Professor Skyscraper

“In a denser city, in a more complicated city, how do you find people who know how to make value?” Mr. Chakrabarti said of his charge at the school. “It’s a tradesmanlike act: figuring out what things you can do to create more value from a site.

“That’s what I think we can teach in a way that just didn’t exist before in the marketplace, because it’s really about value creation where your peers don’t see that value.”

This is no easy task.

In recruiting, developers, who generally have more of an eye for revenue than for design, tend to look to the halls of business schools, and Columbia’s development program doesn’t typically jump to the top of the list, development executives say.

The program is within the architecture school-developers and architects historically clash over differing motives, though not always-which makes it rather unique in the world of academia, but also something of an outlier. (N.Y.U. just brought in a new chair of its real estate program, Jim Stuckey, a former city official and executive at Forest City Ratner.)

A big question for Mr. Chakrabarti’s observers is whether this is a long-term gig, or simply a way station as the ambitious planner-turned-developer-turned-academic again reaches for a large role in New York’s development.

“Long term, I think Vishaan has always managed to find himself in great places,” said T. J. Gottesdiener, Skidmore’s managing partner and a former colleague. “Someday Vishaan might be running the city in some way.”

Professor Skyscraper