Real Estate


“The Harvard Graduate School of Design has established itself as the real estate cornerstone at Harvard University. Design is powerfully interdisciplinary, and the GSD’s real estate concentrations and executive education programs each foster the transdisciplinary mindset needed to approach the built environment holistically and conscientiously. Our global orientation keeps our students at the forefront of trends and developments in the field while also inspiring greater sensitivity toward the purpose and context of real estate.”

—Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design

A Letter from Beth Kramer,
Associate Dean for Development & Alumni Relations
March 2017

Dear Alumni and Friends,

The study of real estate at the Harvard GSD is attracting a new generation of talented students who choose the School for its rigorous design curriculum, global perspective, and world-class faculty and practitioners. Our focus on thought leadership elevates students’ ability to conceptualize commercial real estate activities with a deeper understanding of their impact in the context of the built environment and on the people who inhabit it.

Innovative pedagogy provides an expansive and immersive real estate education that uniquely imparts our graduates with an in-depth understanding of their impact on the larger built context and humanity. According to GSD Lecturer Frank Apeseche, “Due to the availability of capital and a historical culture of innovation, the private sector holds the most promise for implementing solutions to the big social, commercial, and environmental problems of our day. The GSD fosters the type of innovative leadership that encourages our students to become new visionaries of such multidisciplinary solutions.”

2017_01_10_GSD_RealEstate_Page_01_webAs part of the GSD’s commitment to real estate, I am delighted to share our new brochure, Real Estate Studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, as well as update you on initiatives and activities at the School.

Our world today faces an increasingly complex built environment. With the GSD’s global real estate orientation, our students study a holistic approach to urban planning and design. Unrivaled opportunities outside the classroom ULI-Hines-2016-winnerMidtownBEAT-harvard-565x373engage students with the professional real estate community through participation in conferences, national and global student design competitions, mentoring events, and the expanded Expert in Residence program. Last year, two GSD teams were finalists in the Urban Land Institute 2016 Hines Student Competition with one team taking top honors with their proposal to transform a Midtown Atlanta site into a sustainable, mixed-use, and thriving neighborhood.

Our visionary faculty has a history of galvanizing experts to collaborate and teach transdisciplinary real estate courses. Highlights from the Fall 2016 semester include:

• In September, Richard B. Peiser, the Michael D. Spear Professor of Real Estate Development, and Ann Forsyth, professor of urban planning and director of the Master in Urban Planning Degree Program, hosted a conference as part of the New Towns Initiative at Harvard University. Preeminent new town scholars, new town development managers, and other key figures from major new towns around the world convened for working sessions and a public panel.
• Also in September, Jesse M. Keenan, lecturer in architecture, whose courses and research include the field of real estate development, was announced as editorial co-lead of the new Built Environment section of the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit (CRT). Keenan also presently serves as the Vice-Chair for the U.S. Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems and taught the fall course Sustainable Real Estate.
• In October, Bing Wang MAUD ’99, DDes ’04, associate professor in practice of real estate and the built environment, was awarded a 2016 Best Paper Prize by the American Real Estate Society (ARES) entitled “Micro-Housing as Urban Development Model in a Shared Economy.”
Nov. 2, 2016 -- Stephen Ross, chairman of Related Companies, speaks about the Hudson Yards development project at Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. The renewal of the Hudson Yards district, a project jointly planned, funded, and constructed by the New York City and State governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, concerns a section of Manhattan between Penn Station and the Hudson River.

• In November, the GSD welcomed Stephen M. Ross, chairman of The Related Companies, to speak about Hudson Yards in New York City — the largest private real-estate development project in the history of the U.S. Invited to speak by Roger Ferris LF ’92, MDesS ’93, Ross gave an overview of the two-phase project to an audience of students, faculty, and the public. His presentation included some of the development’s staggering statistics: one million square feet of retail and mixed-use space, 4,000 residences, 100 shops, and three public parks, making Hudson Yards one of the most ambitious New York real estate projects in a generation.

This spring, the GSD real estate community is hosting two noteworthy, collaborative events. On Friday, March 3, the GSD and MIT Center for Real Estate held the 2017 Real Estate Career Conference. Exclusive to graduate students of Harvard University and MIT, the event offers students opportunities to engage with industry leaders through networking, panel presentations, and roundtable discussions. On Saturday, April 8 — Sunday, April 9, 2017, the GSD and Harvard Business School are cosponsoring Real Estate Weekend @ Harvard, which will attract over 400 industry leaders, professionals, alumni, interested students, and entrepreneurs. This year’s theme is SHIFTS, which aims to identify and reconcile the rapidly changing dynamics driving the real estate industry in the 21st century. We hope you will join us at an event this spring; find more information at

The most significant action you can make to encourage all students to engage in our real estate curriculum is to invest in the Dean’s Fund for Real Estate. Your gift to this fund supports essential components of the GSD’s innovative real estate education, such as improvements to the curriculum and new faculty hires with extensive real estate expertise, as well as student design competitions, conferences, and workshops. If you have any questions, please contact Brad Quigley, director of alumni relations and annual giving, at or 617.495.8830.


Beth Kramer

Associate Dean for Development & Alumni Relations


2017_01_10_GSD_RealEstate_Page_01_webReal Estate Studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Set amongst a sea of real estate-related activities across five schools at Harvard University—coursework, executive education programs, student and alumni clubs, and sponsored events—the GSD is the only school at Harvard to offer degree programs with a concentration in real estate. The Master in Design Studies with a concentration in Real Estate and the Built Environment (MDes/REBE) and the Master in Urban Planning with a concentration in Real Estate and Urban Development (MUP/REUD) offer our students the tools to reach leadership positions in established companies or create new disruptive business models to reimagine, design, build, and fund solutions to our most pressing societal challenges. Read the brochure.

