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E d u c a t i o n t o p r a c t i c e

Arlington Re-Imagined Educator adapts award-winning course to improve ‘everyday’ suburbia

Images courtesy: (top) City of Arlington Urban Design Center; (top right) Andrew Oxley; (bottom right) Carlos Sierra

b y S u s a n A p p l e t o n , AIA

One year after her course, The Everyday City, was recognized with an AIA Education Honor Award, University of Texas at Arlington Assistant Professor Wanda Dye has tasked her architecture students with improving the everyday life of all Arlington residents. Through collaboration with City of Arlington staff, their work is a natural extension of the investigations they undertook for The Everyday City. In that class, Dye asked them to re-imagine the most mundane and banal aspects of the suburban environment. Her recent appointment as Head Design Consultant of the City of Arlington’s Urban Design Center now offers Dye and her graduate students real-world opportunities to change the world around them. Established last year through a partnership between UT Arlington and the City of Arlington, the program is funded jointly by the university and the city. Projects will include envisioning infill redevelopment, storefront retrofitting/greening, housing densification, and improving the overall public realm through new streetscape and landscape proposals. Dye has taught The Everyday City at UT Arlington since joining the School of Architecture faculty in 2007. The course has evolved since 2000 when she first began asking her students to really look at the everyday city around them. In one exercise, they photograph one image each day throughout the semester so they might begin to see potential in the (above) The Urban Design Center proposes a utterly ordinary within urban/suburban cityscapes and landscapes—from new community center and garden at Stone derelict voids and oversized parking lots to “big box” retail and commonplace Ridge Apartments. Wanda Dye, Renee Cain, infrastructure. By their keen observation, the students realize what is lack- and Jim Parajon comprise the design team. ing, such as density, good public spaces, and a sense of place. Critical, empiri- (at right) Two projects from The Everyday City cal observation afforded by the image-a-day exercise informs thoughtful course by Andrew Oxley and Carlos Sierra. alternatives for often-overlooked spaces and places. “This gets them really looking at the world around them in a subjective as well as objective manner,” Dye says, “to see the potential or non-potential in these spaces and places they are documenting.” continued on page 33

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Texas Architect Jan/Feb 2010: Design for Education