John Christopher

John Christopher

Philadelphia, PA, US


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During my undergraduate studies I found a surprising union between my passions for spatial design and social science. I was engrossed by the notion that place-based identity could unite people. The ancients believed in a powerful connection between the land and the people that lived on the land. This idea of the "power of place" has shifted throughout the progression of humanity, but it is present in most cultures.

Postmodernism gives us new insights on this union of space, place, and identity. Guised in different names—culture, ethnos, social ties, genius loci, zeitgeist—the central point always remained; the human collective is more than the mere sum of its parts. Urban public spaces seemed to be powerful unifiers.  

In the summer of 2011, I travelled to Strasbourg to study policy and then to London to study architecture. During these travels, I noted the interplay between the built environment and its influence on the lives of its inhabitants. The intersections of culture and public space were complicated and mesmerizing. I saw that the built environment stands as a physical manifestation of humanity; it is the means by which we find shelter, construct social order, and thrive. It must, therefore, be intertwined with our sense of self and society. 

When I walk through a city, I see the confluence of human lives and the environments in which they are built. I then wonder how the latter could better serve humanity. I strive to understand how the built environment facilitates and enhances the experiences of individuals. How are people interacting? Why? To what extent does the built environment facilitate or enhance their experiences? These questions are fueled by a concern with holistic well-being and reinforced with a background in social science and scientific inquiry.

My planning process is built on a philosophical foundation of humanism, guided by the process of scientific inquiry, and indebted to the thoughts of countless thinkers in the way of Jan Gehl, Jane Jacobs, Mary Simkhovitch, Jane Addams, and Frederick L Olmsted.


Hi there! You seem like a cool person. If you like my vibes and would like to reach out for more information, collaboration, or employment, you can reach me at


The University of Pennsylvania - Graduate School of Design, Philadelphia, PA, US, Teaching Assistant

I assist both professors and students within my workshop (studio) for City Planning. I serve as communications intermediary, assistant, and publishing coordinator.

Jan 2014 - current

The Link, Philadelphia, PA, US, Junior Editor

The Link is PennPlanning’s bi-annual, student-led newsletter. I brainstorm content and formatting, secure student writers, write articles, and edit the newsletter before print.

Aug 2013 - current

Clemson University, Clemson, SC, US, Student Researcher and Creative Inquiry Planner

I set class objectives, coordinated literature review, filed IRB certification, encouraged student research, fostered a larger dialogue around campus safety, and designed and installed a light display.

May 2012 - Aug 2012


University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, US, Masters, City and Regional Planning, Community and Economic Development

My degree mixes humanist philosophy, social science inquiry, engineering practices, economic development techniques, and the design process. PennPlanning teaches students to envision a better future for cities and their inhabitants (cities for people), and then use the aforementioned tools to achieve these visions.

In essence, I am a professional idealist, backed by the power of analytical, economic, and design skills.

Aug 2013 - current

Clemson University, Clemson, SC, US, Bachelors, Sociology

Enrolled in both the College of Business and Behavioral Science and the Calhoun Honors College, my studies ranged across social research, data analysis, policy, horticulture, and design. Through scholarship, I studied European Policy in Strasbourg and British Architecture & Planning in London. These studies form the basis of my focus on the intersections of design, social policy, quality of life, and urban spaces.

Aug 2009 - May 2013


Dean's Diversity Scholarship, PennDesign, Scholarship

This scholarship provides continued funding for graduate studies at University of Pennsylvania's School of Design. It was awarded based on the student's objective of studying urban spaces and policy in order to re-conceptualize urban space as a means of social equity and economic development.


ACC-IAC Fellowship in Innovation and Creativity, Grant

Awarded jointly through Clemson University's Office of Undergraduate Research and the Atlantic Coast Conference, this grant funded original, self-directed research. With the guidance of my departmental mentor, I researched Clemson students' perceptions of campus sexual violence as it pertained to the quotidian occurrences of student life (night life, dating, and daytime interactions). I then analyzed these findings and presented them at the ACC Meeting of the Minds Conference at Wake Forest University.

I also used my research to lead a Creative Inquiry team in designing and implementing a light display to raise awareness of sexual violence on Clemson's campus. 2,000 lights, representing the 2,000 female students that, statistically, will be sexually assaulted before they graduate from Clemson University, glistened off of the Cooper library facade and into the nearby reflecting pond. A banner hanging from the library's facade explained the significance of the display and called for community action.


Phi Beta Phi Award of Merit, Award

Chosen through a process that included departmental nomination and college panel voting, this award recognizes the student in the College of Business and Behavioral Sciences (Clemson University) with outstanding academic performance and community service. I was given this award, in part, because of my involvement with campus initiatives to end sexual violence.


Areas of Specialization 


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