Urban Design Proseminar

The design practices that deal with Urbanism and Urban Architecture have always lent themselves to a constant evaluation and re-evaluation process. Such a re-examination seems particularly necessary at this point in time. First, it is evident that the paradigms which directed the actions of plans of the 20th century are no longer as relevant and / or have been played out. Second, the city and its projects have a much higher profile presence than ever before. Acknowledging the fact that current theoretical discussions of Urbanism and the city are ambiguous and wide ranging, it is more effective to frame an investigation by classifying the lines of work that are currently being explored in the built environment and focus on an urbanistic debate which departs from a project based discussion of the city. The initial objective of this course is to emphasise the idea of the \’project\’ in urbanism, this one being a fragment of a given scale or one that engages the city as a whole. The following project taxonomy of the current state of the art does not mean that urban design and its architectures are as a whole moving in these directions, but it is evident that certain projects with clear methodological and instrumental specificity have emerged in recent decades. The exploration of these lines of work has resulted in unprecedented but sound forms of intervention that serve as a vehicle for the improvement of the built environment at large.Below is an initial break-up of the most salient lines of work currently being deployed:1. Synthetic Gestures, key buildings with urban synergies; 2. Multiplied Grounds, the large urban artifact as a driver; 3. Tactical Maneuvers, minimum critical mass as a driver; 4. Reconfigured Surfaces; the restructuring of fine-grain open space; 5. Piecemeal Aggregations, the urban project at the intermediate scale; 6. Traditional Views; the revivial approach; 7. Recycling Territories, large landscapes and decentralization; 8. Core Retrofitting, the updating of historic cores; 9. Analog Compositions, rethinking the master plan and its scales; 10. Speculative Procedures, experimental investigations in urbanism.Given the need for a greater \’taxonomy\’ of the current forms of intervention being deployed at present within the built environment, the purpose of this seminar will be to move beyond this initial classification of the ten most salient lines of work or design approaches and locate them within the greater discourses of modern architecture and urbanism. Having acknowledged the ten project lines as highly recognized forms of practice within the contemporary constructed environment, students will be asked to scrutinize each approach within a broader contextual framework. Then construct a well tempered ideological position that resolutely anchors the \’approach\’ in question within a structurally sound professional and theoretical agenda.