Urban Grids-3:Grid Plan versus Big Project

Within a larger research scope of exploring open forms for city design, this seminar will focus on a clear discussion of two paradigms:
1) Large scale plans that take the urban grid as the main layout, allowing many forms of development. We know that Manhattan is the result of a decision to establish a well-tempered urban grid over the whole island in 1811, framing all the different subsequent morphologies and transformations.
2) The big projects behind the initiatives of major events like World Expos that have to meet a precise program for a short period of time. Paris held seven different Expos along the Seine and created a cultural downtown district for the metropolis with parks, museums and mixed uses.

The two design strategies respond to the different logics, time constraints and social ambitions of the urban projects. This seminar is a distillation of a twofold research process at the GSD. The first is the Urban Grids: Handbook for Regular City Design presented at previous editions. The second is ongoing research on the “Urbanistic impact of World Expositions in cities” that summarizes some lessons to be learned from the experience of the more than 100 expos held since 1851 in London, covering cities in different continents and the most varied of cultures. Both paradigms are good examples of open forms for designing the city. Each responds to different urbanistic aims. The first is responsible for many expansions with the different characters we’ll discover as we study them, but they are, in general, lasting urban sectors. The second initially has something of the ephemeral about it as in many cases the programs are limited to a few months, but the transformation nevertheless produces special districts in most of the Expo cities that go on to induce other types of developments. The ultimate aim of the course is to create a new understanding of the way we approach city design by means of powerful models and innovative experiences that can rigorously inform our design decisions. Revisiting these two paradigms—that have channeled so many different objectives—with a critical viewpoint may help us to address new issues when approaching the urban future with its new social challenges and sustainable requirements.

The research seminar will specifically focus on the following steps:
A) Reviewing the conceptual framework of plans and projects. Understanding certain categories such as known vs unknown, systematic vs specific, and generic vs ad hoc. We will identify the nature of each paradigm.
B) Researching seminal projects (city fragments) that suggest new design patterns in both paradigms. Study of quantitative features in order to understand qualitative values in the design and its development.
C) Comparative studies of the various aspects of investigation to establish both individual research areas and a collective agenda for the group.
D) The final outcome will present the students’ individual critical views in relation to the values of each of the paradigms for future application.

Course Format and Method:
Some introductory reading will be provided at the beginning of the course. After the initial steps, the seminar will go on to explore the topics, primarily by means of analytical and operative drawings that allow students to produce critical arguments about values and priorities using some relevant cases for both urban design paradigms.

The seminar is open to all students at the GSD. Up to five seats will be held for MDes students. Please note that a high level of graphic skills is required. Students will work both individually and in pairs to exchange ideas and contrast the two paradigms. Dingliang Yang will serve as Teaching Fellow.

***Please note that the material circulated during the seminar is for use in the seminar only.

This course will be taught online through Friday, February 4th.