Urban Design Studio 2007-2008
The urban design studio undertook three projects in 2007 – 2008. The first of these was the annual Urbanagram, a collective exercise to rapidly design and analyze a large urban fragment. The Urbanagram is a rule-driven construction that simulates certain “real world” constraints and obliges its builders to increasing levels of cooperative decision-making. On completion, the object is “enhanced” by each participant to investigate the limits of its character and possibilities.
Our second project was, as always, for New York City and we looked at double site: the West Side rail yards in Manhattan and the Sunnyside yards in Queens, two of the largest undeveloped swaths of land in the city. The links between them are both literal – via rail tunnels – and conceptual. It was proposed that many of the problems of the West Side – the expansion of the Javits Center and the location of other very large objects – might be best served by development elsewhere Sunnyside suggested itself for its extent, its connectedness, and its pivotal relationship to what is hoped will be a fourth “downtown” for the city. Projects included investigations of extreme density, high degrees of environmental autonomy, and construction of an inhabited mountain range.
In the spring semester we took our annual trip, this time to Wuhan, China. Working in collaboration with Wuhan University and the Landscape Architecture program, we researched strategies for the amelioration and growth of the historic core of the city, a former Treaty Port. In particular, we examined the way in which a sustainable infrastructure could be inscribed in the city fabric and at forms and means for retaining and expanding a threatened historic building type, the “Li Fen” which in its scale, density, and character offers a model prototype of community-conducing urban living. Many approaches were developed, including several large-scale propositions focusing on the the Yangtze riverfront and more lapidary investigations of neighborhood renewal.