Sonia Hirt is dean and professor at the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at the University of Maryland. Her focus as a researcher and educator is on the interactions between social and cultural values and the urban built environment. Through her scholarship, 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, beautiful and sustainable. Her scholarship 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 built-environment professions and thus contribute to innovation in practice.
Sonia is the author/editor of over 70 publications. Her 2012 book, Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space in the Post-socialist City, received the Honorable Mention for the annual Book Prize in Political and Social Studies, sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. Her 2015 book, Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation, received the Honorable Mention for the biennial Best Book Award of the Urban Affairs Association. It was also named one of the Ten Best Books in urban planning, design and development of 2015 by Planetizen and was included in the list of Outstanding Academic Titles of 2015 by Choice Magazine. In 2016, Zoned received the biennial John Friedmann Best Book Award by the Association of Collegiate School of Planning. Sonia is the lead editor of The Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs (2012, 2014), as well as co-editor of the Journal of Planning History.
Sonia’s research has been funded by highly competitive, post-doctoral fellowships such as those from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and the American Association of University Women. Sonia holds an architecture diploma from the University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in Sofia, Bulgaria, and master’s and doctoral degrees in urban planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Previously, Sonia served as associate dean for academic affairs at the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech. Her 15-year teaching and research career also includes teaching positions at Harvard University and the University of Michigan.