Contextual Capacities

Urban analysis, understanding of ‘context,’ and specificity of a place, have long been intrinsic to architectural and urban discourse and practice. Today, this discussion is as relevant as ever, gaining renewed urgency in the face of numerous crises—be they environmental or related to equity and inclusion.

The course will explore the study and analysis of cities, context, and situations to formulate spatial interventions and urban transformations. It does so by examining existing theory and various architectural practices, highlighting the ‘context’ as an environmental, cultural, and social resource in the development and envisioning of spatial interventions.

Moreover, it provides tools for analyzing and understanding urban structures, fabrics, and situations, and for translating these into architectural potentials and spatial imaginaries. It further engages in critical discussions, on how to create meaningful spatial interventions and urban transitions, that can foster more sustainable, livable, and equitable cities.

This seminar’s aim is to establish a method to analyze and use existing urban situations and context as a driver in design development. Students will work in pairs for this assignment, which consists of two parts.

In Part One, they will analyze how the existing context and the analysis hereof can inform spatial interventions by reviewing literature and examining current and past architectural practices. All students will read and discuss the provided literature, with each group responsible for reviewing one text. Additionally, each student group will analyze a contemporary urban design project. The focus is on how existing urban situations influence spatial interventions and designs, exploring the relationship between urban situations and context, concept, and final design. The analysis also addresses the specific tools/methods used in the analysis of urban situations and contexts and in the translation into design concepts. Students also evaluate how the spatial intervention aims to improve the area and express their opinions on its success.

In Part Two, each student group individually analyzes a designated Boston site using tools from Part One. It is crucial to explore various analytical tools across scales and subjects, critically assessing analyses in relation to the case-study area and discussing them in terms of identified potentials for spatial interventions. Based on their analysis, each group will propose a spatial intervention that positively impacts the site and context, addressing aspects such as community building, resilience, connectivity, or housing. The concepts should be presented through diagrams or collages, serving as initial ideas pointing towards the development of design projects.

This course has an irregular schedule. Please see the course syllabus for details.