Fall 2017 Urban Design Semester in Review
From the Director

Happy New Year.

I am excited to write you with news from the Columbia Urban Design Program. It’s such a privilege to work alongside our committed faculty and administration, and with an ever expanding network of students and alumni. The Fall semester was intense, with students deeply focused on landscape and equity issues in Poughkeepsie, NY as part of our multi-year Hudson Valley Initiative. Two student groups were awarded the “Urban Urge Prize” in honor of the late Professor Moji Baratloo, who upon her passing was the coordinator of the Fall studio. We wish them well - and will assist them - in a successful implementation of their seed projects in Poughkeepsie! I am thrilled to announce that long time teacher Kaja Kühl has been appointed a full time Research Scholar with a focus on community-driven design and outreach; she is now the Director of the Hudson Valley Initiative. Please write to Kaja with your ideas or to sponsor a Community Design Fellow. Keep an eye out for related studio work by Liz McEnaney in the Historic Preservation Program in Newburgh and a Spring gallery Meetup event in Poughkeepsie.

As I write, memories of the student trips as part of the Spring “Water Urbanism” studio to Aqaba’s “Special Economic Zone” in Jordan, and to Varanasi, India are still fresh in our minds. Both trips highlight the intense need for the skills and vision of urban designers to step up and play an important role in shaping the future of more resilient city-regions. We are diving into the semester now and will share more about the these two places in our next update. Please continue to share your thoughts and advice and follow us on Twitter @ColumbiaUD for weekly updates and activities. MSAUD student work and studio publications can be found here.


Kate Orff, Director, MSAUD

Program Updates

For this Fall’s City-Region studio, we returned to work in Poughkeepsie and the Hudson Valley. We partnered with the Hudson Valley Design Lab, led by GSAPP professor Chris Kroner and MASS Design’s Michael Murphy. We focused on “infrastructuring,” the process by which urban systems – not only roads and power lines but social services and food distribution – are debated, evaluated, tested and built. The students reached out to community groups and local planning officials, and came up with in-depth projects touching on educational networks, energy systems, harnessing the expansion of the Vassar Brothers hospital for local employment as well as public health, revising urban renewal-era highways and housing demolition. See the work here.

This year’s Urban Urge Prize was awarded to two projects. The Prize was initiated in remembrance of Moji Baratloo, a much-loved professor (who taught some of our current professors!), and aims to nurture small-scale interventions in communities to spur engagement and change. One prize goes to “Whisper Wall” by Betsy Daniels, Leslie Chuang, Wang-Ting Tsai, and Sofia Valdivieso, and the other to “Solar Place” by Faisal Alzakari, Jose Ponte, Ruilan Jia, and Xiaohan Wang. We are proud that two projects will get funded and built in 2018.

Spring Studios have just returned from Aqaba, Jordan and Varanasi, India, where the students are continuing our research and engagement with academic partners such as IIT Banaras Hindu University, IIT Kharagpur, and the University of Jordan. Students also sought out and engaged communities and organizations about the opportunities for thinking about the future of cities through the lens of water and social life, as opposed to traditional static land-based developer-driven planning. Students studied ritual practices, permaculture, dynamic management, green infrastructure technologies, and living systems.

This Spring, in addition to the ever-popular seminars by Grahame Shane and David Smiley we are offering two new seminars. “Urban Ecology and Design” is taught by Dr. Matt Palmer of Columbia’s “Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology” (E3B) department, and Gena Wirth, landscape architect, horticulturalist, and urban planner. Alums Skye J. Duncan and Ankita Chachra are teaching an exciting seminar, based on their Global Street Design Guide, to equip urban designers with the tools to make streets safer, more just, and better shared between non-motorized and motorized forms of transport. Also this Spring, Sandro Marpillero, a long-term teacher in the program, will be offering a seminar on the “Metropolitan Sublime,” exploring regional landscapes and infrastructures between New York City and Buffalo. Richard Plunz is teaching a joint Architecture and Urban Planning studio focusing on one neighborhood in Genoa, Italy, and its role in regional and global dynamics.

