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Mar232012

Faculty Focus

The Professor: Juan Camilo Osorio

The Course Series: Geographic Information Systems


Visiting Assistant Professor in the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment Juan Camilo Osorio

Juan Camilo Osorio has been with Pratt’s Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development (PSPD) for the last two years, teaching a five-week mini course he initiated: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The course, which teaches mapping and data analysis tools, proved so useful that students requested it go on further, so Osorio has been teaching Continuing GIS for the last two summers. Next fall, he will co-teach a new course, GIS Applications with Jessie Braden—the Pratt Center for Community Development’s environmental planner and co-chair of the Pratt Geospatial Analysis Lab working group—which will set in motion the concept of opening the classroom to a series of lab sessions that will enable projects, ideas, resources, and tool-sets to be shared among different departments at Pratt.

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, and reared in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Osorio came to the United States to pursue graduate studies at the University of Massachusetts, where he earned a master’s in regional planning. Earlier, he had earned a bachelor’s in architecture from the National University of Colombia, and also performed as a drummer for Ultrágeno, one of Colombia’s most famous hardcore/industrial rock bands.

Tell us about the GIS courses you teach.

The two GIS courses work as an intensive introduction to the cartographic and quantitative analysis of urban information. I designed them to help students formulate meaningful research questions, and show how to present planning concepts eloquently in creative basic graphic forms. The main purpose of these courses is to introduce graduate students with little or no background in mapping techniques or data analysis to tools like GIS, a computer-based technology to aid in the collection, analysis, output, and communication of spatial information for display in multi-layered maps.

How is the Continuing GIS summer course going?

Just great. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to come back as they begin tailoring their thesis research, and we work together to conceptualize, develop, and flesh out a research framework to address the spatial aspects of their individual research questions.

What difference will the creation of the Geospatial Analysis Lab make?

It will create a mapping culture of collaboration, instructing faculty and students with a cohesive and cutting-edge mapping and spatial analysis curriculum, and will also create an innovative research lab to develop community-planning tools and perform research and analysis for publication. With the participation of the Communications and Package Design programs and the Pratt Center for Community Development, the creation of the lab will enable PSPD to propel Pratt to the forefront of urban planning spatial research.

Have you ever practiced architecture?

Yes, in my native Colombia I worked as a consultant for the United Nations Development Program helping articulate the work of three city agencies of Bogotá, and I participated in the development of a methodology combining vulnerability reduction and the creation of social resilience as part of Mayor Antanas Mockus’s neighborhood improvement effort. In addition, I also worked as a consultant for the Municipality of Herran, Colombia, in the design and structure of a master plan for the resettlement a 1,000-person community that had to be relocated due to a natural disaster on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. I helped produce the methodology to engage the residents in the decision-making process for designing and implementing a sustainable resettlement.

What brought you to New York City?

I came here to work with the Municipal Art Society Planning Center as a senior planner and GIS analyst, and now I am a policy analyst with the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance—a nonprofit city-wide membership network linking grassroots organizations from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in their struggle for environmental justice.

Are you currently involved in the music world?

Yes, I still drum with Ultrágeno in special shows, and I’m working on another project with other musicians from Colombia and Brazil in Brooklyn. Being very passionate about my work, I often switch among music, architecture, and urban planning in search of inspiration.

Interview: Adrienne Gyongy
Photo: Jonathan Weitz