Summer 2018 Urban Design Semester in Review

As the summer of 2018 concludes and we launch into the Fall season, we are keenly aware of significant discussions on race, gender, equity and access to cities, among many other environmental and social challenges future urban designers will face. The design studio has been a place to explore these issues in a regional context and many of our faculty members are deeply embedded in and contributing to these conversations. Justin Moore and Lee Altman participated in the AIA Design Justice Summit in New Orleans, while faculty member Kaja Kühl spoke at the Public x Design conference in Detroit and shared the work of the Hudson Valley Initiative. I also participated in a New America event “Architecting Community” with a range of scholars, artists, and sociologists. Michael Murphy’s firm MASS Design Group continues to receive accolades on the National Museum for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, alongside activist Bryan Stevenson. On a more global scale, Noah Chasin’s Fall seminar at Columbia – Human Rights and Urban Public Space – places our discourse under a microscope. This mix of faculty perspectives and experience, and multiple scales of impact, grounds our students in the most current and empathetic urban design thinking and practice.

Our curriculum is constantly evolving and adapting to anticipate future needs and skills, including the necessity of fostering meaningful community participation and engagement. To this end, Damon Rich will teach a Spring seminar on Contested Spaces, and Anthony Acciavatti’s seminar will delve into urban design research and representation methods, expanding on his book, Ganges Water Machine.

Thanks to our many devoted alumni who participate as mentors, who attend Columbia Global Center and Studio X events, who have written and shared news and who continue to play transformative roles in urban design and management throughout the world. Please stay connected – our students find alumni interaction and mentorship to be of great value. I’d encourage you to reach out to promising young architects and landscape architects and encourage them to apply to the Urban Design program! Best wishes for a productive fall season,

Kate Orff, Associate Professor and Director

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Students on the street! Summer Studio, 2018.

The Summer, 2018 “5 Borough Studio” began with a 72-hour dérive– an unscripted walk – exploring neighborhoods of New York City, and was followed by an intense summer of mapping, community engagement and discovery of the City’s infrastructure. A big thank you to our partners, the Staten Island Urban Center, Concrete Safaris in East Harlem, Smiling Hogshead Ranch and the Long Island City Partnership in Queens, the Local Development Corporation of East New York in Brooklyn, and WHEDCo and the Yes, Loitering team in the Bronx.

The Studio faculty welcomed several new faces this summer. Alums Austin Sakong (‘11) and Sagi Golan ('13) joined the team as did Shachi Pandey of mudworkshop, and Hayley Eber of EFGH. Landscape Architect Tricia Martin was back after a two year hiatus.

Complementing the Summer studio was the UD Sessions series, including talks by: Dongsei Kim, (‘09), Assistant Professor at New York Institute of Technology; Claudia Herasme, (‘00), Chief Urban Designer and Director of Urban Design, NYC Department of City Planning, along with Amritha Mahesh (‘13), Ryan Jacobson (‘13), Crystal Jane Eksi (‘15), Manuela Powidayko (‘15); Bill Kenworthy, Regional Leader of Planning at HOK, New York ('00); FX Collaborative, with Ben Abelman (‘09), Tyler Cukar (‘14), Amy Shell (‘15), Ross Brady (‘15), Ryan Kim (‘11), Austin Sakong (‘11); Kirk Finkel, ('14) Sndbox; Alexandra Gonzalez (‘11) Hive Public Space.

Thanks to all participants!

GSAPP Summer Workshop Professors Kate Orff, Thaddeus Pawlowski, Earth Institute Professor Lisa Dale and UD alum Carmelo Ignaccolo (‘17) led an August workshop in northern Mozambique with eight GSAPP planning and architecture students and three students from the Columba Business School. A $40 billion USD liquid natural gas extraction facility is planned for Palma, one of the most pristine marine environments in the world and provided a forum for the project stakeholders in government, non-profit, community, and the private sector to discuss and develop a vision for resilient change that also protects the region. The workshop focused on harnessing and enhancing natural capital in and around Palma, and entailed site visits, presentations from stakeholders, and breakout groups to help students generate maps, studies and scenarios for adaptation and development. The workshop was part of the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes, with the support of the World Wildlife Fund.
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Video interview, “La Marqueta,” East Harlem, Reading NY Urbanism, Summer 2018.