Kate Orff just completed a new version of her ecological infrastructure seminar, this year focused on cities and towns of the Hudson Valley – part of the program’s regional commitment – such as Newburgh, Hudson, Poughkeepsie. Also new this Fall was a seminar called “Urban Design in the Wild,” taught by new faculty member Damon Rich, who got our students out into neighborhoods across the city (continuing one of our summer tasks!), to talk about and document perceptions of urban design and planning. Richard Plunz offered his beloved “Housing Fabrics - NY/Global” seminar with comparative studies of New York housing typologies and other forms from cities around the world.

Adj. Professor Dilip Da Cunha on The Terrain of Rain.jpg
Adj. Professor Dilip Da Cunha on The Terrain of Rain
Lectures & Events

In October, noted community advocate and urbanist Rosanne Haggerty of Community Solutions gave a lecture, “Housing is a Verb: Why Communities Need Housing Systems, Not Just Housing.” Haggerty (MSRED ‘89) is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Community Solutions, an award-winning firm that has built housing and new communities focused on accessibility and preventing homelessness, all across the US. Kate Orff led the discussion after the lecture and, as part of Haggerty’s visit to GSAPP, Justin Moore of the UD program created a podcast interview. Listen here.

In November, Rahul Mehrotra, noted architect, urban designer, author and educator, gave the Kenneth Frampton Endowed Lecture. His work in Mumbai is an exceptional example of a commitment to the life of a city, taking on its history, ecologies, politics, and manifold spaces.

In November, Arindam Dutta, the Dean’s Visiting Associate Professor, spoke with Director Kate Orff on Infrastructure vs. the City: The Territorial Capture of Water shared his work on ferries and waterways across India, and described how property, land use and administrative regulations in India have shaped urbanization.

Faculty News

Last year, the UD program set up the Hudson Valley Initiative, a project to create discussion, research and actionable programs through collaboration among University programs, community organizations, development groups and city and town representatives. We are happy to announce the UD faculty member Kaja Kühl has now taken the helm of HVI. Kühl also spoke about engagement and climate change at the RISING Architecture Week 2017, in Aarhus, Denmark, and led a summer design workshop on refugees as future makers in Berlin, Germany.

Spring Studio faculty member Dilip Da Cunha will soon publish Invention of Rivers: Alexander’s Eye and Ganga’s Descent, and he will be discussing the book, and representations and technologies of water in India, on February 2, in conversation with Rosalie Genevro of the Architecture League of New York and Kate Orff.

MASS Design Group, co-founded by Fall visiting professor Michael Murphy, won the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award and the Institute for Public Architecture Annual Award.

Justin Garrett Moore, Fall studio faculty member and head of NYC’s Public Design Commission, hosted a delegation from the Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning and Design, and was elected to the Board of the 16,000 member American Planning Association’s AICP Commission. Moore discussed housing and community issues with Rosanne Haggerty after her lecture. Made in Brownsville, a community organization on whose Board Moore serves, won a 2018 grant from the Tamer Social Ventures Fund at the Columbia Business School. Moore also wrote “Making a Difference: Reshaping the Past, Present, and Future Toward Greater Equity,” for a recent issue of the National Trust’s Forum Journal.

Anthony Acciavatti, author of Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River, exhibited his “The River Ganga: India’s Iconic Water Machine” at Mumbai’s Nehru Science Centre.

Grahame Shane traveled to China in the Fall and lectured at various universities in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Beijing and Hong Kong, with a keynote at the National Chinese Academy of Engineering conference on “Frontiers of Urban Design Development” at Southeast University in Nanjing. Both of Shane’s books, Recombinant Urbanism and Urban Design Since 1945 have been published in Chinese by the China Architecture and Building Press. Shane also spoke about the uncertain dynamics of urbanization at the RISING Architecture Week 2017, in Aarhus, Denmark.

