The Bartlett School of Planning


Brian Garcia

Research subject

Thesis title: Intensification of Polycentric Cities; Examining the Catalytic Properties of Urban Rail Projects.

Primary supervisor: Professor Sir Peter Hall
Secondary supervisor: Dr Stephen Marshall 
Starting date: January 2012
Projected completion date: January 2016 

In City Planning and Architecture, urban rail infrastructure is a means of addressing blight, regional economies, population growth, resource scarcity, inequality, and climate change. Urban design interventions such as rail transport have a long history as catalysts of social change. I study contemporary infill rail projects to understand the by-products and implications they have on urban centres and polycentric regions. These projects are examined in situ to determine how their context relates to the academic literature that supports the promotion of these projects.

This reassessment of city form and transport is caused by a change in public consciousness, and promoted by political agendas and key actors in government. I assume that these catalytic rail interventions based on reducing congestion and transport needs, are actually an opportunity for local design guidance and planning agencies to address social fragmentation and implement other amenities like public space, density, and transit-oriented housing.

This phenomenon in most clear in cities like Los Angeles, where the urban form is currently transitioning to accommodate multi modal transport. Transportation lines with transit oriented and nodal development are an opportunity for strategic planning to approach the scale of master planning, and affect large paths of a city or region. This research uses a comparative urbanism approach and calls upon ethnographic research methods to link building typologies and higher ridership numbers in London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Berlin and Medellin. From the results of this study we can determine what types of building environments drive ridership and then plan accordingly for successful public transport. It is important to analyze how these cities are drastically reorganize in order to mitigate and properly plan for growing challenges of land scarcity, Climate Change and social fragmentation.



Brian is pursuing a PhD in Planning Studies at the Bartlett. He is the Postgraduate Teaching Assistant for Professor Sir Peter Hall’s MSc level course, Critical Debates in Urban Regeneration. Brian is also a research assistant at the Bartlett on projects that focus on the environment and political economy. In 2012, he was a visiting researcher at the UCLA Institute of the Environment, and in 2013 researched at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Los Angeles (LA Metro) as part of the Environmental Compliance and Services Department. Brian is currently a Visiting Researcher at the Yale School of Architecture at the Yale Urban Design Workshop. At Yale, his research project examines the North East United States suburbs and garden towns connected by rail. Prior to the Bartlett, the majority of his practice has been in the United States in architecture and urban design in housing and transportation. He has also worked on projects in China, India, Kazakhstan, and Singapore.

In 2010, he advised on urban development at the City Planning Department of Los Angeles in the Urban Design Studio. Brian focused on downtown high-rise development and signage standards. He also revised density guidelines with sustainable building practices informed by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. This continued work he did in 2006, at Urban Studio, where he produced a case study of townhouse typology for the Enterprise Home Ownership Partners. Brian has also worked in policy and design guidance for the LA Metro for the rapidly expanding public transport system of LA. Brian’s research on New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina has been included in the Venice Biennial and has earned two American Planning Association awards.

Brian’s interest in urbanism began at UC Berkeley, where he earned a BA in Architecture and a BA in Art Practice. He studied at the graduate level at the University of Southern California, where he was a funded Graduate Research Scholar while earning a Master of Architecture and a Master of Public Art Studies. After working in Urban Design and Planning, Brian completed an MSc in International Planning at the Bartlett, and continues to study for the PhD. 

Publications and other work


Forthcoming: Garcia, B. (2014) “Civic Entrepreneurialism: A Public Transport Boom in the Age of Crisis”, Urban Fringe, A Practitioner’s Blog from the Berkeley Planning Journal.

Forthcoming: Moore, S., Rydin, Y., and Garcia, B. (2014) “Sustainable City Education: pedagogical challenges of mobile knowledge and situated learning”, Area.

Garcia, B. (2014) Review of London Underground Maps: Art Design and Cartography by Claire Dobbin, 2011, for Planning Perspectives 29.1.

Garcia, B., Review of Urban Maps Instruments and Interpretation in the City by Richard Brook and Nick Dunn, 2011, for the Urban Geography Research Group, 2013, Book Review Series. 

Garcia, B. (2013) Reaction Piece for the Development Planning Unit of University College London’s Summer Lab Workshop Report, Medellin Growth in Transit.

Forthcoming: Garcia, B. (2013) Review of Retailising Space: Architecture, Retail and the Territorialisation of Public Space by Mattias Karrholm for Urban Design International. 

Garcia, B. (2006) Conceptual Street Art as Democratic Participation in Public Space. Ann Arbor: ProQuest Information and Learning Company.


Speaker, Royal Geographic Society with IBG Annual Conference, August 26 -29 2014
Session title: Evaluating transport-related policies and practices (1): Public transport
Pedestrian Friendly Transport Neighbourhoods and Their Relationships to Urban Regeneration; An Exploratory Analysis of Ridership.

Speaker, UCL Energy, Society and People Symposium, May 29 2014
Comparative Transport Urbanism and an Ethnographic Exploration of The Relationship Between Pedestrian Friendly Transport Neighbourhoods and Urban Regeneration.

Speaker, UCL Institute of the Americas, Jan 18 2014
Environment and Urbanism Seminar
Retrofit and Intensification in Polycentric Cities: An Examination of the Relationships between Land Use, Ridership and the Benefits of Catalytic Public Transport Projects.

Speaker, UCL Bartlett School of Planning, Dec 3 2013
Transport and City Planning PhD Seminar Series 2013-14
Mapping New Urban Rail Projects; Pollution, Crime and the Pedestrian

Speaker, UCL Energy Institute, Social Science Group Seminar Series, Jun 19 2013
Projects in Progress: Social Science Methods in Environment and Transport Research
University College London

Speaker, Universities Transport Study Group Conference, Jan 4 2013
Land Use Challenges of Urban Transport Retrofit.
University of Oxford

Speaker, Sustainability: Concepts and Materiality Conference, May 18 2012
Usurping the Auto: Challenges for Implementing Public Transportation in Car Dominated Cities. University College London