Francesca Russello Ammon is a cultural historian of urban planning and the built environment. Her research focuses on the social, material, and cultural life of American cities, from World War II to the present. She is especially interested in the history of urban revitalization, with a particular emphasis on urban renewal; the dynamic relationship between cities and nature; public history as a tool for community-based research and engagement; and the ways that visual culture has shaped understanding of what cities are, have been, and should be.
Professor Ammon is the author of Bulldozer: Demolition and Clearance of the Postwar Landscape (Yale University Press, 2016), recipient of the 2017 Lewis Mumford Prize for the best book on American city and regional planning history. Her work has also appeared in the Journal of Planning History, the Journal of Urban History, Technology & Culture, Preservation Education and Research, and the archive of the Historic American Buildings Survey.
In her current research, she is studying the relationships between urban renewal, rehabilitation, and historic preservation in the cities of Philadelphia and Montreal. This will yield traditional publishing products, as well as a digital public humanities project titled Preserving Society Hill. The website aggregates, digitizes, and spatializes a variety of sources related to the urban renewal and historic preservation of Philadelphia's Society Hill neighborhood, including: planning and architectural data, historical photographs, and an archive of nearly 90 oral history interviews and memoirs. Preserving Society Hill is an ongoing and collaborative project, developed with support from Penn's Price Lab for Digital Humanities, the Digital Scholarship Group at Penn Libraries, and several community partners.
Professor Ammon is Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning and Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania. She teaches courses on planning history, historical documentation, planning and preservation research, cities and sound, and photography and the city. On this last topic, she recently organized a two-day symposium at PennDesign titled "Picturing Policy: How Visual Culture Shapes the Urban Built Environment."
Outside of the classroom, Professor Ammon is a colloquium member of the Penn/Mellon Foundation Humanities + Urbanism + Design Initiative, a Faculty Fellow of the Penn Institute for Urban Research, and was a recent Andrew W. Mellon DH Fellow at the Price Lab for Digital Humanities. During 2016-17, Professor Ammon was a Mellon Researcher with the Canadian Centre for Architecture's "Architecture and/for Photography" initiative. She also serves on the board of the Society for American City & Regional Planning History (SACRPH).
Before joining Penn, Professor Ammon was a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She previously earned her Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale University, her Master of Environmental Design (M.E.D.) at Yale School of Architecture, and her B.S.E. in civil engineering at Princeton University.