Tess McCann
Urban planning student, map enthusiast, New Yorker.
Tess is a Master’s in City Planning candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She previously worked as a project manager on Michael Bierut’s team at Pentagram Design. She received a BA with honors in History from Yale University, where she specialized in historiography and mid- to late-19th Century German militarism.

At MIT, she’s focused on urban design and critical cartography. She’s recently become interested in landscape architecture, and the theoretical intersections between ecology, landsacpe aesthetics, and landscape history in the context of post-industrial urban design projects. She’s writing her thesis on how these ideas are present at Suffolk Downs, in East Boston. 

MIT Coursework

Year One

Introduction to Urban Design and Development
Gateway to Urban Planning
Introduction to GIS
GIS Workshop 
Introductory Urban Design Studio
Graduate Seminar on Urban Design and Climate Change
Joint Architecture / Urban Design Studio
Planning economics

Year Two

Site and Environmental Systems Planning
Land Use and Environmental Law
Landscape Architecture Workshop: Reimagining Vacant Land 
History of Russian Cartography
Boston Development Case Studies

Selected Papers

Industry and Infrastructure at Jeffries Point

Throughout history, Jeffries Point has been the site of Boston’s connection to the region and the world. First in the 19th Century, with the shipping industry and the railroad, and later in the 20th Century, with the air travel, the infrastructural and industrial projects required to achieve the regional and global aspirations of the city have been at odds with the largely residential community of Jeffries Point. This paper provides an overview of the 19th and 20th Century infrastructural projects in Jeffries Point, and highlights the changes they brought to the residential community. In this light, new private real estate development trends, and the future of the neighborhood, can be better understood. The questions then become: how will the new development be affected by the enduring infrastructures and Boston’s global connections? And does the specific context of Jeffries Point produce a new alliance between existing communities and real estate developers against a common antagonist? The forces of infrastructure will no doubt continue to act upon Jeffries Point, but will be eclipsed by the effects of a changing climate.

Rewilding and Imaginaries of Resilience at Hunters Point

In this paper, I interrogate the use of rewilding techniques to build resilient urban landscapes. Using William Cronon’s notion of the false duality between nature and civilization, I specifically look at Hunters Point South Park, in Queens, New York. The designers position the park’s main landscape feature—a salt marsh—as both a way to make the site resilient to floods and storm surges and as a celebration of the site’s natural history. I ask, using Cronon’s framework as a guide, what story do we tell when we use the image of the natural past as a resilience solution? I suggest that aesthetic rewilding projects remove the human elements of the past and future. If we are to build resilience that is hollistic, democratic, and just, we should deploy numerous resilience strategies, that celebrate not only natural pasts but also human ones.

Selected Projects

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Experiments in anti-zoning

This proposal was part of a semester-long project in an urban design studio at MIT. Working with architecture students, we were asked to develop an urban design proposal for a single jute mill in Kolkata. My partners (an architect and an urban planner) and I, chose to develop a proposal for Surah Jute Mill, the only jute mill in the metropolitan region that is landlocked. Read more about this project here, on the MIT Architecture website. Drawings made in collaboraiton with Angie Door and Gabriela Zayas del Rio.

The Surah Jute Mill has been sitting vacant in the heart of Kolkata since 2006, walled off from the surrounding diverse and lively neighborhood. We viewed the development of the site as an opportunity to dissolve these boundaries between site and neighborhood. We experimented with a new development paradigm, which we termed “antizoning.” It stands in contrast to the prevailing development style in the city, which is highly restrictive, exclusive, and, ironically, costly due to land use misallocation and urban sprawl. This proposal embraces Kolkata’s dense and dynamic urban fabric by building flexibility and organic growth into its design.