Community-Informed Urban Design

In Community-Informed Urban Design, we will explore the role of urban design, architecture, and placemaking in shaping social conditions within the built environment. We will critically examine how design decisions have disproportionately impacted those most vulnerable, exacerbating existing disparities based on race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion, and age. Students must define their social responsibility and will directly confront social frameworks to explore avenues for reparative urban design.

Throughout the course, we will review historical design injustices and unveil the benefit of healing, trauma-informed, and community-driven alternatives. Our focus will center on two primary vulnerable populations: system-impacted communities and the unhoused. Marginalized and criminalized by society, these communities have been further failed by designers who concretize these value judgements spatially. To challenge implicit bias that compounds across the built environment, students will utilize numerous qualitative and quantitative research methods, alongside design-thinking to produce empathetic, data-driven solutions.
We will learn and deploy various community engagement practices, such as interviews, surveys, focus groups, intercepts, and online engagement tools. In light of the course’s sensitive topics, there will be special attention to cultural competency and best practices specific to vulnerable populations. Students will be evaluated on projects that incorporate design, policy, and financing that advocate for these communities, for justice, and that aim to repair past harms and improve outcomes well into the future.
Interdisciplinarity is strongly encouraged. Students across the GSD and from other areas of interest are welcome to enroll.