FEATURED THIS WEEK : CARL SKELTON
"A city is not a BMW," Carl Skelton writes. "You can't drive it without knowing how it works." He argues that the public needs new tools of citizenship to thrive in a "new soft world" increasingly shaped by smart meters, surveillance cameras, urban informatics and big data. "To be a citizen of a digital city requires understanding what the databases do and don’t contain, and what they could contain, and how the software used to process that data and drive design decisions does, doesn’t, and might yet perform."
"Once great but now peripheral cities are good reminders of globalization’s fickleness," writes Alan Thomas. "Calcutta is one of these, and the breathtaking completeness of its demotion would be hard to match." In a portfolio of recent photographs, Thomas portrays a city that has remained on the fringes of India's boom, and where planning proceeds "as if without a map."
PARTNER NEWS: UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
A new building for the Daniels Faculty at the University of Toronto, designed by NADAAA, will transform an urban landmark into the anchor of a central city design district.
"Urban development has eaten away the clear edges of cities," writes Richard Ingersoll, "leaving ambiguous empty spaces." Ingersoll explores how innovative landscape architects and urbanists are grappling with these "patchy areas," and he proposes an alternative approach he calls "civic agriculture" — the reconceptualization of cities as diverse agricultural zones, from productive parks to allotments, with the ultimate goal of a richer public realm.
Americans are famously conflicted about urban development: somehow we've demonized both sprawl and density. But today there is a new conversation about the future of cities, driven by diversifying social desires, evolving technologies, and pressing environmental constraints. Here Vishaan Chakrabarti contributes a bold argument for hyperdensity. The very dense city, he says, not only promotes prosperity, sustainability and delight; it will also determine our strength as a nation.
ERIC W. SANDERSON
Eric W. Sanderson investigates the physics of human transport (speed and energy cost) and argues that streetcars are the best way to travel. “I know what you’re thinking,” he writes. “Why didn’t they succeed the first time around?” After looking at historical models, he lays out his plan for a modern streetcar revival, supported by municipal investment in urban rail and short-term concession agreements.
TERRY EVANS & ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH
For the past two years, photographer Terry Evans and journalist Elizabeth Farnsworth have been traveling regularly to North Dakota to explore the fracking boom that is transforming the prairie and disrupting the lives of the people who live there. As they found, North Dakotans are struggling to balance the boon of oil-related payrolls with the heartbreak of a ravaged environment.
NEWS FROM DESIGN OBSERVER GROUP SPONSORS
The MFA in Design for Social Innovation prepares students to apply the principles and ethics of social innovation as filters for understanding and as a discipline for engaging with and improving the world through design.
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ETH Zürich, Department of Architecture
The department presents itself as a dynamic structure of complementary teaching and research entities. At the center of this program is didactic, practice-oriented education in design and construction, tied to scientific methodology. It is in the design studios that comprehensive and passionate education in architecture takes place. All activities are characterized by a profound understanding of the past and a forward-facing outlook. Students are encouraged, through stringent and visionary thought, as well as sharp observations, to pursue unconventional approaches in solving complex problems in a cross-disciplinary manner. The affiliated research institutes, the Institute for History and Theory of Architecture, Institute of Technology in Architecture, Network City and Landscape and Institute of Historic Building Research and Conservation, are closely tied to the design studios through the interdisciplinary formulation of assignments. The findings of these institutes contribute to architectural teaching at all levels; their expertise is enhanced by other fields at the ETH Zürich, including the humanities and social and political sciences, as well as material, environmental and engineering sciences.
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Pennsylvania State University, H. Campbell and Eleanor Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
The Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, building on the excellence of our undergraduate professional programs, recognizes that design is a signifier for the great variety of means and methods with which we respond to the world and improve people's living environments. By collaborating with an increasingly diverse range of professionals, communities, and individuals, we (students, alumni, staff, and faculty) aspire to become global citizens participating in the discovery and making of responsible living environments. We are creative and innovative scholars and stewards, with a vision expanding beyond landscapes and buildings. Our future embraces vibrant possibilities, benefiting from our ability to effect new and restored networks, systems and virtualities; exemplary manufacturing models; convivial and resilient environments; intelligent material and technology developments; adaptive ecologies and ecosystems. The programs of the School respond directly to major changes in the world of design. Curricula at both undergraduate and graduate levels should be regularly re-examined and adjusted. They are increasingly technology-based, explicitly interdisciplinary and targeted to new niches in our disciplines at the intersection of green technologies, economics, social and cultural change.
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