Thom Mayne, Director of SCI-Arc’s MS Design of Cities presents the program’s approach to expanding the limits of architectural design into broader urban and infrastructural problems. The Master of Science in Design of Cities program is a one-year, three-semester program that prompts students to investigate the full depth and drama of contemporary urban phenomena, driven by the understanding that one of the most immediate design problems of the twenty-first century is the organization and construction of cities. Most of the world’s population now lives in cities, resulting in an astonishing and unprecedented process of urbanization on a global scale, the complexity of which has put into question the validity of traditional urban design concepts.
Urban design has been in the past an amorphous practice caught between the bureaucratic and policy-oriented practices of urban planning and the built scales of architecture’s design practices. As such, interrogations of urban design are largely underdefined and methodologies remain in constant flux. In response, the Design of Cities program seeks to clarify the ambiguous mission of urban design by foregrounding design as the primary area of focus, taking a highly experimental approach to questions of design on an urban scale and encouraging students to develop new conceptions of “the city” and its possibilities in an attempt to clarify the future of urbanized life.
This program makes a commitment to the premise that new constituencies and economies can also emerge from innovative design concepts. Against the conventional wisdom that cities are deeply complicated informal networks beyond the reach of any design model, Design of Cities fundamentally believes in the power of the architectural imagination to invent meaningful and sustainable cities for the twenty-first century and beyond.