Observing is understanding
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Hi! I'm Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman, an urban anthropologist and lecturer from Philadelphia.

As a "professional people-watcher" I can tell the story of a public space - be it a street, park, or plaza - in order to better inform the built environment. It is my belief that through applied anthropology, we can create humanist cities for all. 

I am also so proud to have been included in BBC’s 100 Women list for 2019 for my advocacy on women and girls in our urban environments. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and this important work! It is always a work in progress and we are all better working together to raise awareness.


lindy institute for
Urban innovation

Drexel university
Urban Strategy


Observing is understanding.

If you've ever heard of William H. Whyte, you know what I do on a daily basis. 

"Holly" Whyte was, in many ways, an anthropologist by proxy. He observed how people used the public spaces of New York City and came to some impactful conclusions on behavior in our urban environments.

Through direct observations of how people move through space, interact with the built environment, and socialize with each other (physically, and now digitally), it was possible to improve urban planning and policy to create cities for people. And it still is.

I strive to continue this work wherever I go, constantly observing my surroundings in order to better understand human behavior in cities. When we think of these places as our habitats as a species the city takes on a new meaning.

Through anthropology, evidence-based design, and user experience research, we can work together to create better cities for all people. 


Follow along on Instagram @think_katrina



Profile photo by  Sarajane Bradley . Speaker photo from Velo-City 2019 by  Clotilde Imbert .

Profile photo by Sarajane Bradley. Speaker photo from Velo-City 2019 by Clotilde Imbert.

I think a lot.

As an anthropologist, I'm curious about us - homo sapiens sapiens - and why we behave the way we do in society and spaces.

As an urbanist, I'm passionate about our cities - our unique man-made habitats - and how we can make them better for us mentally and physically.

As an urban anthropologist, I am committed to applying anthropological principles, research methods, and the lessons learned from our collective history to the present day. To this end, I have built my career around the specialization of behavior in public space: observing interactions between people and the built environment in the spaces between buildings. I do this through “spatial ethnographies” of these places.

And as a human being and woman I've also made it my goal to advocate for this shift in thinking - toward a more humanist approach to the building and management of our cities by and for women and girls.

Want to meet for coffee? Start a new project? Commission an expert interview? I'm always open for collaboration or just a conversation. Feel free to send me an email at katrina [at] 

Otherwise, you can find me most often here: