University of Calgary

Larissa Muller

  • Associate Professor

Currently On Leave

On Approved Leave from September 1, 2014 - August 31, 2017 

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


BSc (Math), MEDes, PhD

Personal Statement

I bring to my teaching and research over a decade of professional consulting and academic research experience in urban regional development. I have authored numerous national policy reports and studies on economic development planning, urban environmental management, water resources management, and urbanization dynamics, as well as a number of academic publications. My clients have included: think tanks such as the Public Policy Institute of California; international organizations such as the World Bank and ESCAP; national government agencies including the State Development Reform Commission of China, the National Academy of Science of China, and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment and the National Economic and Social Development Board of Thailand; European bilateral development agencies such as DANCED; local governments, such as the City of Calgary; as well as private corporations in Asia, Europe and North America.

My interests are in urban and regional economic policy, urban infrastructure and services, sustainable cities, urban and peri-urban spatial dynamics, and strategic planning. My most recent research deals with urbanization dynamics in China and fast growing cities in North America (and their environmental and social impacts), post-industrial service economies and strategies, and the relationship between land use, infrastructure, sustainability and competitiveness.

I am currently writing a book on comparative Chinese urbanization. Over the last decade, I have worked in a number of Chinese cities, assessing their economic structure, spatial structure and development potential and suggesting appropriate key actions to move to a higher level of development and sustainability. I have advised the Shui On Corporation of Hong Kong, a private developer, on developing innovative and city-transforming projects across China, frequently incorporating heritage resources and TOD designs that fuse a myriad of global influences.

I have been researching land use planning roles and responses to address environmental and economic development issues.  Recently, I was invited to develop an online course on land use, sustainability and competitiveness for the World Bank Institute, with a focus on developing country cities. I have been involved in several studies that examine approaches for overcoming siting issues related to necessary and broadly supported, yet locally opposed, infrastructure and services, such as green energy production and homeless shelters.  On a somewhat related topic, I am also working with the Faculty of Social Work on a study to strengthen community and social services for recent immigrants to Calgary.

Peri-urbanization dynamics, in both developed and developing city regions, is another of my research interests. My past research includes a comparative study, as part of the Urban Dynamics of East Asia group at Stanford University, of peri-urbanization dynamics in fast growing cities in China, Thailand, and the Philippines, which focuses on the spatial outcomes, rural-urban land use conversion, environmental impacts, and social adaptation associated with rapid change on the urban fringe. Currently, I am commencing research into rurbanism and agricultural/ranch tourism as a mechanism for protecting critical landscapes and avoiding overdevelopment in the Rocky Mountain Foothills Region.

Last, but not least, I am interested in post-industrial economies. Recently, I completed a study of best practices in Urban Economic Development Strategies in cities in Canada, US, Europe and Asia. The research identified important factors of success, common components and trends, as well as key actors, structures, and processes involved in formulating transformative economic strategies. The study built on earlier research I conducted while writing a guide to formulating city development strategies for the Cities Alliance. I recently authored several articles on the cultural economy in China, and am researching the rapid development, economic structure, and vulnerability of new western cities (e.g., Calgary, Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Tucson). This latest work builds on some of my earlier research on innovation and creativity in professional service and high-tech industries which examined both the socio-economic and spatial impacts of investment and innovation in these industries, as well as the relationship between regional development and investments by multinationals in developing countries.

Because many of our EVDS graduates will be practitioners, learning and research should be linked to real development issues that have relevance to public policies, to communities, and to private and non-governmental actors at local, national, and international levels. An understanding of urban regional systems is best achieved through comparative analysis. Comparative analysis offers the best lens to analyze and assess the highly complex dynamics and outcomes of interventions in urban economic and spatial systems. Thus, my courses tend to be organized around comparative case studies, and where possible, projects in the community where students can gain hands-on experience. Secondly, all environmental design problems are wicked problems, with complex interdependencies, so my teaching emphasizes a systems approach, focusing on drivers, underlying processes and interrelationships. I adhere to the philosophy that there is no one or final solutions, only better or worse ones, and that each problem context is unique, and must be understood in order to develop an effective design solution.

