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Linda C. Samuels

Linda C. Samuels, RA, PhD, is a professor of urban design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, where she teaches architecture and urban design studios and seminars on infrastructural urbanism, urban history and theory, and alternative sustainability metrics. She serves as the chair of urban design, and in the 2023-24 academic year, the interim director of the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design.

Samuels is the founder and director of Infra_OPTS, an independent consulting firm working in St. Louis and Los Angeles focused on the design, mapping, and metrics of public infrastructure to create more equitable cities. She is currently developing an infrastructure equity scorecard pilot project with the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering and Mayor’s Office. Samuels was co-principal investigator on a grant from The Divided City initiative, funded by the Mellon Foundation, entitled “Mobility For All By All”, which aims to increase the social and environmental benefits of the multibillion-dollar proposed St. Louis MetroLink expansion for residents living along the alignment. Emphasizing innovative challenges and real-world collaboration in her teaching, recent studio partners have included the Land Art Generator Initiative at Fly Ranch, Virgin Hyperloop One (Los Angeles/Las Vegas), Food Forward (Los Angeles), and local partners Bi-State Development Research Institute (St. Louis) and Dutchtown South Community Corporation (St. Louis). 

Samuels has a number of publications to her name, including her latest book, Infrastructural Optimism (Routledge, 2022). She has lectured widely on infrastructural urbanism and next generation infrastructure, most recently at the AIA in Baltimore and the RailVolution conference in Miami, Fla. Samuels’ publications include “Top/Up Urbanism” in Amplified Urbanism and “Resistance at the Trench: Why Efforts to Reinvent the 101 Freeway in Downtown Los Angeles Continue to Fail" in the Journal of Planning History (both 2017). Her 2019 essay, “A Case for Infrastructural Opportunism” was published in TAD: Technology I Architecture + Design. Her most recent essay, “Measuring What Matters,” appears in the reparations-focused 2023 issue of Journal of Architectural Education.

Prior to coming to WashU, Samuels was the inaugural director of the Sustainable City Project (SCP), a multidisciplinary research, teaching, and outreach initiative of the University of Arizona where she worked with public and private partners on multi-scaled sustainability efforts in Tucson and the larger megaregion. She earned her master of architecture from Princeton University and her doctorate in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she was a senior research associate at cityLAB, an urban think tank in the department of architecture and urban design.

The recently released publication Infrastructural Optimism investigates a new kind of twenty-first-century infrastructure, one that encourages a broader understanding of the interdependence of resources and agencies, recognizes a rightfully accelerated need for equitable access and distribution, and prioritizes rising environmental diligence across the design disciplines. Bringing together urban history, case studies, and speculative design propositions, the book explores and defines infrastructure as the basis for a new form of urbanism, emerging from the intersection of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. In defining this new infrastructure, the book introduces new dynamic and holistic performance metrics focused on “measuring what matters” over growth for the sake of growth and twelve criteria that define next generation infrastructure. By shifting the focus of infrastructure—our largest public realm—to environmental symbiosis and quality of life for all, design becomes a catalytic component in creating a more beautiful, productive, and optimistic future with Infrastructural Urbanism as its driver. Infrastructural Optimism will be invaluable to design, non-profit and agency professionals, and faculty and students in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design, working in partnership with engineers, hydrologists, ecologists, urban planners, community members, and others who shape the built environment through the expanded field of infrastructure.

Publication Details
Infrastructural Optimism
Routledge, September 2021
308 Pages, 225 Color Illustrations
ISBN 9781138481589

Work by Linda C. Samuels and Students