The Office of the Vice President for Research recognizes Sonia Hirt, an associate dean with the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, for research that crosses the borders of architecture, planning, the humanities, and the social sciences.
As an associate professor of urban affairs and planning in the School of Public and International Affairs, Hirt focuses on the interactions between social values and the urban-built environment.
Her aim is to understand the relationships between social processes, cultural values, and urban forms, and to create opportunities to make cities more equitable and sustainable.
Central-East European urbanism figures prominently in her work and she has recently received honorable mention for this year’s Davis Center Book Prize for her book “Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space in the Post-Socialist City.”
Hirt conducted research primarily with residents of Sofia, Bulgaria, for the book, which explores the human dimension of new city-building that has emerged in East Europe. Similarly, she has written “Twenty Years of Transition: The Evolution of Urban Planning in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, 1989-2009.”
Hirt also studies urban planning and land-use regulation, contrasting American and European approaches to land-use planning and regulation. Her new book, “Zoned in the USA: American Land-use Control in Comparative Perspective” is under contract and scheduled for October 2014 publication.
Additionally, Hirt is interested in urban planning theory and history, striving to place the evolution of planning ideas in relation to ideas in other fields in the arts and humanities — especially architecture — and the social and policy sciences.
Hirt has been a faculty member in the Urban Affairs and Planning department at Virginia Tech since 2005. She holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is also a graduate of the Executive Development Institute at Virginia Tech.
She served as a visiting associate professor at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University in 2011, where she taught Urbanism in Europe and served as design critic in the Urban Planning Studio.