Urban Design Studio 1: The Five Borough Studio

Architecture + Urban Design

Summer 2012

Kaja Kühl, coordinator, with Skye Duncan, Earl Jackson, Tricia Martin, Michael Piper + Emily Weidehof, critics, with Julie Marin

Three ambitions guided the first Urban Design Studio: to nurture a design process specific to existing urban environments; to critically consider site and program; and to interrogate the role of Urban Design as serving the public as a client. The studio provided a framework for students to expand their design thinking using New York City and its five boroughs as a laboratory.

For Urban Design, “site” is not a given. Urban Designers must identify and investigate complex, layered contexts, operating at multiple scales, within which urban places are embedded. Similarly, the construction of “program” is essential to the urban designer’s purview; opportunities exist to extend and expand the field for human action and interaction. In this first Urban Design Studio, these explorations were framed by (re)search into the (re)definition of the concept of “infrastructure,” encouraging students to critically investigate and assess the many layers of public systems relevant for constructing transformative urban environments.

Students worked in teams to develop speculative hypotheses for new infrastructures that address the multiple needs of a variety of stakeholders at different scales, embedding their hypothesis in a site-specific design for a particular neighborhood, while impacting the larger scale of the city. Five neighborhoods, one in each borough were given as a testing ground for these speculative new systems. While unique and specific, these areas shared common characteristics. Each contained a substantial amount of public housing challenging students to identify the needs and opportunities for its residents. In addition, each neighborhood was at or near the water’s edge allowing teams to interrogate issues of public access to water, rising sea levels and the future of industrial urban waterfronts. The studio was team-taught. Each of the six critics worked with each of the fifteen teams.

Neighborhoods studied:
Port Morris / The Bronx
Vinegar Hill / Brooklyn
Two Bridges / Lower East Side, Manhattan
Ravenswood / Queens
New Brighton / Staten Island

Aaron Foley, Celine Armstrong, Elham Morovvati, Li Yang + Samarth Das A
Celine Armstrong, Dan Dobson + Jason Guo B
Vanessa Espaillat, Jun Peng + Kyung Sun Park C
Ara Hovsepan, Scott Archer + Wang Gu D/E
Ishita Gaur, Reihaneh Ramezany + Elham Morovvati F
Sagi Golan, Janice Tan + Li Yang G
Kevin Le, Samarth Das + Ruixue Jia H/I
Yuan Ma, Andy Golubitsky, Devanshi Puhorit + Xiaoyun Mao J