Real Estate Development (RED) Club at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Open to all students at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, the Real Estate Development (RED) Club is an organization that provides students with the resources to further their knowledge and careers in the real estate industry. RED Club Logo - HIGH-09The RED Club fosters a strong real estate community comprised by members of the GSD, various graduate-level programs at Harvard, university alumni, and the global building industry at large. The Club accomplishes its mission through a variety of events including speaker series, social events, global career ‘treks’, local site visits, and skill-building training sessions. Visit the RED Club website for news and upcoming events.

A Letter from the Dean

March 2016

Dear Alumni and Friends,

I am writing to share with you some of our current initiatives and commitments in relation to the study and development of real estate at the GSD. During the past few years, I have had the privilege to meet many individuals and organizations involved in investing in, developing, and constructing important buildings, landscapes, and public spaces around the world. These interactions have made me acutely aware of the significant contributions of our alumni and friends to the advancement of real estate in the context of the built environment. I am hopeful that together we will be able to both enhance and promote innovative ideas, research, and programs that benefit from a deeper understanding of real estate and its contributions to the built environment.

When the GSD launched the Real Estate and the Built Environment concentration, it established itself as the real estate cornerstone at Harvard University. That leadership stands today-the GSD is the only school at Harvard that offers a formal real estate degree program and is the University’s de facto nexus for real estate education and activity. With the recent admission of the next cohort of students into this program, along with the students in the Master in Urban Planning program who choose a real estate concentration, we have a record number of students with a stated focus on real estate education. These numbers are augmented by students in every degree program who also have expressed an interest in the field. Design is powerfully interdisciplinary, and the GSD’s real estate concentrations and executive education programs each foster the multidisciplinary mindset needed to approach the built environment holistically and conscientiously.

In that spirit, we are actively expanding the curricular options available to our real estate students. Our traditionally taught courses in real estate finance, development, and market analysis, as well as field studies courses and occasional studios, are complemented by recent additions like “Environment, Economics, and Enterprise,” co-taught by architecture and real estate faculty, and “Creating Real Estate Ventures: A Legal Perspective.” A new research methods course will be added next year, as well as opportunities for more multidisciplinary teamwork and an optional final project. Working with advisors, students are able to draw from a rich variety of options within the GSD and from other Harvard schools to craft a curriculum in line with their ambitions, with over 50 related courses from which to choose. Our faculty have a history of galvanizing experts from throughout Harvard to collaborate and teach in our degree and executive education programs, continually reinforcing the School’s position as a hub for real estate-focused research and study within the University.

Our orientation must also be global, which keeps our students at the forefront of trends and developments in the field while also inspiring greater sensitivity toward the purpose and context of real estate. Our programs benefit from sponsors from Germany, China, England, India, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, and our Global Leadership in Real Estate and Design course-required for students in the Real Estate and the Built Environment concentration-always involves an international site. Most recently, we have used a new business district in Guangzhou and a mixed-use complex in Berlin as the site of our investigations. In addition to geographic diversity, our research and pedagogy also address significant global challenges, including rapid urbanization, social inequality, affordable housing, climate change and disaster recovery, and support for the growing class of seniors.

As our real estate programs have evolved, the GSD has solidified as a crux of industry engagement that draws leaders and visionaries to Harvard. The GSD convenes the annual Harvard Real Estate Conference, which brings senior leadership from top firms to campus. Throughout the year, the Master in Design Studies Real Estate Lecture Series integrates concepts and practices into our broader discourse. These direct connections to industry enrich our programs with equal parts inspiration and practicality.

Our commitment to research crosses disciplines and is manifested through the individual work of our faculty and through initiatives such as our design labs dealing with urbanism and sustainability, as well as the recently created Office for Urbanization. Recent projects have involved research on healthy cities, new town financing, micro-housing, and the implications of rising sea levels on the economy and ecology of cities.

Amid these ambitions, we have proactively sought ways to champion student groups and initiatives both financially and logistically. Most recently, we provided funding to two student teams entering the Urban Land Institute’s 2016 Hines Student Competition-both of whom were among the competition’s four finalists, and one of whom won the top prize earlier this month. We are currently supporting an in-progress student real estate publication, due out Fall 2016, by hiring a faculty advisor to edit and enhance content, and by providing funds for its production. The School provided financial and logistical support to two cross-University student conferences this spring, most recently Real Estate Weekend @ Harvard, which drew 400 attendees. These activities have all included students from throughout Harvard who have an interest in real estate. Additionally, our staff have been working with faculty on the annual GSD-MIT career events, and are increasing efforts to help students find internship placements. Opportunities like these are vital in enabling our students to engage in broader discourse in the field and generate real impact. Recent graduates are being employed by leading real estate companies and global corporations, while others are spearheading entrepreneurial ventures. They immerse themselves in design, development, real estate management, finance, investments, infrastructure, and more.

As we galvanize our commitment to real estate education at the GSD, we will actively engage our alumni community in the School’s real estate programs and in our students’ professional explorations and development through mentorship and expert advice. Among other initiatives, we are expanding our Expert in Residence program to include a real estate cohort, inviting real estate professionals to come to campus several times per year to advise and mentor students. These activities are ongoing and require the support of alumni and friends such as yourselves.

We appreciate your support, and I invite you to send me your ideas for continuing to advance our real estate programs.





Mohsen Mostafavi / Dean / Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design

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