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Advanced Urban Design

Course Description

This 7-week intensive, advanced urban design course will focus on a new housing typology—the multifamily, micro unit building—and its urban design implications. While the design of the micro units, the buildings in which they are located, and the construction technologies used to build them have generated a great deal of interest in the architecture and real estate communities, the urban designers have been largely silent. And yet, it is precisely because of certain negative effects on the urban realm that some cities, such as Seattle, have passed legislation (2014) limiting these types of new residential buildings and requiring more design reviews. This course will research, analyze, and make specific design recommendations for future developments of micro unit buildings with the explicit goal of enhancing the neighborhoods and cities where they are located.

Cities such as Boston, Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, provide important case studies for this course, as each of these cities already has multiple, fully-occupied, micro unit buildings. New York City offers its own, more limited built examples—one is a new building, another is adaptive reuse. In New York, the architecture/development team for the new building required a mayoral override of existing zoning requirements to develop the city’s first micro unit building, Carmel Place, whose first residents occupied their apartments just last year, in 2016. The same year, the office sharing company, WeWork, launched its own version of micro dwelling units in lower Manhattan, called WeLive. Field trips to relevant building sites, combined with guest lectures with recognized experts in this emerging field, will supplement our course.

This new housing typology produces ripple effects throughout the urban realm, some of which are now just being seen. These new buildings or retrofits must engage, by necessity, the many systems that already structure urban life in New York City. But, at the same time, these new buildings can create opportunities by “connecting the dots” between seemingly separate systems. While traditional urban design might focus first on streets and buildings and the connective spaces between them, this class will also explore the design of urban systems. Whether we look at familiar systems, such as transportation, parking, minimum room sizes, and zoning, or other less, evident systems, such as water, electricity, waste, or telecommunications, the class will take as its challenge an understanding of all these systems as “urban design” that can be affected by strategic interventions. The aim of this advanced urban design course is to produce a set of new ideas, action items, physical improvements, and ultimately, design proposals.


URPL-GP 1620

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