urban design seminar

urban design seminar: contexts

students in this course studied context in broadest sense of the word: the milieu in which designers think, work and construct. therefore, students discussed and analyzed the physical, conceptual, social, economic and historic contexts in order to understand the links of the future, the present and the past. a critical aspect of this course was the students' awareness and their ability articulate that awareness in analysis of and design built form.

design is a process of creative problem solving that is, in the terms of chaos theory, "sensitive to initial conditions". in architectural and urban design, those initial conditions include the complete and accurate definition of the problem and the conditions that the project exists within, including the future conditions that will exist as a result of our actions. when applied to design, intuition is a rational decision making process that is so complex that it cannot completely be described in words.

seminar structure: discussions and exercises

the seminar alternated between reading discussions and exercises. a typical two-week schedule on a specific theme or topic would include a presentation by the instructor, a student-directed discussion of assigned readings and a workshop that would explore the topic's reciprocal analytic and synthetic implications. the workshops were, most often, concise studies that allowed the students to connect theory to design.

topics

• contexts: seeking definitions

• the contexts in context

• improvisational interaction / yes, and...

• niche tactics

• site and situation

• collaboration as contexts

• contextualism in other fields

• urban design inferring intentions

exercise: yes, and...

improv exercises helped students develop a "comfort" with unexpected, to help them listen to given situations (and others) and, most importantly, contribute to situations. i didn't take photographs of this...regretfully. look up "improv theater" warm up exercises and you'll get the idea.

exercise: mimic (individual)

in this exercise students (working individually) were asked to deliberately mimic a given situation so much so that the final result would be indistinguishable from the existing context. the intention was to "listen" to the context around them and let go of their ego. students were given an urban plan in which the instructor removed a portion of the urban fabric. students did not know what was removed or the city plan that they were mending. they were asked to "mend the fabric" with a seamless patch. when they completed the exercise and pinned up the results, the instructor showed the city plan as it exists and led a discussion about the solutions.

city plan: partially redacted (it's salzburg, austria btw)

exercise: infer / imply (teams/ consecutively)

in this exercise students (working in teams but each student taking turns and without speaking so that only the drawings implied intention) were asked to agree and contribute (yes, and...) to givens. working in succession, the students would, as a group, create a cohesive design solution. the first student in the group would respond /contribute and then pass what they had added to a colleague. this second student would then respond/contribute to the situation and so forth. variations included "speaking" (using words and drawings). the intention was three-fold: develop the ability to infer intentions, to build upon a given situation through careful listening and develop the ability to allow the overall design to evolve without ego domination.

exercise: infer / imply (teams/ simultaneously)

in this exercise students (working in teams and simultaneously -- talking and drawing together) were asked to agree and contribute (yes, and...) to givens. working together the students would, as a group, create a cohesive design solution. the first student in the group would respond /contribute and then pass what they had added to a colleague.

city plan: partially redacted

team 1's repair

team 2's repair

city plan (nancy, france): as it actually exists

case studies

in this final project of the semester, teams of students analyzed a building's response to varied contexts-- from physical to intangible--often producing more speculative diagrams. these speculations helped students explore varied ways to articulate what might otherwise be in impossible to see or clearly distinguish.