Our Reading New York Urbanism summer class, led by Cassim Shepard and Nans Voron, always yields creative, critical and stunning work. See here what they did this year.

Just getting underway is the 2018 Fall City-Region Studio, part of our ongoing Hudson Valley engagement, and this year we will focus on the complex region between, and including, the cities of Kingston and Hudson, NY. The studio, coordinated by Lee Altman and Justin Moore, will examine social, physical and regional infrastructures, ecology and agriculture, social justice and equitable development. Continuing this Fall are Michael Murphy, Chris Kroner and David Smiley, and please welcome new studio faculty members Jerome Haferd, Wendy Andringa.

New Seminar! In addition to the Fall Seminars taught by Kate Orff and Richard Plunz, a new seminar called “The City and What it is Not” will be offered by Spring studio faculty Dilip da Cunha. Please note, his new book The Invention of Rivers: Alexander’s Eye and Ganga’s Descent has just been released!

The eBooks from our Spring semester Global Climate Adaptation studios in Varanasi, India and Aqaba, Jordan, are now available. Check out the student work and faculty essays!

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Coming up this Fall:

October 5: UD Storytelling Symposium

Exposing our students and faculty to the vanguard of storytelling techniques and philosophies is of growing importance as the worlds of media production and design converge. The event underscores a pedagogical theme central to the UD program: that identifying, uncovering, and producing well-researched narratives about place should precede and support design interventions. What can designers learn from how journalists build trust with interview subjects, from how filmmakers storyboard the structure of a documentary, or from how memoirists and novelists choose fragments of memory to evoke the collective resonance of a stranger’s life story? How do these processes reflect the methodology of the designer, from performing preliminary site analysis to co-creating measures of success with local stakeholders? There will be a keynote talk by noted filmmaker Allan Holzman, plus presentations by Valeria Mogilevich, John Szot, Sarah Nelson Wright and Michelle Young, as well as our own Cassim Shepard, Nans Voron.

November 8: LA-Más, Los Angeles

Please join us in welcoming LA-Más, an urban design non-profit that helps lower-income and underserved communities shape their future through policy and architecture. Helen Leung and Elizabeth Timme, co-founders will be lecturing in Wood Auditorium and Kate Orff will respond.

Hudson Valley Initiative

In Newburgh, the HVI is working with Scenic Hudson and the City of Newburgh to develop a guide for improving and activating some of the city’s vacant lots. In the City of Hudson, the HVI kicked off a project with Friends of Oakdale Lake, holding a workshop for kids during summer camp to rethink their favorite summer spot. And on behalf of the Eutopia Foundation, we have been conducting research into program and site strategies for a research center and cooperative community in the Valley, focusing on climate change and agriculture.

Urban Urge Prize

The two student team winners of the 2018 Urban Urge Prize – Leslie Chuang, Betsy Daniels, Wan-Ting Tsai and Sofia Valdivieso, and Faisal Alzakari, Jose Ponte Neto, Xiaohan Wang and Ruilan Jia – completed their public installations in Poughkeepsie, NY. The “Whisper Wall” launched at the Teen Film Festival in June and featured audio recordings of teens in Poughkeepsie interviewing each other about life and their aspirations for their future. “Solar Place” opened at Poughkeepsie’s Family Partnership center, demonstrating the use of solar panels and providing outdoor seating.

