In the last few iterations of this seminar, we have started to extend our skillset as designers of the built environment to outside of our immediate expertise. The world we live in today is interrelated and complex, and the built environment at any scale cannot ignore its role as the critical hub of emergent issues. In the last several years we have experienced a number of natural, financial, and political crises. The increased frequency of crisis is exasperated by the interdependence of a multitude of issues, and we as the custodians of the environment cannot ignore the need to understand this relationship.
It has become fashionable to use the word \”architecture\” to give certain credibility to the stability of complex systems within policy, economics, and finance. The true capacity of architecture enables the embrace of complexity within its inclusive system of integration, its cross-disciplinary structure, its communication of feedback, and its collaborative work model dependent on the co-existence of multiple stakeholders.
This year I would like to propose a focus on the global interrelationship between urban and rural communities. Most recently, emphasis has been placed on the rapid growth of urban centers: currently, over 50% of the world’s population resides in urban centers, and by 2025, approximately 70% will. The abandonment of rural areas for the opportunities of urban life has devalued the importance of rural communities as producers of food and custodians of natural resources. Climate change, resource shortage, and political instability have only come to emphasize this population imbalance.
More recently through the studio topic \”Itinerant Architecture,\” I have begun to understand a new architectural typology for post-disaster communities that bridges between rescue and reconstruction. The concept of sustainability, now a given practice norm, is shifting to encompass the resiliency of the built environment. How can our environment withstand disasters? How flexible, accessible, and inclusive can it be, and how can it perform multiple functions at multiple scales? New standards of planning need to be created – ones that include traditional visible elements but also includes invisible infrastructure, both manmade and natural, as systems for social cohesion.
This seminar, conducted twice before with different foci, aims to ambitiously tackle global issues with systemic thinking, embracing the unique skills of the design discipline to identify and analyze complex problems through keen and detailed observation. With imagination, we will synthesize and test new models through the creation of narratives and prototypes.
First, we will look specifically at global issues, identifying interrelationships and blind spots between critical subjects. Secondly, each city and each community operates on a completely different system, contributing to a unique sense of place. In this seminar, each student will identify a place and analyze how it interrelates to global issues through the identification of current and future issues. The final project will be a systems model, part narrative and part prototype, that demonstrates how one can propose to make the place resilient for its future.
From past experience, this seminar creates a successful and productive platform for dialogue between different disciplines of our school – architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, and various concentrations of MDes programs.