101 Urban Salvations

As an urban setting, Cambridge, Massachusetts, appears to have a lot going for it: two of the world\’s greatest universities, an extremely high density of resident intellectuals (including architects), a manageable size, a small-scale, fine-grained urban fabric, good public transportation and an excellent tax base. However, in spite of these advantages, in many respects Cambridge remains a mediocre urban environment. Harvard Square is becoming increasingly gentrified. Large new developments such as Kendall Square and North Point are banal while existing neighborhoods in North and East Cambridge remain stagnant. Neither encourages memorable urban experiences. Residents encounter a lack of affordable housing, a variable school system, limited leisure and recreational activities, and a dramatically increasing gap between rich and poor. The city is well managed but lacks imagination. University administrators concentrate on their own needs without consideration for the larger urban environment. This studio will address this situation with innovative and visionary solutions. Its goal will be to produce 101 actual suggestions for improving Cambridge. It is anticipated that these \”salvations\” will encompass a broad range of topics; drawing on the physical, social, environmental, political and aesthetic realms. They should range from one-liners to complex propositions. Many will propose new physical forms while others may focus on restructuring existing organizations or policies. The studio\’s analytic framework is based on concepts derived from the French philosopher and urbanist, Henri Lefebvre, emphasizing the importance of lived experience in creating urbanity. The semester will begin with an intensive ethnographic and physical research phase, including input from a variety of Cambridge \”publics.\” Students will then develop several proposals, both individually and in groups. The studio will attempt to reimagine Cambridge as fully as possible while remaining grounded in the realities of its urban experiences. In order to produce the widest range of concepts, the studio is open to students from all programs.