Tectonic Precedent : Group Three

Territories of Urbanism: Challanges

“Territories of Urbanism: challenges” was a lecture, given by various different professionals, at the Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. The primary focus of discussion was the challenges that the study, and practice of urban planning, city planning, and urban design – collectively “urbanism” is faced with. The following challenges/problems were discussed:

 Urban design historically stems from landscape architecture. It is a new, young realm of study and practice, and is therefore faced with challenges related to the institutionalization and the practice of urban design as a convention. 

 Mobility, the contemporary economy, and ecology are all struggles challenging urban design. Additionally, and fundamentally is the struggle between institutionalization of the study of urban design and the needs we address through practice – the design challenges are the problem, and the institution is still in formation.

Design equity is not currently considered in urban design

o   There is the need to emphasize: equity, democracy, and diversity

o   Equity / justice is not foundational to the activities of designers

o   EX: the new Yankees stadium is nostalgic - it is a success in design terms. It displaced the largest park in the Bronx, which will supposedly be replaced. The local community opposed the building of the stadium, and political members that voted against the project were dismissed form practice. This project represents the injustice that is ignored because of the triumph of design.

·      Urban design is dependent on the sense of architecture (first an architect, than an urban designer)

§  EX: when modernism happened in architecture modern urbanism followed

o   Therefore, architecture and urbanism share an intimate relationship –  architecture influences urban design. The challenge is the current epoch – the format of parametricism ( a style that is rooted in animation techniques, and is based on advanced parametric design.)  it ignores 2 fundamental elements of urban design:

§  The Measure of culture and the question of typology and history

o   Since urbanism follows architecture, and architecture is following a current epoch which denies the fundamentals of urbanism, the challenge is that urbanism is having to become more autonomous and less dependent on architecture. The future effects of this are undetermined.

·      Urbanism has an evolving identity – it is a hybrid project.

·      Currently urban design education is focused on directing human behavior, instead of supporting the multiple identities which characterize the urban landscape.

o   The challenge is to address, accommodate, and address messy urbanism – the places that are shaped by the resistance to status quo (messy and vibrant urban areas)

o   Urbanism should set the stage for other actors who will enrich, modify, improve and characterize designed spaces. 

o   “Remember that a store, is also a store keeper”


I thought it was interesting to hear about what different people thought were the challenges within Urban Design. I agree with the comment that the natural forces and urban identities need to coexist.  I think that this is very important to the success of urban design.  I liked the idea of embracing messy urbanism instead of having all urbanism neat and tidy.