Group Members | Economics of Housing

group1_1From left to right: Ekaterina Levitskaya, Stefano Aresti, Luca Filippi, Jonas De Maeyer, Charles Wirene, Jessica Kisner.

Charles Wirene

Born and raised in rural New York, Charles Wirene eventually left for a five year stint in central Vermont to study geography, environmental studies, and French. While in the 802, he discovered a passion for people, places, and the connections between them, as well as a strong belief in the idea of social responsibility. After an 18 month tour among the Antipodeans, Wirene found himself working a two year stint as a green builder in New York City, followed by a short six month gig in southern Vermont crawling through attics as a building performance contractor. Despite appreciating these experiences and the second education they provided, he wanted to work at a larger scale, promoting social and resource responsibility in a broader community. There is a tangible energy and excitement in cities, and by trying to direct this energy, Wirene believes that urbanists have the potential to improve environmental, social, and economic inequalities.

Jessica Kisner

Jessica Kisner grew up in Bogota, Colombia. She has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology with a minor in Geography. Her urban interest started in her college years were she explore and investigated minorities and ethnic groups in urban landscapes and the role of street venders in the consolidation of urban economics and space configuration. In 2010 she started a landscape business that focused in how to empower citizens and how to built community with sustainable designs. She designed mostly parks and gardens in both urban and rural environments. With a two-year experience in the field, she noticed there were many problematic and unanswered questions in the consolidations of urban spaces. Rights to the city, integrating design, the role of the city planners and urbanists were some of the interrogatives that came up. With this on mind and the interest in the construction of cities with a more social and sustainable approach, she decided to move to New York to study the MS in Design and Urban Ecologies.

Ekaterina Levitskaya

Ekaterina (Katya) Levitskaya was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. She graduated from Moscow State University of International Relations with a specialization in Public Relations. Levitskaya worked at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for three years after graduation as a press-officer and then a corporate fundraiser. After that, she decided to move on and find out what was going on in the life of big cities, taking Moscow as an example and interest for urban research. Levitskaya believes that people can find a balanced way to live in a city – balance between life in man-made surroundings and nature, balance between the history of a city, its present and future of its development, and, finally, balance between public and private lives of people which, ideally, could become equally important, as in an ancient polis, and the city – as a platform or a scene for people’s life – has a role in that.

Tom Lane

Tom Lane has more than a decade of nonprofit management and fundraising expertise, having advanced the work of several leading regional, national and international political advocacy, environmental, health and human rights organizations.  Most recently, Tom was a Major Gifts Officer with Global Greengrants Fund, an international NGO dedicated to promoting global, grassroots social justice and environmental sustainability movements.  In addition, Tom is a active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, The New School Alumni Association, and he has provided pro-bono fundraising consulting services for various youth, educational, and human rights advocacy groups.  He currently serves as a volunteer Advisory Board Member for The Child Soldier Relief Foundation.  Tom holds a BA in Political Science from Boston College, and a MS in Nonprofit Management from The New School.

Stefano Aresti

Stefano Aresti was born in Carbonia in Sardinia, Italy.  Aresti studied building engineering and architecture at Cagliari University. During his studies, he had the possibility to be an exchange student in other countries. First, he had the opportunity to do a stage in Santiago de Chile. In his free time there, Aresti traveled to Peru, Chile and Argentina and he felt it was a great experience to see and know the richness of the culture in Latin America. After that, Aresti applied to be an exchange student in Hungary, which is in central-east Europe. He spent an academic year in Pécs (European Capital of Culture in 2010). From there, he was also able to travel around to surrounding countries. Full immersion in different cultures was something important for him because it created an interest to understand the conditions and the life of people and their different culture in their cities. Social contrasts, history, life in the cities, and the political/economical effects on the city and landscape in these countries (and also in his) made Aresti more interested in urbanism and urban ecology. In the fall of 2012, he started his first semester of EMU (European Master in Urbanism) in Venice, which allowed him to now be in New York studying as an exchange student at Parsons The New School for Design.

Jonas De Maeyer

Jonas De Maeyer is from Antwerp, Belgium. Growing up, De Maeyer developed a particular interest in the city. This interest made him start studying architecture in Ghent, Belgium and Sevilla, Spain. After his graduation, De Maeyer had different experiences working as an architect while also traveling around in Europe and Asia. Not completely satisfied with his work as an architect, he started the Human Settlements program and later the graduate program in Strategic Urban Planning at the KUL in Leuven, Belgium. In these programs, De Maeyer learned more about the city and how to design in the city. This program gave him the unique opportunity to study one semester at Parsons The New School for Design in New York and he is currently very happy to live in one of the world’s most fascinating cities.

Luca Filippi

Luca Filippi is from Reggio Emilia, a small-medium sized city in the north of Italy. He has a master’s degree  in Architecture and in 2012, after a 6 year working experience, he decided to orient his work towards urban design by enrolling in the European Postgraduate Master in Urbanism, held by a consortium of four important European schools of urbanism (IUAV of Venice, KU Leuven, ETH Delft, UPA Barcelona).

During his working years in his home town, he grew to believe in the need for engagement in activism. He’s still a member, although not so active anymore,  in a local association working for immigrants’ rights ( and for improving a debate about the city ( Filippi’s desire to go back to study urbanism, comes from this experience of engagement with the social reality of his city.

During his first postgraduate semester in IUAV (Venice School of Architecture) he had the opportunity to investigate the conditions of immigrants in the low density Veneto territory, the so called “città diffusa” (diffuse city). In Filippi’s professional activity, he is studying and providing design proposals for the municipality of Nonantola about the social process of the abandonment of  the historical center by local people with the consequent move of immigrant populations towards these spaces that Italian people have neglected.


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