sidewalk laboratory


NOTE:  SLAB has moved to USC.  You can see our new website here.

SLAB is an evolving group of people, inter-disciplinary and international. We seek to develop a publicly engaged cartography based on research evidence that celebrates, reconstructs knowledge about, and advocates for one of the most mundane and important public spaces: SIDEWALKS.

Forty years or so after the field of urban planning invited social science research into its physical urban design tradition, possible synergies still go largely untapped. Moving from co-existence to integration of the disciplines should yield new ways of understanding the relationship between space and society and imagining new spatial practices. Towards this end, SLAB proposes pushing the map as a medium and idiom: mapping to ground our understanding of how space is socially contested, negotiated, and constructed; mapping at multiple scales to chart the connections between the built environment, social institutions, and human experience; mapping to propose new narratives and interventions.

Society and physical space come together in intriguing ways on the sidewalk, an open-access public space that is so narrow that it requires intimate, local negotiations and yet is so vast and networked that they have great potential as a democratic space. Our first season of work has been focusing on the remarkable sidewalk life of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam which can inform many of the emerging global debates about whether sidewalks are a social safety net, cultural production site, or transportation corridor. Our intended audiences include the Vietnamese public who is actively re-considering their city sidewalks and urbanists and cartophiles more generally.

you are welcome to contact us:





Annette M. Kim, Associate Professor, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Dr. Kim lived with Vietnamese families in Ho Chi Minh City as a Fulbright scholar in 1999-2000 and in Hanoi in 1997. Her professional engagements in Vietnam include consultancy work for the World Bank and the Saigon South urban development project, training civil servants in Hanoi in project appraisal techniques with the UN Centre for Human Settlements, and jurying a master plan competition for Ho Chi Minh City. She has published numerous articles about Vietnamese urban development and a book entitled Learning to be Capitalists: entrepreneurs in Vietnam’s transition economy (Oxford, 2008). She is currently writing a book manuscript, Sidewalk City: Re-Mapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City, that is slated to be published by the University of Chicago Press in 2014.


current members

Alison Sheppard, S.B. / M.C.P. ’13

Bernard Harkless, M.C.P. ’13

Remi Hamilton, Visiting Researcher

George Beane, M.C.P. ’14

Qian Qian Zhang, M.C.P. ’14

Lou Thomas, Ph.D.


vietnam team

Lê Nguyễn Hương Giang, Coordinator

Hà Nguyễn Tuyết Hường

Đinh Xuân Thủy

Nguyễn Thị Minh Châu

Nguyễn Hoàng Kim Khánh


previous members

Jonathan Crisman, M.Arch/M.C.P. ’13

Kristin Au, S.B. in Architecture ’14

Courtney Sung, Master in City Planning ’11

Holly Bellocchio Durso, Master in City Planning ’11

James McKinney, S.B. ’13, Materials Science and Engineering

Joy Chen, S.B. ’14

Tiffany Chu, S.B. ’10, Architecture

Minh Huynh-Le, S.B. ’10, Mathematics and Biology

Kristal Peters, Masters in City Planning ’10