Spring studio faculty member Julia Watson is currently working on a study of the Plain of Jars in Laos, an archaeological landscape of megalithic stone jars which the government seeks to list as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Watson’s firm Studio Rede, and collaborators from Curtin University and Rajamangala University of Technology, Phra Nakhon, Thailand, are using new forms of drone photogrammetry, light detection and ranging (lidar) technology. In addition, Watson recently received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, sponsored by the Storefront for Art and Architecture, for her book Ancient Innovations, part of the Urban Design ‘Innovations in Infrastructure’ series. The book is a study of the wide range of ecological technologies that thrive in the landscapes of the world’s indigenous people, and shows that such ecological knowledge is essential to moving forward contemporary design practices.

Kaja Kühl, Nora Akawi and Noah Chasin are on the Jury of Place and Displacement, a design competition to promote refugee integration in urban environments. The competition looks at three locations: Berlin, Germany, Amman, Jordan and Nairobi, Kenya. Winners will attend a symposium at the GSAPP in the Spring. Akawi is also speaking as part of the Spring lecture series on her work “Mapping Borderlands.”

Last but not least, Urban Design is home to TWO MacArthur Fellowship winners: Kate Orff and Damon Rich were honored this year for their creativity, work and energy.

Alumni Updates

We’re so proud of how Urban Design alumni are pushing and shaping the city through practice, academia, lectures and events. Please send David Smiley your news and updates!

UD faculty member Morana Stipisic (MSAUD ‘05) gave a keynote speech at the Urban Thinkers Campus, Dhaka, 2017 conference on Innovation, Identity, and Design of Intermediate Cities for the City We Need. The three day event produced the Dhaka Declaration, an action plan for UN-Habitat’s “New Urban Agenda,” and will be presenting at the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur in February, 2018.

Skye Duncan (MSAUD ‘07), and UD faculty, along with Ankita Chachra (MSAUD '13), and Abhimanyu Prakash (MSAUD '14) completed the Global Street Design Guide, a comprehensive presentation of ways practitioners can transform streets to prioritize safety, pedestrians, transit and sustainable mobility; it is now available as a free download.

Liz Barry (MSAUD '07), of Public Lab, co-wrote “Punk Science: Do-it-yourself Science is Taking Off,” in the Economist. Barry also co-organized Data Rescue NYC with the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative to secure and preserve federal environmental data. She also co-created the Data Together project for community-driven stewardship of data. Liz was a keynote speaker at Reworks Agora, discussing technology and participatory democracy. Barry traveled to Antarctica with Aerocene, a multi-disciplinary project which foregrounds the artistic and scientific exploration of environmental issues.

Emily Weidenhof (MSAUD '09) is leading the Shared Street effort at NYC’s Department of Transportation, and the team recently designed/installed the first operational shared street on Broadway between 24th and 25th Streets. Weidenhof also worked on the Greater East Midtown Rezoning team, leading the public realm concept plan, a series of plazas, shared streets, and thoroughfare enhancements fundable by future development.

Dongsei Kim (MSAUD '09) recently presented Politics of Space and its Shadows for Imminent Commons, at the 2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. This semester he has joined the faculty at New York Institute of Technology.

Jenny Joe (MSAUD '10) worked as senior Urban Designer on SOM’s Philadelphia 30th Street Station District Plan which won the AIA’s Regional & Urban Design award.

Candice Naim (MSAUD '10) and her firm Scapeworks was among the First Prize winners in a recent competition for a controversial site called Dalieh, in Beirut, Lebanon.

Austin Sakong (MSAUD '11) is now at FXFowle and published “Room To Learn: Questions and Strategies in Designing Learning Environments” for Podium, the firm’s research arm. He was also recently appointed to the Jersey City Historic Preservation Commission.

Heinz von Eckartsberg (MSAUD '11) is a senior Urban Designer at Studio Gang, and most recently has worked on the Memphis Riverfront Concept, for six miles of Mississippi Riverfront, and the Chicago River Edge Ideas Lab, a competition for three sites along the South Branch of the Chicago River.

Alexandra Gonzalez and Racha Daher (MSAUD '11), founders of Hive Public Space, were invited by NYC’s Flatiron District Partnership and the Van Alen Institute to submit a proposal for the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition and their proposal, Winterbloom, was selected as a Finalist. For NYCxDESIGN 2018, the firm was among five selected by the Times Square Alliance to design prototypes for new public space interventions.

