Michael Dobbins, FACIP, FAIA


Professor of the Practice, School of City and Regional Planning
(404) 385-4243

View Dobbins's C.V.


Professor of the Practice Dobbins, formerly Commissioner of Planning and Community Development for the City of Atlanta, participates in and contributes to a variety of planning, urban design, and transportation dialogues in organizations at the local, regional, and national levels. Their focus is to better integrate housing and job choice with transportation and economic development investment in a manner that responds to community aspirations for a better quality of life and civic environment and that encourages place-making partners to conceptualize more equitable and livable futures.

He teaches courses in urban design policy and implementation and freehand drawing for planners as well as studios in the Schools City and Regional Planning and Architecture. In his teaching, he promotes design as a crucial component among all those disciplines that together develop the policy, programming, design, and implementation of urban places. He encourages putting design tools in the hands of neighborhoods, business districts, developers, and local governments to bring about positive change in land use, transportation, and environmental planning and design. He relates design guidance to the regulatory and financing frameworks that carry out municipal development.

His new book on urban design, Urban Design and People, published by John Wiley and Sons in April of 2009, is directed at all with an interest in improving their civic environment. For students, it is a comprehensive text on the theory and practice of urban design and development. For citizens, it is a guide for how to assure that design and development initiatives get done in a way to leave things better than they were before. And for urban design and development practitioners, it is an exhortation to collaborate across the expertise and the “turf” of all those disciplines necessary to get the job done.

Before coming to Atlanta in 1996, Dobbins practiced for 30 years, mostly as a public sector planning and urban design administrator, in New York, New Orleans, Birmingham, and Berkeley. He has taught part-time at Columbia, Tulane, Birmingham Southern, and University of California at Berkeley before coming to Atlanta, and subsequently joined the faculty at Georgia Tech 2002. Dobbins is a registered architect in Georgia and California and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He is a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards; the American Planning Association; the American Institute of Certified Planners; the Urban Land Institute; and the Congress for The New Urbanism. Through the years, he has been active in these organizations at the local and national levels. Through these and independently he has served communities and organizations around the country as a planning and design advisor, most recently as a member of the selection committee for the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence in 2009.

Educational Background

1965 - M. Arch., Yale University

1960 - B.A. (Architecture), Yale University


Urban Design and Architecture

Planning Regulation and Administration

Citizen Advocacy

Interdisciplinary Collaboration



Research and Practice Ambitions

Application of the design disciplines for the betterment of the civic environment, both visually and functionally

Engaging citizen resources to identify positive outcomes for development initiative activities, public and private

Improvement of the regulatory frameworks that direct the development of the civic and private environment

Bridging disciplines within academia and in practice

Bridging the academy with the local community and government

Recent Publications

Dobbins, M. (2009). Urban Design and People, an urban design text, John Wiley and Sons

Dobbins, M. (2009). A Hope Program for Georgia Transportation. GONSO (Georgia Online New Service Organization), subsequently The Georgia Engineer

Dobbins, M. (2009). Georgia Transportation – A One-state Solution? Saportareport.com

Dobbins, M. (2005). Focusing Growth and Sprawl: Atlanta’s Livable Centers Initiative. Places



Recent Courses

CP 6834 /ARCH 6603 | Urban Design Policy and Implementation. This three hour course focuses on the policy frameworks that determine how the civic environment looks and functions and what it takes to improve on current practices. Along with Introduction to Urban Design, taught by Architecture professor Richard Dagenhart, the two courses are required for the urban design specialization. They may be taken in either order.

CP 8881 Freehand Drawing for Planners | This one hour course orients students toward recording, analyzing, conceptualizing and representing by hand information common to planning practice.

CP 6052 Planning Studio | This four hour course in the Masters core typically addresses the need for developing a community-driven visioning and framework planning effort. The studio calls on students to apply their knowledge to real time situations, learning from and working with community and governmental representatives and each other in both individual and team capacities.

Recent Theses and Masters Research Papers Supervised:

Helen Gordon, 2009

James Wagner (joint thesis in Civil and Environmental Engineering), 2009

Maureen Tighe, 2009

Nathan Lawrence, 2009

Alison Rae Smith, (joint thesis in Architecture), 2009

Sarah Smith (joint thesis in Architecture), 2009

Jared Yarsevich, 2009

Jerry Hsu, 2008