Selected Work

  • MacLeod, Douglas, Larissa Muller, David Covo and Richard Levy. Design as an Instrument of Public Policy. Chapter in Paola Poletti and Philip Beesley (eds) Ourtopias. Riverside Architectural Press. 2008
  • Webster, D., J. Cai, L. Muller, and F. Zhang. Creating a World Class Amenity Corridor in Yunnan. Commissioned Report prepared for the Provincial Government of Yunnan and the Shui On Corporation, Shanghai. March 2008.
  • Webster, Douglas. and Larissa Muller. Guide to City Development Strategies: Improving City Performance. Washington DC: City Alliance. 2006
  • Webster, D., J. Cai, L. Muller, and Z. Yang. Proposed Lashihai Development: Socio-economic Impacts and Recommendations in the Context of New Countryside Construction Programming. Commissioned Report prepared for the Municipal Government of Wuhan and the Shui On Corporation, Shanghai. November 2007.*
  • Kuzmak, N, A. George, L. Smith, B. Abrams Reid, C. Walsh, G. Rutherford, L. Muller. Home: Perspectives of Women who are Homeless. Final Report. People & Place Initiative. October 2007.
  • Arienzo, Mimosa, Larissa Muller, and David Este, and. Strengthening Social Services for Immigrants in Calgary. Final Research Report - Phase I. U of C People & Place Initiative & Calgary Foundation Community Grants Program. June 2007
  • Muller, Larissa. City Economic Development Best Practices. Commissioned Report to The City of Calgary, March 2007.
  • Webster, D., J. Cai, L. Muller, F. Zhang, T. Qu. Qingdao Reclaims its Past: Revitalization of the Historic Core. Commissioned Report prepared for the Municipal Government of Qingdao and the Shui On Corporation, Shanghai. November 2006.
  • Webster, D., J. Cai, and L. Muller. Chengdu: A World Class Downtown for a Creative Global City. Commissioned Report prepared for the Municipal Government of Chengdu and the Shui On Shanghai, Hong Kong. March 2006.
  • Muller, Larissa and AnnaLee Saxenian. American Tech Investment in Southeast Asia: Drivers, Impacts and Policy Implications. Final Project Research Report commissioned by Floyd Kvamme. University of California Berkeley. 2005
  • Muller, Larissa. Localizing International Investment: The advertising Industry in Southeast Asia. Chapter 7 in T. Hutton, P. Daniels and K.C. Ho (eds), Service Industries and Asia-Pacific Cities: New Development Trajectories. London, Routledge. 2004.
  • Webster, Douglas and Larissa Muller. The Challenges of Periurban Growth: The Case of China's Hangzhou-Ningbo Corridor, in M. Freire and B.Yuen (eds), Enhancing Urban Management in East Asia, London: Ashgate, 2004
  • Webster, Douglas and Larissa Muller. Peri-Urbanization: Zones of Rural-Urban Transition, in S. Sassen and P. Marcotullio (eds), Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), Paris: UNESCO, 2004
  • Webster, D., J. Cai, and L. Muller, B. Luo. Peri-Urbanization in Chengdu, Western China: From Third Line to Market Dynamics. Monograph, The Urban Dynamics of East Asia Series, Asia/Pacific Research Center, Stanford: Stanford University, Octoeber 2003
  • Webster, D., J. Cai, and L. Muller, B. Luo. Emerging Third Stage Peri-Urbanization: Functional Specialization in the Hangzhou Peri-Urban. Monograph, The Urban Dynamics of East Asia Series, Asia/Pacific Research Center, Stanford: Stanford University, 2002
  • Webster, Douglas, and Larissa Muller. Bangkok, in L. Beckel (ed), Megacities Geospace, European Space Agency, 2002
  • Webster, Douglas and Larissa Muller. Urban Competitiveness Assessment in Developing Country Urban Regions: The Road Forward. Paper prepared for the Urban Group, INFUD, World Bank. Washington, DC: The World Bank. 2000.
Powered by UNITIS. More features.