Transformative Urbanism in a Southern California Suburban Context

Traditionally a location for ranching and farming, for the past50 years Orange County, California has been home to innovations in recreation, sports, master-planned communities and, since 1942, the site of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. The Base, an integral component of the regional economy was where thousands of military personnel, their families and others lived, worked and made their homes. In 1999, the Base was closed and in 2005, Heritage Fields, LLC was the successful bidder for the nearly 4000 acre site. Planning is now underway for its redevelopment. The developers are interested in creating a community that is both environmentally sustainable and economically viable. They also view this as an exceptional opportunity to offer a contrast to the traditional suburban patterns and forms that characterize Orange County and many other communities like it. Their goal and the goal of this studio is to explore through innovative urban design, landscape design, architecture and planning, ways to create a sense of place and authenticity that will distinguish Irvine as a unique community in Southern California. The current planners are already exploring concepts that include a signature \”great park,\” innovations in landscape design and green building practices. The developers would also like to stretch the envelope beyond primarily historic and traditional styles of residential architecture and the \”village\” formula that characterizes so much of the surrounding areas. The sponsors of the studio are encouraging further exploration and testing of their initial planning precepts, including revisiting and reshaping the initial design brief. The studio will address this project at multiple levels ranging from regional planning, market and environmental considerations to sub-area design and the design of discrete building and landscape typologies.The studio will be assertively inter-disciplinary in its approach. Consequently, students from all programs are invited to participate. Although various studio tasks will be conducted in teams, the problem is sufficiently broad, such that there will be many opportunities for individual exploration of finite issues. There will be a site visit paid for by the sponsors. Although this is an academic exercise, there are real constraints programmatically and physically that will enrich the project and demand creative responses.The ultimate goal of the studio is to use the framework of a real development project as a laboratory for generating new dialog around 21st century concepts of urbanism.