Professor & Faculty Director of the Initiative On Cities
Loretta Lees is an urban geographer and urbanist who is internationally known for her research on gentrification, urban regeneration, global urbanism, urban policy, urban public space, architecture, and urban social theory. Before moving to Boston University to serve as Faculty Director of the Initiative on Cities, she was professor of Human Geography at Leicester University and before that King’s College London in the UK. Loretta was elected as a fellow of Academia Europaea (MAE) in 2022; the UK Higher Education Academy (FHEA) 2018, Academy of Social Science (FAcSS) 2013, and Royal Society for the Arts (FRSA) 2012.
Loretta has published 14 books, with 2 further books in press (The Planetary Gentrification Reader, Routledge; Concise Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Edward Elgar). Her most recent book, co-authored with Elanor Warwick, Defensible Space: mobilisation in English Housing Policy and Practice (2022), critically examines the concept of ‘defensible space’ which has been influential in designing out crime on housing estates in the UK, the USA, and beyond; evaluating its movement/mobility/mobilisation from the US to the UK and into English housing policy and practice. In 2016, she published Planetary Gentrification (co-authored with Hyun Bang Shin and Ernesto Lopez-Morales), this was the launch text for Polity Press, Cambridge’s new series ‘Urban Futures’. Building on postcolonial critiques of urban studies it develops a more planetary view of gentrification. The book is being re/published in Chinese by China Architecture and Building Press, Beijing, and is being translated into Korean. Her 2008 book Gentrification (Routledge), co-authored with Tom Slater and Elvin Wyly, is one of the key texts on the process of gentrification and is being re/published in Chinese by Shanghai People’s Press. Loretta coined the term ‘super-gentrification’ (Urban Studies, 2003) in an ethnographic study of Brooklyn Heights, New York City, where ‘financifiers’ were found to be re-gentrifying an already prosperous, solidly upper-middle class, gentrified neighbourhood.
Professor Lees has long been committed to work beyond the academy. She was Chair of the London Housing Panel 2020-22 working with the Mayor of London and Trust for London. She is a committed scholar-activist who has worked alongside local residents, elected officials, planners, and activists to build knowledge networks to advance more just housing and urban regeneration policies. She was awarded the 2022 Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award by the Urban Affairs Association.