Civic Design Assistants

In partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the Center for Court Innovation, the UD program is participating in a year-long effort to embed our students in community stakeholder groups in 15 New York City neighborhoods. Working in collaboration with neighborhood groups, agency staff, and mentored by UD faculty Kaja Kühl, 15 students will help develop ideas for public space activation to improve neighborhood safety in the City’s Public Housing.


Lee Altman, at SCAPE, co-conducted a workshop in Pensacola, Florida to transform the downtown waterfront into a robust community hub.

Lee Altman and Justin Moore will be participating in the AIA’s Design Justice Summit in New Orleans later this month.

Justin Moore will be on a panel at the “Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now” conference at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Former Urban Design faculty member Jin Taira’s book (re)Tokyo will be published by ORO editions later this year.

Geeta Mehta will give the opening keynote in November at a conference in the Netherlands titled: “Smartness? Between Discourse and Practice,” at Eindhoven University of Technology.

Damon Rich, and his firm Hector, have been hired by Cody Rouge/Warrendale – outside of Detroit – to study the growth, health, and safety for the neighborhood’s children: creating and improving parks and playgrounds, and addressing blight and affordable housing.

Cassim Shepard’s four-screen video installation "Cross Section of Equity” continues touring the country as part of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum’s traveling exhibition By The People: Designing a Better America. It is currently on view at the MDC Museum of Art and Design in Miami, and in October, it will be installed at the David J. Sencer Museum at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Meanwhile, Cassim concluded his book tour for Citymakers, in Berlin, and the tour included stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, and London.

Cassim Shepard and MASS Design Group (co-run by Michael Murphy) BOTH received an Arts and Letters Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

David Smiley attended the 2018 annual conference of the European Association for Urban History, and presented his work on pedestrianization in European and American cities between 1950 and 1980.


Jugal Mistri (‘08) founded Mistri Architecture, based in Mumbai, and does residential and commercial work throughout India, especially in rural and exurban areas. Recently, the firm designed a low-cost sanitation facility – called the Airbox Toilet – made from naturally ventilated, recycled shipping containers, with a prototype recently installed in Pune, India.

Mansi Sahu (‘11) co-founded StudioPOD Design LLP, a multidisciplinary firm in Mumbai which specializes in urban design that blends planning and people-oriented design principles into the creation of community master plans, transportation planning studies, urban landscapes and sustainable architecture. Mansi is a member of the Next City Vanguards, class of 2018.

Zach Craun ('12) has been promoted to Senior Associate at COOKFOX Architects, NYC. Congrats!

Nasim Amini and Sunjana Thirumala Sridhar (both '14), have founded Design Office of Global Cities, based in New York City, a women-owned, research and design studio focusing on social, economic and cultural growth.

Crystal Jane Eksi ('15) was a 2018 Fellow of the Institute for Public Architecture, focusing on the NYC borough of Queens. Her project “Nation’s Park – People’s Neighborhood,” challenges the car-oriented infrastructure surrounding Flushing Meadow and Corona Park by bringing the natural environment into the surrounding neighborhoods, and proposing community-friendly and accessible places.

Nans Voron, Nour Zoghby, Andrew Hite and Arshia Chaudhri (all '15) submitted their Spring 2015 studio project called “Might[y] Spaces” to the 2018 Unfuse International Architectural Thesis Award (UnIATA), and won in the Public Voting and Jury Commendation category. Publication to follow!

Shuting Han, Jianwei Li, Yinzhu Shen, and Yicheng Xu (all ‘18) submitted their Spring Studio project “Amman Watershared” for the ”Cities for our Future Challenge,” (sponsored by RICS, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), and was a 2018 regional winner.

Duolin Kong, Huyanyu Chen, Yicheng Xu (all ‘18), are finalists in the 2018 UN-Habitat International Urban Design Student Competition for a vacant waterfront site in inner-city Wuhan, China.

Ban Edilbi (‘18) is working on the “Global Future Cities Prosperity Fund Programme” for the Urban Planning and Design Lab at UN-Habitat, sponsored by professional and academic partners in Great Britain.