Maria Elosua

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Urban Planning


Maria Elosua is an urban designer, architect and planner with over 20 years of wide-ranging experience. She has an MCP and MsArch in City Design from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Bachelors in Architecture from the Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey.

Her professional training and experience have been focused in Latin America and the USA.   In her most recent position as the City Planner of the county of San Pedro Garza Garcia, Maria implemented a more transparent system of administration at the Institute of city planning, increased its efficiency, and created a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to address short-term and long-term city planning in an urban space faced with multiple challenges. She is also one of the first counsel woman to take office from an independent party in Mexico.


As the city planner she developed more than 50 projects for the county confronting crime spikes, a real estate boom, and the destruction of major infrastructure and housing developments due to Hurricane Alex. She helped create two very important social programs to reclaim public space and to create safe spaces in the midst of drug violence.  Currently, as founder of Arista Design, she is working in a variety of master plans and mixed use developments in different locations in Mexico.

It is easy to assume that innovations in Urban Planning can only happen in a developed country and that developing countries could not possible achieve it due to lack of resources or lack of capacity to implement policies. But over the last two decades, some Latin American cities have proved this assumption wrong; its leaders have implemented a series of innovative policies and transformed their cities and the quality of life of its citizens.

In this class, we will study Latin American cities that exemplified these innovative policies. We will look at: the Brazilian city of Curitiba, which developed an ingenious bus system (bus rapid transit or BRT) expanded its system of natural preserves, and implemented interesting policies of recycling; Bogotá, Colombia, which created a civic culture, recuperated public spaces, and reduced the use of the auto by implementing a BRT and a large net of bicycle paths; Medellin, Colombia, where the leadership focused on the education of the poor, and built and revitalized a series of high quality libraries, schools, and training centers in the poorest neighborhoods; Santiago, Chile with an interesting case of social housing build through a process of public participation of its final users; and finally, Mexico City, which built on federal budgeting reforms to increase social housing for low-income residents.

In all of these cases we will discuss the leaders’ profile, the policies implemented, the innovative side of each policy and the urban, social, and economic context in which these transformations occurred.

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