This course explains the origins of urban design theory and practice, from its roots in modernist architectural theory in the 1950s to present-day priorities of “placemaking,” combined with increasingly urgent concerns for sustainability and urban resilience. Building from this conceptual foundation, the course teaches relevant techniques and processes used in the multi-disciplinary practice of urban design today. It charts the rejection of modernist concepts and the reengagement with principles of “traditional urbanism” and focuses on how buildings shape the public realm, relating both to the more intimate scale of urban infill development and the larger scale of community master planning. The course also introduces new skills required in urban design practice – the art of coding the “DNA” of these master plans into zoning documents called Form-based Codes that can orchestrate the implementation of the master plan over an extended period of time.
The course demonstrates how to identify and define contextual influences, how to master techniques for the effective design of public space and infrastructure, and how to integrate these factors into the design process. This enriched approach to architectural design provides the platform for an architecture that is fully engaged with the life and rhythms of cities, communities and neighborhoods, and contributes to our shared task of creating sustainable and resilient cities.
Learning Units: 5 LU/HSW
- The student will understand that the design ideas common to the modernist period of city design, loosely defined as the decades between 1950 and 1980, were based on rejecting the patterns and relationships in traditional cities and replacing them with radical re-imaginings of cities in a “brave new world.”
- The student will learn how current urban design theories and practice are now focused on creating a lively and safe public realm of streets, squares, parks and other public spaces. The student will understand the concept of “frontages” and how building façades create walls to “urban rooms.” To meet these criteria, façade composition needs to take fully into account external contextual responsibilities as well as internally generated programmatic and tectonic concerns.
- The student will understand that the lower levels of urban buildings that interact directly with pedestrians share a primary responsibility towards external public space. A building’s lower stories carry the mandate of creating people-friendly, attractive, and safe outdoor environments. This is especially important in the context of smaller, urban infill design projects.
- The student will understand the most effective process of creating detailed master plans for communities involving design charrettes for maximum public participation This unit will also explain the relationship between these master plans as visionary documents and their implementation on site through the zoning methodology known as “Form-based Codes”.
Course Author: David Walters