Martha Frish Okabe
AB, 1978, Vassar College; MA in Historic Preservation Planning (1981), Cornell University; MS in Non-Profit Management, Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University (1998). Publications: H-Net; Planetizen; Planning; The New York Times; "Heritage as an Element of the Scenescape," in Oxford Handbook of Public Heritage Theory and Method (Spring 2018).
Experience at SAIC
Being part of the SAIC community for almost twenty years is very satisfying. I enjoy sharing what I've learned professionally, and I especially enjoy the give and take of active classroom discussions. After the completion of my course, I highly value my continuing relationships with former students.
I have extensive real-world and academic experience in urban planning, real estate, and historic preservation.
My work has been motivated by a deep respect and love for the urban built environment. I've been fascinated by the aesthetics of architectural history: what can we learn by really looking at the world around us? I've chosen to teach at SAIC because I want to contribute to the recognition of the importance and complexity of the urban built environment.
I first started teaching graduate students in Historic Preservation at SAIC in 2000 because I'd had an unusual career path, and I wanted to share what I'd learned. I deliberately chose to enter the real estate field after earning my preservation degree at Cornell, because I felt it wasn't realistic to work in preservation without understanding the financial and planning contexts. I initially worked for a developer of affordable housing and then transitioned to market analysis consulting.
This consulting career facilitated the use of public-private partnerships as strategies for urban development and revitalization. I was privileged to work as a consultant on projects in the United States and London; many of these were preliminary steps in developing publicly sponsored urban-development projects. My responsibilities included writing reports based on my preparation of cash flow projections and detailed estimates of operating revenues, expenses, and rents for the proposed projects.
Working in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors, enables me to teach my students about those fields' implicit differences in problem solving, policy making, and implementation processes. Over the years, my SAIC course has emphasized a variety of guest speakers who discuss the decision-making processes for investment, retail, commercial, residential, and institutional real estate. I feel the content of the class makes my students well prepared for professional life—and many of them have told me it has.
Since 2016, I have worked with the University of Chicago's Working Group on “SCENES,” as a subject-matter expert in a large-scale research project about the ways cultural amenities contribute to the vitality and economic development of cities.
I am lead author on "Heritage as an Element of the Scenescape," a contribution to the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Public Heritage Theory and Method, to be published Spring 2018.
I recently transitioned from serving as City Organizer of Jane's Walk to serving as a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for the Living City. I’m honored to join the Center to expand their programs to Chicago and the Midwest.
Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.