Fernando Arias (MSAUD '12) is the Director of Sustainability at Clark Construction Group, and in this blog post, he talks about climate change, building and cities.

Claudia Ray (MSAUD '12) is a lead urban designer at GAI Consultants, Inc., Community Solutions Group, and worked on the Orange Blossom Trail Corridor (Florida) Master and Implementation Plan. The Trail was once a major tourist route that experienced social, economic and environmental decline, and the Plan provides for incremental and community-based change.

Andrés F. Correa-Lopez (MSAUD '12) is the President of the Colombian Chapter of the International Real Estate Federation and was recently elected World Vice President for the Federation’s Young Members. In October of 2018, the Federation will hold an international, interdisciplinary Congress – The City Between Art and Technology – in Cartagena, focusing on new technologies, BIM and other software platforms, urban development and climate change.

Sagi Golan (MSAUD '13) recently co-published “Mainstreaming Preservation” as part of the Forefront Fellowship at the Urban Design Forum.

Thom Allen (MSAUD ’13) is now working at Neighborhood Prospects at the Kansas City Design Center, a nationally-recognized, nonprofit partnership among civic leaders, designers, and the architecture and planning programs at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

Tyler Cukar (MSAUD '14) is an Urban Designer and certified Planner at FXFOWLE, where he worked on the Sunnyside Yard Feasibility study and the Riker’s Island reuse plan. For FXFOWLE’s Podium series, he wrote “Orchestrated Urbanism: The Race Built City,” on the role of race in shaping American cities – he recently spoke on these issues at the Kansas City Center for Architecture and Design and was invited to do a segment (and podcast) on race for Kansas City public radio.

Daniela Jacome (MSAUD '14) worked for the Ecuador Ministry of Tourism, conducting park design studies and local governance. One, Lago San Pablo Park, will soon begin construction. Jacome moved to the National Planning Office where, after the earthquake of 2016, she conducted housing and education studies for reconstruction. She is currently working with “El Foro de la Ciudad, an NGO examining Quito’s first subway as well as the country’s National Housing Program.

Adi Efraim (MSAUD ’14) works at Kaiser Architects and Planners in Tel Aviv, Israel, and works on large scale neighborhood projects. Most recently she was the project leader a new city quarter for Hertzliya and the expansion of the historic city of Rehovot.

Silvia Vercher Pons (MSAUD, '14) works at Perkins Eastman and is currently working on a 600 acre (250 hc) masterplan for a coastal city in Ecuador. Vercher presented work at Habitat III in Quito, and will be presenting work at the World Urban Forum in Malaysia later this year.

Sebastian Delpino (MSAUD '15) is Habitat Coordinator for the Fundacion Junto al Barrio – which promotes community and neighborhood-based design participation. Last year, Delpino published an article about his project for the Carretera Austral, the Southern Highway, a key piece of infrastructure in the development of Chile.

Yuxiang Jiang (MSAUD '15) co-wrote "The Distance between the Well-planned City and Livable City: the Case of Brasilia, Brazil,” for the World Architecture Review. Jiang studied Brasilia in the UD program summer history/theory class, and visited the city while in Brazil in the Spring. Payoff!

Zhuoran Zhao (MSAUD '16) is now a principal partner at 3andwich Design in Beijing. The firm has worked on the Limestone Gallery, Guizhou; the Tourist Center of Anlong Limestone Resort and the Shangping Village Regeneration. In addition, Zhao and Chenxing Li (MSAUD '16), presented their paper – based on their GSAPP Kinne Fellowship – “A Retrospect of Desakota Evolution in Asia,” at the 2017 Asian Planning Schools Association conference.

“Bengal Flux,” a project from the Spring '17 Water Urbanism studio in Kolata – by Deniz Onder, Dissa Pidanti Raras and Carmelo Ignaccolo – was selected for the “Changing Places” exhibition at the Building Centre in London.