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College of Environment and Design

Sonia Hirt



Phone: (706) 542-8113
Street address: 115 Jackson Street Building
Sonia Hirt




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Initially trained as an architect in her hometown of Sofia (the capital of Bulgaria), Sonia Hirt holds a master's and a doctoral degree in urban and environmental planning from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the University of Georgia, she served as Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at the University of Maryland in College Park; Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Virginia Tech; and Visiting Associate Professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

Sonia is the author/co-author of more than 85 scholarly and professional publications with more than 2,500 citations. Her new article, on shrinking cities, co-authored with Professor Robert Beauregard of Columbia University, was published in International Planning Studies (2021). Her next article, on planning, markets, and pluralism, co-authored with Professor Alexander Slaev, has been accepted for publication in Planning Theory & Practice.

Sonia’s book "Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space," published by Wiley-Blackwell, received the Honorable Mention for the Book Prize in Political and Social Studies sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. This award is given to an outstanding monograph in anthropology, political science, sociology, or geography. Her book "Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land Use Regulation," published by Cornell Press, received several academic honors. These include the Honorable Mention for the 2015 Best Book Award of the Urban Affairs Association; shortlist for the Best Book Award of the International Planning History Society; one of the Ten Best Books in Urban Planning, Design and Development of 2015 by Planetizen; list of Outstanding Academic Titles by Choice Magazine; and the biennial John Friedmann Best Book Award by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. In 2019, Planetizen named the book one of fourteen Top Urban Planning Books of the Decade (2010-2020). In 2020, Book Authority ranked it in the Top Forty Land Use Law Books of All Time. 

Sonia is also the editor of "The Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs" (with Diane Zahm), published by Routledge, and the author of “Twenty Years of Transition: The Evolution of Urban Planning in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, 1989-2009” (UN HABITAT; with Kiril Stanilov). She is an elected Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Planning History  (JOPH)—the official peer-reviewed journal of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History (previously, she was Co-Editor-in-Chief of JOPH). Through her career, she is or has been member of the editorial boards of ten scholarly journals, including Planning Perspectives, Planning Research and Practice, and Urban Design International.

Her research has been sponsored by some of the most competitive and prestigious scholarly organizations such as the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Councils for International Education, the American Association of University Women, the Fulbright Program, the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. 

Scholarly Interests

Sonia focuses on the interactions between social and cultural values and the urban built environment. Through her scholarship and teaching, she aims to advance understanding of the relationships between social processes, cultural values, and urban forms, and to create opportunities to make cities more equitable, prosperous, and sustainable. Her research has both a theoretical and an applied perspective. She strives to enhance the quality of urban environments by developing a richer theoretical understanding of the social processes and cultural values that influence their evolution. She also strives to provoke critical debates within the design and planning professions and thus contribute to innovation in practice.



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