Havana, Belgrade, Dhaka, Harare, Murmansk, Yangon: In the early 21st century, all are grappling with the consequences of 20th-century geopolitics. Havana and Belgrade balance on the faultline between capitalist and command economies. The megacity of Dhaka is being tested by rapid modernization and the scarcity of vital resources. Once hailed as a beacon of African urbanism, Harare is now labeled the least livable city on earth. The largest of the Arctic cities, post-Soviet Murmansk faces a Faustian choice: as melting seas enable the Arctic oil rush, the city is caught between economic boom and environmental threat. After years of isolation and oppression, Yangon, Myanmar, is struggling to re-engage other nations and move toward democracy.

Before her post at Places, Nancy Levinson, executive director and editor, was founding director of the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory and professor of practice at the Design School at Arizona State University. At ASU, she collaborated with colleagues to develop a research initiative on the systems-scale adaptation of postwar suburbia. Previously, in her decade at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, she cofounded Harvard Design Magazine and directed its rise to international prominence, creating issues on diverse topics including metropolitan form, spectacle culture, and post-communist Eastern Europe. Levinson writes for both academic and trade periodicals, including the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Perspecta: The Yale Journal on Architecture, Architectural Record, Dwell, Boston Review, and the Christian Science Monitor. For two years she wrote the weblog "Pixel Points" for Arts Journal. She received a BA from Yale University and an MArch from the University of Pennsylvania.

In addition to his position at Places, Josh Wallaert, associate editor, is a writer working with landscape as a central theme. He codirected the documentary feature Arid Lands (2007), hailed in the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of "today's best environmental films," and his short stories have appeared in TriQuarterly, Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, American Letters & Commentary, and other journals. His criticism has appeared in Places. He has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota.

Daniel Brook is a journalist whose work has appeared in Harper's, The Nation, Slate, and Places. His books include The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America and, most recently, A History of Future Cities. In 2010 he received the Winterhouse Award for Design Writing and Criticism. To research A History of Future Cities, Brook lived for a month each in St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai, and conducted archival research at the Library of Congress. Originally from New York and educated at Yale University, Brook lives in New Orleans. He wrote the History of the Present article on Yangon

Belmont Freeman is principal of Belmont Freeman Architects, which has built structures in North America, Europe and Asia. From 1997 to 2008, Freeman was the president of the board of directors of Storefront for Art & Architecture, a not-for-profit design gallery in New York City. He has served on the boards of the Association of Yale Alumni and the Society of Architectural Historians, and is on the faculty of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia. Freeman has researched, written, and lectured about Cuban architecture and led architectural tours of Cuba. In 2004 he coproduced, at Storefront, the landmark exhibition Architecture and Revolution in Cuba, 1959-1969, which examined avant-garde design produced during the first phase of the revolution. He is currently collaborating with the Cuban architect and historian Eduardo Luis Rodríguez on a book of the same title. Freeman wrote the History of the Present article on Havana.

Places is a web-based, interdisciplinary journal of contemporary architecture, landscape and urbanism, with a particular focus on the public realm as both physical place and social ideal, and a commitment to rigorous and accessible public scholarship. Founded in 1983 by faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California, Berkeley, Places appeared in print until moving online in 2009, in partnership with the Design Observer Group.