M.S. Architecture and Urban Design

Overview
The Urban Design Program is focused on the city as an agent of resilient change and on the role of design in redefining the 21st century urban landscape. The program advances new paradigms of research, practice and pedagogy to meet the urgent challenges of rapid urbanization, the increasing threats of climate change and social inequality. Students and faculty in the Program aim to integrate the essential links between public space, social justice and ecological systems. We ask the venerable and necessarily shifting question: what is “the good city?”

Global shifts in the climate system require resetting the paradigms that have guided urban growth for centuries. The Program frames the city not as a fixed, delineated territory—a modernist fixation on boundaries—but instead as a gradient of varied landscapes supported by networks of food, energy, resources, culture, transportation and capital. In this light, the historical terms urban, rural or suburban are no longer sufficient to address the “wicked problem” of climate change. Program work stresses near and long term threats to local, regional and global ecosystems, framing urban design as both an inclusive, activist, tools-based project for specific sites and communities and as a critical project examining urban form, knowledge and research processes.

Students and faculty work together over a series of three intensive semesters to weave a multi-scalar analysis of urban-regional fabrics and infrastructures with on-the ground, detailed studies of places and lived conditions. New York City serves as a primary initial case study for a design methodology; the scope expands in the second semester to regional research about New York and other American city-regions and concludes in the final semester with investigations in emerging global capitals and agglomerations in Asia, Africa, and South America.

Curriculum

The curriculum exploits the pedagogic potential of the design studio as a site of research, visionary speculation and critical inquiry. The Urban Design curriculum broadly integrates a range of interdisciplinary expertise, internal to Columbia University—such as the School of Public Health, the Earth Institute, and the School of Engineering—and external to the school, through regular engagement with governmental and non-governmental agencies, institutions and organizations.

Across the three semesters of the program, work ranges from site formation and policy, to visualization, and documentation of lived spatial and social conditions. Research, assignments and deliverables seek forms of mediation and action to address the challenges of global and local change. The sequencing of three studios builds a shared understanding of urban theories and terms, design tools, and research methods essential to urban design thought and practice. The collaborative studio setting enables a synthetic approach to design that weaves together environment, systems, and planning.

Studios

Throughout the studio sequence, projects emphasize a multi-scalar approach to site and program, embracing local, regional, and global scales and advancing the role of the urban designer as a catalytic and thoughtful practitioner who can place themselves among diverse actors, existing conditions, and imagined futures.

Studio I

The Summer semester consists of four courses that operate intellectually and methodologically as an integrated curriculum focusing on the New York metropolitan region. All work is based on the coordinated learning of concepts, working methods, historical precedents, research protocols, and representational strategies. Faculty and associates overlap, courses and subjects mix, and design agendas are tested in various settings. This teaching model demonstrates how Urban design can weave together varied tasks of storytelling, community engagement, site survey and interpretation, filmmaking, digital visualization, mapping, and 3D modeling, all of which enable students to create urban knowledge and to iterate, represent and communicate design ideas.

Studio II

The Fall Studio II expands in scope to consider the city-region, examining large scale interdependencies and interactions. Studio research addresses the particular conditions of American city-regions (currently, the Hudson Valley) in which shifting ecological, topographical, infrastructural, demographic and social conditions call for new strategies for systemic action.

Studio III

The final Spring Studio III takes on problems of global urbanization, extending previous work on variously-scaled physical and social infrastructures, programmatic interventions and community partnerships. The studio typically travels to two cities, working in close cooperation with local partners and organizations.

In this eleventh episode of GSAPP Conversations, Urban Design Director Kate Orff joins Dean Amale Andraos to discuss what it means to think across scales and connect our human life with the geological time scale, how traveling international studios allow students to better address challenges shared by otherwise very different cities, and teaching the reciprocity of physical design and social context.

Listen to more podcasts from the Urban Design program by following UD Sessions: The Expanded Field of Urban Design, a series of conversations with urban designers around the globe, who graduated from or taught at GSAPP’s Urban Design program. By discussing their current work and reflecting on how their experience at GSAPP shaped their thinking about design, cities, and politics, the series explores the ways in which the field of urban design expanded since its emergence. Hosted by Kaja Kühl and Grahame Shane.

Urban Design at GSAPP
Alumni from the Urban Design Program at Columbia University GSAPP share their experience. Recorded at the occasion of the 2017 symposium “UD Sessions: The Expanded Field of Urban Design” Listen to the related podcast series here
Current Faculty

Fall 2019 Courses

Course Semester Title Student Work Instructor Syllabus Requirements & Sequence Location & Time Session & Points Call No.
A6830‑1 Fall 2019
Difference and Design
Justin Moore
203 FAYERWEATHER
TU 11 AM - 1 PM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
41489
A6832‑1 Fall 2019
Toward Resilient Cities and Landscapes
Kate Orff
WARE LOUNGE
TU 3 PM - 5 PM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
41490
A6837‑1 Fall 2019
Fabrics and Typologies: NY/Global
Richard Plunz CAP 22
409 AVERY HALL
W 9 AM - 11 AM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
41491
A6850‑1 Fall 2019
Urban Design Studio II
Kaja Kühl Syllabus
206 FAYERWEATHER
M & TH 1:30 - 6:30; F 3 PM - 5 PM
FULL SEMESTER
9 Points
41408
A4399‑1 Fall 2019
Metropolitan Sublimes
Sandro Marpillero
408 AVERY HALL
TU 1 PM - 3 PM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
41456
A4987‑1 Fall 2019
Architectural Photography: From the Models to the Built World
Michael Vahrenwald
115 AVERY HALL
F 9 AM - 11 AM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
10172
A4989‑1 Fall 2019
Realtime
Farzin Lotfi-Jam, Greg Schleusner
504 AVERY
TH 7 PM - 9 PM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
15482
A6448‑1 Fall 2019
Program (Theories)
Enrique Walker
300 BUELL SOUTH
F 11 AM - 1 PM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
41561
A6857‑1 Fall 2019
Measuring the Great Indoors
Violet Whitney, Gabrielle Brainard
505 AVERY
TU 7 PM - 9 PM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
10459
A6867‑1 Fall 2019
Babel
Kyle Dugdale
408 AVERY HALL
W 9 AM - 11 AM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
15294
A4892‑1 Fall 2019
Data Visualization for Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities
Jia Zhang All GSAPP Interdisciplinary
408 AVERY HALL
F 9 AM -11 AM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
15270
A6785‑1 Fall 2019
Theory of City Form
Vishaan Chakrabarti All GSAPP Interdisciplinary
209 FAYERWEATHER
F 11 AM -1 PM
FULL SEMSTER
3 Points
41412
A4861‑1 Fall 2019
Footprint: Carbon and Design
David Benjamin
115 AVERY
TH 11 AM - 1 PM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
17879
A6783‑1 Fall 2019
Narrative Urbanism: Strategic Storytelling For Designers and Planners
Cassim Shepard All GSAPP Interdisciplinary
115 AVERY HALL
F 11 AM - 1 PM
FULL SEMESTER
3 Points
41474
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