Ellen Dunham-Jones Headshot

Ellen Dunham-Jones

Professor; Director, Urban Design Program

Ellen Dunham-Jones

Professor; Director, Urban Design Program


A.B. in Architecture and Planning, Princeton University, 1980
Master of Architecture, Princeton University, 1983
Registered Architect in New York state, 1989-2015


Retrofitting Suburbia, Suburban Retrofits, Suburban Redevelopment, Dead Malls, New Urbanism, Autonomous Vehicles, Redesigning Cities


Ellen is Director of the Master of Science in Urban Design degree, an authority on sustainable suburban redevelopment, and a leading urbanist. Author of over 100 articles, she is co-author with June Williamson of the retrofitting suburbia book series documenting successful retrofits of aging big box stores, malls, and office parks into healthier and more sustainable places. Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, (Wiley, 2009, 2011) received a PROSE award as the best architecture and urban planning book of 2009 and has been featured in The New York Times, Time Magazine, Harvard Business Review, NPR, PBS, TED and other prominent venues. Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges (Wiley, 2020) expands on the first book examining how new retrofits are helping communities disrupt automobile dependence, improve public health, support an aging population, leverage social capital for equity, compete for jobs, and add water and energy resilience. 

Ellen serves on several national boards and committees, is former Chair of the Board of the Congress for the New Urbanism, lectures widely and conducts community workshops. In both her teaching and research she focuses on helping communities address new challenges that they were never designed for – whether that’s through her unique database of successful suburban retrofits or studio classes on anticipating autonomous vehicles, coping with climate change or suburban blight.  She taught at UVA and MIT before joining Georgia Tech as Architecture Program Director from 2000-2009. 

Host of REDESIGNING CITIES: The Speedwell Foundation Talks at Georgia Tech, video and podcast series with leading experts on a range of topics. 

Ellen offers tips in “How to Build A Better Shopping Mall,” by Jesse Nichols for Grist in 2020.

Discussion of her retrofits database and efforts to measure their sustainable performance at the 2019 Georgia Tech Sustainability Showcase

2019 interview by Wired on why malls are dying, with over 1.3 million views. 

2019 lecture Retrofitting Suburbia for 21st Century Challenges at the University of Pennsylvania.

2019 interview on “Retrofitting Suburbia” with Greg Rogers for The Mobility Podcast.

2019 podcast Interview on “How a Community Transforms, Part 2” for What’s Next ATL.

2018 What’s Next ATL talk at the Atlanta Regional Commission’s State of the Region meeting.

2017 podcast with Adam Conover, host of TruTV’s Adam Ruins Everything, after Ellen’s cameo on the show.   

Retrofitting Suburbia: Public Space and Social Capital,” at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm in 2016.

“Why Urban Design Trumps Architecture,” 2015 Shoptalk interview with Nathan Koskovich AIA Atlanta’s Architecture and Design Center.

Voice of America 2015 podcast “Trapped! US Suburban Life Loses its Luster.”

Steve Inskeep’s 2014 interview on re-uses of dead shopping malls on NPR Morning Edition.

“Who Designs the City? Contemporary Debates in Urbanism,” Graduate School of Urban Studies and Planning, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia in 2013

Interview by Dr. Richard Jackson in his 2012 4-part PBS TV Series Designing Healthy Communities.

LinkedIn Learning course with outtakes from Gary Hustwit’s 2011 film Urbanized of Ellen speaking about New Urbanism, Retrofitting Suburbia, and Retail in Cities. 

Ellen’s 2010 TEDx Atlanta talk on Retrofitting Suburbia was selected amongst the best TED talks by Huffington Post, Cyburbia, Archininja, Landscape Institute and TEDTalks Architecture playlist. It has over 760,000 views and was followed by a TED-NPR Radio Hour in 2012. 

Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges (Wiley, 2020)

Best Practices for Improving User Experience on AV Shuttles v1 2019, v2 2020

“Retrofitting Suburbia to Combat The Loneliness Epidemic and Build Social Networks,” City as a Classroom, European Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. 

“Unpaving Paradise,” Newsweek, 14 December 2018 

2017 Guest column on retrofitting dead malls for The Wall Street Journal

Guest column on new public space in Metro Atlanta

“Dead and Dying Shopping Malls Re-inhabited,” Architectural Design, Profile no. 249

Studio Report: Downtown Atlanta 2041: Autonomous Vehicles and A-Street Grids

“The Irrational Exuberance of Rem Koolhaas” –named One of the Ten Most Popular Essays of 2013 by The Design Observer Group

Solicited Room for Debate blog posts for The New York Times: Gentrify Those Parking Lots, How to Fix That Ugly Strip, and Downsizing and Retrofitting the Housing Market

Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs (Wiley, 2009, 2011, mandarin edition in 2013)

Architectural Record’s 2019-19 Woman Educator of the Year

#71 on Planetizen’s list of the Top 100 Most Influential Urbanists (of all time!)

1 of 6 faculty “Revolutionaries,” Georgia Tech Student Government Ass’n

Ellen’s students have won 12 placements in 8 years in the ULI Hines Student Competition

Fellow of the Congress for the New Urbanism

Fellow of the Brooks Byers Institute of Sustainable Systems, GA Tech

2010 Subaru Professor of Excellence for the College of Design, GA Tech

Retrofitting Suburbia won the PROSE award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence from the Association of American Publishers as the 2009 best book of the year in architecture and urban planning

Retrofitting Suburbia featured in Time Magazine March 23, 2009 Cover Story “10 ideas changing the world right now”  

Guest Professor, Tongji University, China, 2014

Ogden Lecturer, Monash University, Australia, 2011

Visiting Fellow in Sustainable Urban Development, Simon Fraser University, Canada, 2010

Ax:son Johnson Visiting Professor, Lund University, Sweden, 2006-7

Urban Design Studio

Theories of Urban Design

Retrofitting Suburbia

Coordination of the ULI Hines Student Competition