The Studio assumes the theoretical background that considers Urban design to be part art, part technical and part socio-political. As such, the practice of urban design is underpinned by academic knowledge in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences. This means it is grounded in what we know about the world as it is (hence the need for scientific and technical understanding), but it also needs to understand the world as it could be. The latter brings the responsibility to be aware of the socio-political dimension of urban design: who were are designing for, and why - as well as the opportunity for novelty and experimentation.
These considerations come together in the interpretation of place. Place embodies not only the physical environment but also relates to the human use of space and its meaning. As such the urban designer is not simply a manipulator of three-dimensional urban geometry, but must understand how a given space relates to other spaces and to the wider physical and human geography, including through time. Urban design becomes the art of making place.
The Studio aims to enrich the understanding and application of urban design by exploring theories of form, design and place in the context of a specific site and situation. This understands urban design as a specific kind of place-making activity involving not only urban form and function but place, which relates to the human dimension of cities. The workshop aims to explore how to conduct urban design consciously as an art of place-making, informed by a range of theories from art, science and social science, as well as practical site observation and morphological context. As a result the students – already well equipped to handle the geometric manipulation of three dimensional space – should gain a deeper understanding of place to create more satisfying site-specific solutions.
Students will be encouraged to draw from the work of urban design theorists whose work relates to place, whether classics such as Kevin Lynch’s Image of the City (1961) or Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language (1977), but always learning from the most up to date developments in cognition of place, urban typology, morphology, etc.. They will also be invited to consider the application or adaptation of classic theories linking the morphological/typological approach to architecture and landscape architecture to urban design (e.g. Caniggia and Maffei, 2001; Unwin, 2003; Kellert et al, 2011; Von Meiss, 2013); or other contemporary approaches to urban design (e.g. Romice et al, 2017).
Students will be asked to takle a “real world” problem in a particular place, working to a given brief as urban designers. They will study a particular location, understand it as an existing place, its problems and opportunities; including understanding both the physical morphology and the people who use it (currently and in future) and who have a real-world responsibility for its ongoing use and management (e.g. municipality). They will explore, develop and adapt urban design principles to help guide the development of a particular location, along lines that should also be sufficiently robust and coherent to be applied elsewhere. Such design principles should be workable ‘here and now’ while also being in principle adaptable in future – as we might expect of any urban evolutionary process.
The chosen site will be inside or very near the city of Piacenza, in order to allow direct experience and knowledge.
Alexander, C. Ishikawa, S., Silverstein, M., Jacobson, M., Fiksdahl-King, I. & Angel, S. (1977). A pattern language: towns, buildings, construction. Oxford university press.
Caniggia, G., & Maffei, G. L. (2001).Architectural composition and building typology: interpreting basic building. AlineaEditrice.
Kellert, S. R., Heerwagen, J., &Mador, M. (2011). Biophilic design: the theory, science and practice of bringing buildings to life. John Wiley & Sons.
Lynch, K. (1960). The image of the city. MIT press.
Marshall, S. (2009). Cities, design and evolution. Routledge.
Marshall, S. (2012). Science, pseudo-science and urban design. Urban Design International, 17(4), 257-271.
Marshall, S. (2015). Refocusing urban design as an integrative art of place. Proceedings of the ICE-Urban Design and Planning, 168(1), 8-18.
Marshall, S. (2016). The kind of art urban design is. Journal of Urban Design, 21(4), 399-423.
Romice, O., Porta, S., Feliciotti, A., & Barbour, G. (2017). Masterplanning for change: Design as a way to create the conditions for time sensitive place-making. Placemaking: Rethinking the Masterplanning Process. London: ICE Publisher, 195-207.
Unwin, S. (2003). Analysing architecture.Psychology Press.
Von Meiss, P. (2013). Elements of architecture: from form to place. Routledge.