C L A I R E   N E L S O N

Founder, Urban Consulate


Claire loves introducing people & sharing ideas for better places. Claire does not love: segregation & sprawl.

'“Our destinies are written in the landscapes we shape.”

Claire Nelson is the founder of Urban Consulate, a network of parlors for urban exchange. A 2015 Knight Cities winner, the Consulate has hosted over 200 conversations in Detroit, Philadelphia, New Orleans to bring people together and share ideas for better cities. New communities launching this year.

In Detroit, Claire opened three spaces—Bureau of Urban LivingModel D and Urban Consulate—to connect people who love the city. She co-founded Open City and Declare Detroit to promote civic engagement and a stronger local economy, and served as publisher of Urban Innovation Exchange and Model D, where she highlighted hundreds of urban changemakers in Detroit & across the country.

She has convened several city exchanges & programs, including On the Ground, IdeaLab, The Detroit Story, The Next Big Thing, and the Model D Speaker Series, and hosted conversations in partnership with SXSW, Aspen Institute, StoryCorps, Urban Land Institute, CNU, Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Detroit Innovation Fellowship & more.

In her early Detroit days, Claire worked with Archive Design Studio and Pure Detroit, designed many community campaigns, and served on advisory boards for Hatch Detroit, Invest Detroit Urban Retail Loan Fund and D:hive (now Build Institute). 

Before moving to Detroit in 2002, Claire worked for Van Alen Institute and The Skyscraper Museum in New York City, and The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

At Van Alen Institute, she helped coordinate the Creative Cities: Renewing New York conference just weeks after 9/11. As Director of Development & Special Projects, she contributed to design competitions, exhibitions, forums & publications to advocate for better design in the public realm.

At The Skyscraper Museum, she worked closely with founding director Carol Willis to grow her pop-up exhibitions in historic bank lobbies into a permanent home in Lower Manhattan.

A Chicagoland native, Claire studied Architecture & Urbanism at Smith College and Columbia University with The Shape of Two Cities: New York/Paris Program. In 2014, she was a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome

Her work has been featured in the book For the Love of Cities, The New York Times, USA Today, CityLab, Next City & more. She has presented at TEDxDetroit, Meeting of the Minds, Creative Cities Summit, Knight Cities Summit, Municipal Michigan League, Detroit Policy Conference and Mackinac Policy Conference.

An urban mut, Claire has lived in Brooklyn, Harlem, Gramercy Park, Greenwich Village, Dupont Circle, the Latin Quarter, the French Quarter & the Cass Corridor. She loves them all.

She currently splits time between New Orleans & Detroit.

T A L K S & I N T E R V I E W S

TEDxDetroit (2014)

Change & The City (2016)

Creative Exchange (2016)

Creative Exchange (2016)

Michigan Municipal League (2015)