Contemporary Urban Design Education – Part 2



Lecture date: 2016-02-10

The symposium brings together urban educators to discuss how new practices and research have changed urban design conventions and disciplinary assumptions. This is a discussion not only important to urban researchers, but all architects involved in the different scales of designing the built environment.

While the term ‘urban design’ originates from a conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1956, this was not the first time that the urban was defined as a problem arising between planning and design. Ildefons Cerdà already recognised this a century earlier when coining the term ‘urbanisation’. Also, rather than considering urban design as an academic field with practical orientation that operates between architecture, landscape architecture and planning as an inter-, intra, multi- or cross-disciplinary practice, what if its value is not a management of differences, but the instrumentalisation of conflicts?

The resurgence of urban design education and research is only partially explained by global urbanisation, or the failure of other design disciplines to make meaningful claims to ‘urbanism’. Contemporary urban research challenges the commonly held belief that the urban requires a homogenising intervention and process. The approach of unifying the urban through ideas of place-making, nostalgia for past public spaces, or the codification of ‘good’ urban form is no longer tenable. Instead, richer multi-scalar design research enquiries are emerging, which, for example, make a simultaneous consideration of domesticity, typology, morphology, infrastructure and territory possible. A particular strength of urban design hereby is a framing of abstract contexts such as policy, legal frameworks and planning through considerations of specific constituencies, urban plans, design frameworks, design proposals and physical implementation.

The symposium seeks to clarify how teaching and research methodologies can have a relevance and impact on urban practices and design.

‘Propositions for Urban Design Research’, Dr Sam Jacoby (AA)

‘Architecture of Territory’, Prof Milica Topalovic (ETH)

Sam Jacoby is a chartered architect with an AA Diploma and a doctorate from the Technical University of Berlin. Jacoby has worked for architectural and planning offices in the UK, USA and Malaysia. He has taught at the AA since 2002 and is currently the director of the Projective Cities programme.

Milica Topalovic is Assistant Professor of Architecture and Territorial Planning at the ETH Department of Architecture. From 2011-15 she held research professorship at the ETH Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore, studying the relationship between a city and its hinterland. In 2006 she joined the ETH as head of research at Studio Basel Contemporary City Institute and the professorial chairs held by Diener and Meili, where she taught research studios on cities and on territories such as Hong Kong and the Nile Valley. Milica graduated with distinction from the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade and received a Master’s degree from the Berlage Institute for her thesis on Belgrade’s post-socialist urban transformation. Since 2000, she worked on projects in different spatial scales and visual media. With Studio Basel she authored and edited Belgrade. Formal / Informal: A Research on Urban Transformation, and The Inevitable Specificity of Cities.

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