To connect knowledge with collective action, planning education must embrace the myriad challenges that affect our planet and communities. This semester at UP, new program activities and curricular conversations have centered around climate justice, from the concept of resilience as an organizing principle for planning in the age of climate crisis to understanding socio-technical aspects of the Green New Deal and to engaging with urban crises on the global stage. UP students are part of GSAPP-wide initiative Public Works for a Green New Deal, and a group of UP students have founded GreenSAPP to promote a greater engagement with the topic of climate change in the curriculum and student life at GSAPP.
In parallel to these ongoing efforts, we are putting forth a strategic plan of the MSUP program for the next five to ten years. The process of strategic envisioning since Fall 2018 has included a series of faculty discussion, student ideas competition, a survey of alumni who graduated between 2013 and 2017, and focus groups of practicing professionals and APA NY Metro Chapter leadership. In this Draft Strategic Plan, you will see a set of major aspirations for the program and concrete steps to achieve them. I want to invite everyone to review this document, and we would appreciate any thought and feedback that you can provide (via a short form). The plan will be finalized in the early spring, as part of the self-study report prepared for the reaccreditation site visit to take place in November 2020. Again, thanks to all of you who have participated in the envisioning process.
You may remember from the Spring 2019 Semester-in-Review newsletter that we have started a collaboration with the Double Discovery Center (DDC) at Columbia to help underserved community youth to get into and graduate from college. The summer course Introduction to Urban Planning Course: Urban Planners and Communities Working for a Just City, taught by two UP doctoral students, was a success. To continue that momentum, we have planned an Introduction to Urban Planning course for undergraduate students, as part of the Introduction to Architecture summer program. This pre-professional program is for those who are interested in urban planning, may be considering it as a career, or may wish to get a head start for application to graduate school. Please help us spread the word and get more young people to our profession – they can be students from Columbia and any other university.
We will be welcoming several new adjunct faculty in the Spring: Stefan Al, an urban designer and Senior Associate Principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF); Jason Brody, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Urban Planning at Hunter College specializing in community planning and urban design; Vin Cipolla, Founder and CEO of Five Mile River Co. and former President of Municipal Art Society of New York; Peter Flamm, Vice President of Concert Halls and Operations at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Boyeong Hong, post-doctoral researcher at NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management; Thomas Matarazzo, postdoctoral researcher at the MIT Senseable City Laboratory and Cornell Tech; and Francesco Rossini, visiting from Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Architecture.
An exciting lineup of studio projects will take place in Spring 2020:
Circular Cities: A New Urban Future – Malo Hutson
As traction and momentum around the circular economy builds globally, it will be important for planners and policy makers to understand its implications for urban systems and city residents. The primary question this workshop will seek to explore is “How can the principles of circular economy be applied across the main urban systems (mobility, built environment, water, energy, food) and what are the interlinkages across these systems?”
Data Science Methods for Urban Systems – Thomas Matarazzo
Ubiquitous sensors, the Internet of things, and connected devices collectively establish “digital layers” within cities. These digital layers enable a newfound ability to observe various “invisible” phenomena that occur every day — whether they are environmental, man-made, related to human activities/behavior, etc. — they influence the performance of the urban systems on which we rely, such as transportation, utilities, and emergency services. How can we leverage them to better understand the operation and performance of urban systems? How can we use lessons learned to design more efficient systems or subsystems? This course will introduce recent literature on applications of data science and AI in the urban environment and emerging urban technologies. Students will formulate specific questions about the urban environment that can be addressed through data science and AI, develop an understanding and the ability to select appropriate data science methods (Python, R, Matlab, etc.), learn to source real city data for analysis, and explain the usage of their methods and the impact of their findings. A theme of transportation systems will be emphasized in course assignments and projects.
Practicum: Planning the Cultural Space – Douglas Woodward, Vin Cipolla and Peter Flamm
This practicum will provide a complete picture of the current trends and issues in planning for cultural spaces, especially performing arts centers (PACs), cultural innovation districts (CID), and creative clusters. We will investigate the paradox of the tremendous surge in cultural planning and development in the face of the dwindling appeal of the traditional performing and visual arts. As competing options in all the arts and the increasing accessibility of personal digital platforms for popular music and performances are changing the ways the arts are curated, produced, and consumed, cultural organizations are facing existential questions about the shape of what their future should be. The course will have intensive interaction with the planners, curators, architects, fundraisers, board members, and cultural leaders to discover the techniques and change in planning paradigms that are necessary to address the challenges for cultural production. Among the case studies will be Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The Shed, BAM, Carnegie Hall, Perelman Center, MoMA, Folk Art Museum, Whitney, Museum of Art and Design (MAD), and one or two international examples like the new hall at the Southbank Center in London by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Elbephilharmonie by Herzog and De Meuron in Hamburg.
Urban Design for Planners – Stefan Al
How should urban designers give shape to the city? What urban design methods could they apply? This course helps students acquire the principles that can inform urban design practice. It has three major pedagogical objectives. First, it helps students understand the contemporary city through a series of urban design tools. Second, it covers both historical and modern urban design principles. Finally, it includes all the scales in which urban designers operate, ranging from the fundamentals of social interaction in public space, to environmental sustainability of a region. The course is structured around the most typical problems that urban designers will be asked to solve. Each week, students will apply key urban design readings to research and design exercises that will build a fundamental urban design understanding and skill set.
Urban Informality – Ryan Devlin
In cities of the Global South and Global North, informal practices play an important role in the urbanization processing and the structuring of urban space, social life, and economic activity. In this course, students will learn about the informal city from a variety of perspectives. We will review the history of the concept of informality in the social sciences, analyze various examples of informal practices (e.g. housing, income generating strategies, transportation), and critically evaluate past attempts by cities to address informality. In addition to surveying empirical examples, the class will also delve into theoretical questions about informality. What are the politics of informality? Can informal practices of the urban poor be seen as a claim for the right to the city? As a form of communication by doing? Should an analysis of informality focus primarily on strategies of the urban poor? What do we learn from opening up the study of informality to practices of states and development/business interests in cities? Is the informal a space of freedom from control or simply a rearticulation of control? By the end of this course, students will have a deeper understanding of the multiple dimensions of the phenomenon of urban informality and the many debates surrounding the issue. Just as importantly they will also be better equipped to plan and design with and for the informal city, with an eye towards equity and social justice.
Anjali Singhvi (M.S. UP'16) was part of the New York Times team that won a News & Documentary Emmy Award for the project “One Building, One Bomb: How Assad Gassed His Own People” in the category of Outstanding New Approaches: Current News. The project can be found here.
Sonal Shah (M.S. UP’08) is the founder of Urban Catalyst, an urban planning firm in India which seeks to catalyze sustainable and equitable transport, public spaces, urban planning and design through research, technical advisory and implementation support. The firm’s website can be found here.
We would like to thank the following alumni for their participation in the UP mentorship program over the last 3 years. The growth of the mentorship program has been rather impressive since its inception in 2017. In its first year, 10 students registered for the program. This year, 29 students signed up. In the future, we hope to connect even more students with alumni mentors. This program is a great way for alumni to remain involved with Columbia’s UP community, and for students to explore the profession before they graduate. For more information about the program, please contact Michael Montilla here.
John Hosung Lee
Cuthbert A Onikute
Alexandra Guadalupe Paty Diaz