News & Press: ACSP Annual Conference News

A Closer Look with Award Winner Chenghe Guan

Friday, March 24, 2017  
Posted by: April Banta
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IACP/ACSP Karen Polenske Best Student Paper Award for Outstanding Paper on a China Related Topic

Spatial Distribution of Urban Territories at a Regional Scale: Modelling the Changjiang Delta’s Urban Network
Chenghe Guan, Harvard University

ChengHe Guan’s paper is written in a concise way to demonstrate a critical research question and its potential for further developed to be published in a top ranking journal. Yangtze River Delta Area is a good choice and focus for exploring key issues of urban expansion at the regional level concerning aspects such as land resource, developing corridors, ecological systems, different sizes of cities, etc. While some aspects need more justification and clarification such as the selection of scenarios and factors, this paper is an excellent model paper that, apart from description of methodologies and technical exercises, the most valuable contribution is to answer key research question and elaborate key arguments through synthesizing modeling findings and critically discussing possible policy implications.

ACSP recently connected with ChengHe to find out more about this accomplishment.

How did you feel when you won the award?
I first met with Professor Karen Polenske eight years ago in the Fall of 2009 when I decided to pursue an academic career. She set up an office hour for me to chat with her for over 30 minutes and encouraged me to come back to school. Four years later, I took her regional socioeconomic modeling class which built the foundation for my dissertation on spatial analysis on a regional scale. Now, I have the opportunity to receive this prestigious award named after her at the Portland ACSP conference. It is a once in a life time moment and it is a great honor to start my teaching career with the Karen Polenske award.

Who do you want to thank, if any?
It is a long list. My dissertation committee members: Peter Rowe, Niall Kirkwood, and Rahul Mehrotra. My other colleagues at Harvard and MIT who helped and supported me along the way: Richard Peiser, Ann Forsyth, Alex Krieger, Mark Mulligan, Richard Forman, Charles Waldheim, Jose Gomez-Ibanez, Sumeeta Srinivasan, Yifan Yu, Kongjian Yu, Regina Abrami, and Joseph Ferreira. And the president and committee members of IACP, Jason Cao, Qisheng Pan, Zhongren Peng, Mengke Chen, Shenjing He, Yiming Wang, and many others.

What inspired you about this project?
In search of a more sustainable urban network and potential policy implications in a rapid urbanizing China, I think it is a dream topic for planners, urban geographers, and developers.

What’s next?
Get a tenure tracked position. In terms of my research, I will try to bring other disciplines to urban studies, such as landscape ecology and real estate development at the scale of new towns, to expand the spectrum of research. Also, I want to conduct field work and see more cities, hike more mountains, and enjoy different landscapes and cultures.

ChengHe's Bio
ChengHe Guan is the Harold A. Pollman Fellow in Real Estate and Urban Development at Harvard University. He received his doctoral degree from Graduate School of Design, Harvard University. Dr. Guan’s research interest is on rapid urbanization process that shapes future cities. Built on the experience-based urban planning strategy, he proposes a quantitative approach to aid the decision-making process. Through spatial simulation, urban modeling, remote sensing, and accessibility analysis at city as well as regional levels, he is building a multidisciplinary methodology to study urban network and ecological network. The application of the research includes policy evaluation & recommendation, sensitivity analysis, and suitability study etc.

Dr. Guan is a consultant for the World Bank Urban Development Sector, a registered Architect in California, and a frequent speaker and moderator at IACP, ACSP, AAG, and other renowned research institutes and international conferences. He is also the co-founder of City Builder Design, a consulting firm focusing on build, design, and development. Most representative works include a cultural landscape project developing a Shaolin ‘Zen’ Buddhism meditation center in upstate New York and a sports-oriented urban planning project of Guilin Lijiang marathon course.

About ACSP Awards
Each year ACSP is proud to honor faculty and students who have distinguished themselves or made major contributions to the academy or to the profession via outreach efforts, public service or for service to ACSP, the Academy, or the profession. A complete listing and history for all awards can be found at

This award was established in honor of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Karen R. Polenske - a prominent regional economist and a leading scholar of China's sustainable development. It is awarded annually to International Association for China Planning (IACP) student member who presents excellent research at major international planning conferences. This award is generously funded by the IACP and is currently presented at their annual conference in China, and at their annual membership meeting in the United States during the ACSP Annual Conference.

The 2016 Karen Polenske Award Committee includes: Committee Chair Jason Cao, University of Minnesota; Mengke Chen, World Bank; Shenjing He, University of Hong Kong; and Yiming Wang, University College London.


The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.