Architecture Expanded: New Positioning in Scale, Context and Agency

The course aims to examine the changing role of design within new scales of context emerging in contemporary urbanism. Designers are increasingly being compelled to address questions – related to infrastructure, ecology, and culture – which were previously confined to the domains of other disciplines. In an attempt to encourage designers and planners to reexamine their tools and develop strategies to better address those emerging phenomena, the course will explore new urban conditions and will formulate a framework for potential linkages between the social and the physical, the form and the context, and the very large and the very small. Over the past decade, discussions on urban landscape, infrastructure, and networks – with their clear and necessary replacement of postwar contextualisms and their emphasis on scale – saw design and infrastructure in a symbiotic relationship, resulting in design strategies of process, temporality and program as well as vertical/sectional dispositions (Koolhaas, Bigness) or topographical/operative urban surfaces (infrastructural/landscape urbanism). In rapidly urbanizing areas throughout the developing world, however, design decisions often precede infrastructure, wherein infrastructures may now result as an extension of design interventions. This condition not only signifies a shifting role of infrastructure in design but also underscores the expanded role of the designer within a much wider contextual scale, where ecological, regional, social, and political issues come to the fore. Rather than reacting to a predefined context, designers are now bound to redefine and shape their contexts. In an attempt to explore this proposition further, the seminar will concentrate on an alternative reading of the notions of infrastructure, ecology and context within architecture, landscape and urbanism. The general premise of the course is to focus on emerging circumstances (context) and multi-scalar design responses (form) to shape these conditions, including both the theoretical nexuses within the fields of landscape, planning, and design, as well as empirical cases within the developing world to help position and inform the discussion. The course will consider the extension and intensification of \”circuits\” that house, communicate or facilitate flows of goods, services and/or information to better understand how global logics and local dynamics interact to produce the contemporary urban form, as well as those new actors and strategies that shape new scalar conditions. In the context of the course, the issue of the \”scalar\” implies at least three dimensions: first, as design relates to expanded scales of infrastructure; second, as the potential set of issues implied by relations among multiple scales (architecture, landscape, ecology, planning); and third, as an act of scaling and re-positioning as it informs capacities to propose new design tools and strategies (models, techniques and practices). Thus, the urgency to reconsider the expanded agency of the designer is significant will be important for our discussions – the agency of design both as a form of capacity in relation to new techniques and strategies, and as a faculty of acting, power, and positioning. Rather than merely being fascinated by the big scale, larger contexts and their exaggerated depictions, the course aspires to open up discussions on how the design disciplines can reposition themselves and also reevaluate their techniques so that their projecting ability can have a more active and transformative impact on the forces that shape emergent urban conditions and form. Since the 1990s, architecture and urbanism risk being narrowly understood as simply the spatial manifestation of the widespread effects of globalization. As urban populations grew, cities intensified in their horizontal and vertical thickness with large-scale urban development projects, while they also bec