Dr. Goethert is internationally recognized in physical planning and upgrading of low-income settlements, in physical design and in participatory technique in urban development. His broad range of interests are driven by the challenges resulting from rapidly growing urban areas, with particular focus on Third World cities. He champions inclusive policies for the informal energy of the vast unauthorized building which is defining city growth and confronting urban development and control, and explores innovative approaches to policies, spatial planning, training, with focus on inclusive urban policies addressing poverty issues.
He teaches courses on urbanization, design, and housing in developing countries and is director of SIGUS (Special Interest Group in Urban Settlement), a school-wide program focused on the profession and housing. The program received the American Institute of Architects Education Honors in 1989. As sole designer or in partnership, Goethert has designed ‘site and services’ housing developments in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. He has served as a consultant to international development agencies, including The World Bank, InterAmerican Development Bank, US Agency for International Development, German Technical Cooperation Agency, United Nations Center for Housing, United Nations Children's Fund, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and World Health Organization, and to numerous housing ministries. He is founder and coordinating secretariat for the newly formed “Global University Consortium Exploring Incremental Housing.”
Much of his approach is documented in URBANIZATION PRIMER, with Horacio Caminos (MIT Press, 1978), and MAKING MICRO PLANS: A Community Based Process in Programming and Development, with Nabeel Hamdi (Intermediate Technology Publications, 1988). A book ACTION PLANNING FOR CITIES: A PRACTICAL GUIDE, (with Nabeel Hamdi) John Wiley & Sons Press, focuses on participatory community development, drawing on extensive case studies from around the world and is available in English and Chinese. His extensive international experience on urban upgrading was expanded through extensive research by a team lead by Goethert and distributed by web site and CD, with funding by the World Bank, the Cities Alliance, and DFID, UPGRADING URBAN COMMUNITIES: A RESOURCE FOR PRACTITIONERS. His experience has lead to further web site/CD portals on a 'toolkit for water and sanitation in Africa' commissioned by the Water Utility Partnership of Africa.
He is Principal Research Associate in the School of Architecture and Planning at the MIT. He received his B.Arch. at the North Carolina State University, his M. Arch. at MIT, and a doctorate in city and regional planning from the Rheinisch-Westfälische-Technische Hochschule (Dr.-Ing.) in Aachen, West Germany, where he received the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Preis for outstanding thesis on the informal development sector of Cairo. In October 1997, Dr. Goethert was named recipient of the international award, the United Nations Habitat Scroll of Honour for "outstanding contributions in the development of innovative methodologies, training and field practice in Community Action Planning."
His current focus is in three interlinked areas: incremental housing strategies and spatial land development of rapidly growing cities, rebuilding after disasters, and exploratory research using drones in planning and disaster monitoring, innovative solar energy capture in an ‘electric city’ frame, and innovative building design for mountain-constrained city growth.