4.163J / 11.332J
Urban Design Studio — The Power of Design and the Design of Power: Equitable Urban Typologies Challenge

Permission of instructor
Required of: 
SMArchS (design)

Schedule: T-TH 1-6PM (with modifications on Zoom for those living in different time zones: studio will be taught as hybrid with limited, voluntary in-person meetings)

Throughout its history, Urban Design (and allied design disciplines with a capital “D”) has been the practice of a privileged few. And as a manifestation of power urban design has assisted in translating client(s) desires to control the city through the shaping of the objects and buildings, voids and landscapes, and infrastructural networks. Moreover, our accumulated urbanity parallels the constructions of cultural narratives and a supposed collective memory, reflected through what a society chooses to build and preserve, erasing and destroy. Within the context of the American city, the protocols and processes through which cities are shaped, and their constituent urban elements and symbols, have served a world view of the parties in charge of the process, often not the majority of those affected by decisions. We acknowledge in this studio that Urban Design and its allied fields often fortify exclusivity over the process of city making, despite wildly optimistic claims of participatory process—which still must be translated into physical form by “D”esigners.

This studio seeks to challenge both the inherent and historic inequalities and exclusions which Urban Design entails as a discipline by asking the most critical and broadest of questions, yet demanding that physical plans—novel and radical typologies of equity— be produced as the result of the process. Whether visionary and futuristic, or quickly implementable, we require that these new typologies challenge the way the city is designed. Focusing on the question of agency, and while acknowledging the growing role of communal participation, we do not necessarily propose to discard the role of any allied fields as professional agents in creating and negotiating solutions at the urban scale. Rather, with a belief in the unique value of the urban designer, this studio asks students to develop new equitable typologies for a site within metro Boston that disrupts the decision-making inequities that persist in making the same old built forms and typologies. Can a new set of urban design agendas and professional skills emerge from pushing for more equitable urban forms?

Through a series of exercises, students will first analyze specific case studies of American cities, through the lens of social, racial and environmental justice, and discrimination in order to expose and ‘dismantle’ conventions of urban design and planning. The second part of the studio will focus on a site in metro Boston where students will work with an outside client to design new equitable typologies, while considering the physical design of buildings, landscape, and infrastructure.