Summer 2017 Urban Design Semester in Review
From the Director

Summer 2017 has been fun and productive for the Urban Design program. We have advanced our teaching and research themes of community engagement, design for climate change, and social justice in many ways – read on and enjoy our program updates, faculty news, and lectures and events.

Fifty-three accomplished students joined us this semester, and they hail from many countries, including Ecuador, China, Jordan, Mexico, Thailand, Taiwan, UAE, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and others. We are excited to work with the MSAUD class of 2018!

Thank you to all who came to the UD Sessions symposium and reception on July 17th. The event explored the expanded field of Urban Design through the lens of people who graduated from our program in recent years. Speakers included Els Verbakel (UD ‘01) and Johannes Pointl (UD ‘12), who discussed their own as well their students’ work in a session called “Practice what you Teach,” moderated by Thaddeus Pawlowski. In an second session, “The City as Client,” Skye Duncan (UD ‘07) and Lay Bee Yap (UD ‘11) shared their work and experience in New York, Singapore, and cities around the world. Stay tuned to hear more from our speakers as part of the school’s podcast series “GSAPP Conversations.”

Throughout the semester David Smiley and I have met with and heard from graduates of the program and as our newsletters gather momentum, we hope to connect new and not-so-new alumni to share experience, expertise, and new opportunities.

Kate Orff, Associate Professor and Director

Program Updates

New Courses on Engagement and Ecology
We have two new seminars planned for the Fall. Damon Rich will be teaching a course focused on methods of engagement in a new seminar titled Urban Design in the Wild. My own seminar is retooled and focused on the topic of Ecological Infrastructure, and I will collaborate with Bry Sarte and Jason Loiselle of Sherwood Design Engineers, and UD alum and resilience policy specialist Morana Stipisic.

Curriculum Updates
There was a great student response to the updated class Urban Theory and Design in the Post-Industrial Age, taught by Professors Noah Chasin and Anthony Acciavatti. With new discussion groups, and a GSAPP Ph.D. student – Amy Zhang – assisting, the issues addressed by lectures and readings could be more intensively interrogated. Cassim Shepard’s Reading NY Urbanisms class was ever popular, and Cassim will be teaching two additional classes at GSAPP this year, offering our students the opportunity to further their research, video-making and storytelling skills.

Intensive Workshop
Faculty affiliates of the Hudson Valley Initiative (with professors Chris Kroner, David Smiley, Michael Murphy, Lee Altman, Erica Avrami and Justin Moore led an intensive Summer Workshop on reimagining Poughkeepsie’s Fall Kill River, building on several years of studio and seminar work from multiple programs at GSAPP. To learn more about this intensive workshop, watch here.

The Ebooks for our Spring semester Global Climate Adaptation studio are out! Click here to read about our Kolkata studio and see student work, and here to learn about studio work in Amman and the Jordan River Valley.


This Summer, our “5 Borough Studio” kicked off with a boat ride to experience water as material, spatial and political, and to ask students to consider the relationships between water and land in five New York City waterfront neighborhoods. This year’s studio was led by Kaja Kühl and co-taught by Brian Baldor, Ben Brady, Pippa Brashear, James Khamsi and Thaddeus Pawlowski, with Carmelo Ignaccolo as an indispensable TA.

The studio focused on ways in which the city’s recently launched ferry service might be a driver for urban design – not just development – allowing New Yorkers to experience and understand their city from the water. The five Boroughs’ 520 miles of waterfront provide an infinite variety of conditions and uses enabling students to speculate about new forms of housing that protect upland neighborhoods; about new forms of industry that utilize the water as a means of transportation and distribution; or about opportunities for urban design as local advocacy for issues such as access to the water, environmental stewardship and improving local economies.

Lectures & Events

The Urban Design Summer Lecture series featured UD Alums: Claudia Herasme (UD ‘00), Liz Barry (UD ‘07), Daniel Windsor (UD ‘05), Travis Bunt (UD ‘10) and Emily Weidenhof (UD ‘09). Extending our focus on UD Alums, the program also hosted a special event, UD SESSIONS, as noted above, to discuss how the field of Urban Design has expanded and changed, and how our graduates are exploring such changes in their work and teaching.

Looking ahead, a special note if you are in NYC this fall. Rosanne Haggerty of Community Solutions will be giving a school-wide Urban Design lecture on October 2nd at 6:30pm. Mark your calendars! Haggerty is an internationally recognized leader in developing innovative strategies to end homelessness and strengthen communities.

Faculty News

The GSAPP will celebrate Professor Richard Plunz’s recent book, City Riffs: Urbanism, Ecology, Place. For several decades, Professor Plunz and his students have been examining cities and urbanization across the globe, and these collected essays demonstrate the complex and often surprising ways in which research unfolds and places take shape. Join us on September 21 for a discussion with Dean Amale Andraos and Professors Kenneth Frampton and Bernard Tschumi.

Assitant Program Director David Smiley contributed a chapter about Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre City” to the joint Columbia/Musuem of Modern Art exhibit catalog, Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive.

Professor Ziad Jamaleddine of the Spring studio discusses his work in a GSAPP podcast interview here:

Program Director Kate Orff’s book Toward an Urban Ecology won an Honor Award from the National Society of Landscape Architects.

Professor Geeta Mehta’s non-profit “Asia Initiatives” continues to advance social justice, and is working with farmers in several drought prone areas in India to build check dams, use water conserving agriculture, and to switch to drought resilient crops. Learn more here, here and here.

Professor Cassim Shepard’s book Citymakers: The Culture and Craft of Practical Urbanism, will be released this Fall, and celebrated at a book launch at GSAPP on December 1st.

Professor Anthony Acciavatti’s exhibit “The River Ganga: India’s Iconic Water Machine,” opened in Mumbai in August, presented by the city’s Columbia Global Center. Part of the first comprehensive mapping of Ganga River Basin, the exhibit dynamically visualizes infrastructural transformation in one of the most hyper-engineered landscapes of the world. The exhibit will move to New Delhi this winter. And a shout out to Nishant Mehta, (UD ’16) for assisting. An interview with Acciavatti is here and one of many great reviews here.

UD Professors Grahame Shane and Kaja Kuhl and UP Professor Bob Beauregard will be participating in the Rising Architecture Conference in Aarhus, Denmark, speaking about the dynamics, actors and ideas of changing urban landscapes.

Alumni Updates

Congratulations to Claudia Herasme (UD ‘00), who was recently appointed Director of Urban Design at New York City’s Department of City Planning.

Eugene Kwak (UD ‘05) has been teaching design at Parsons, Pratt and New York Institute of Technology, and conducting research on agriculture in the Hudson Valley Region.

Samarth Das (UD ‘13) co-wrote and co-directed the film Reading Architecture Practice Mumbai with Rajeev Thakker (AAD '98), and Shreyank Khemalapure. The film explores five architectural practices in Mumbai and five methods through which they engage with the city: Pedagogy, Activism, Research, Design and Conservation. Production by BIND Collective: Sunil Thakkar and Philipe Calia.

NYC area alum Zach Craun (UD '12) is an Associate in the office of CookFox and working on a range range of architecture and urban design projects, with a particular focus on sustainablility, and emerging practices of biophilia and wellness. He was cited in a recent Architectural Record piece on “wellness in the workplace.”