The Richard Kaplan Chair for Regional Design

With generous support from The J.M. Kaplan Fund, Regional Plan Association has established an endowed chair in honor of Richard Kaplan, our long-serving board member, inspiration and friend. The Richard Kaplan Chair for Regional Design pursues creative, ambitious, innovative research in urban design for the New York metropolitan region as a way to change the narrative and catalyze change. During his long association with RPA, Richard Kaplan infused design, innovation and creative spirit to a host of important projects. The purpose of the Richard Kaplan Chair is to ensure that design always has a seat at the table in thinking through these projects.

Call for applicants for the 2021 Chair

In 2021, the Kaplan Chair will help a coalition of Criminal Justice and Environmental Justice advocates realize what the physical manifestation of a new, Renewable Rikers Island could look like, free of jail use and dedicated to renewable energy infrastructure, wastewater treatment and other green uses. As part of this, a physical vision of the effect of this transformation on the surrounding South Bronx and North Queens waterfront could also be developed. This project will center the goals of environmental justice, racial equity and criminal justice reform, as well as innovative urban and landscape design which could maximize the island’s contribution to New York City.


In February 2021, the New York City Council passed the Renewable Rikers Act,” setting a timeline for closing the island’s jails, transferring its jurisdiction away from the Department of Correction, and studying green infrastructure and other environmental uses for the island.

The charge for the Kaplan Chair for Regional Design in 2021 will be to develop a physical design and planning vision of what a Renewable Rikers Island could look like, as well as possibilities for the surrounding waterfronts as current infrastructure like wastewater treatment plants is shifted to Rikers, and the Bronx jail boat docked near Hunts Point is closed. This vision will be based on the overall consensus of the Renewable Rikers Coalition in terms of uses and possible infrastructure. The steering committee for this project will consist of RPA staff and board, and core members of the Renewable Rikers coalition.

For further information about the Renewable Rikers and the vision for the island see:

In addition, applicants may wish to reference the initial Kaplan Chair project Scalable Design Solutions for NYCHA.”


The Kaplan Chair for Urban Design will be expected to work on this project over the course of 2021 and potentially into 2022. The exact schedule has flexibility and would be determined in partnership with the steering committee, but is expected to have at least some periods of near full-time work. Two to three presentations to the steering committee would be expected, with a final deliverable of a comprehensive and compelling design vision for the island and surrounding waterfront, with an emphasis on visual renderings which can drive public support for a Renewable Rikers Island. A public event at the J. M. Kaplan Fund will be an opportunity to present the Chair’s research product, which would be coordinated with the timing of release of the final project. The Chair will receive a $25,000 stipend and working space at RPA’s offices in downtown Manhattan if desired.


A Masters in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, or Urban Design is required. Five to 10 years of practical experience in urban design or urban architecture is preferred. The Chair should have a history of demonstrated dedication to innovative design solutions to urban problems, respect for communities and people directly impacted by incarceration and a familiarity with the New York City built environment.

Nominations and Process

Kaplan Chair applications should be received by June 1, 2021 and consist of the following:

  • Curriculum Vitae

  • A comprehensive portfolio of previous work

  • A 1 – 2 page description of approaches they would take to the 2021 issue at hand – designing a Renewable Rikers Island

Upon receiving nominations, the steering committee may request further interviews of nominees. A decision as to the 2021 Kaplan Chair is expected in June, with the position to start shortly afterward.

Application form