Urban Design Program

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Columbia University

Master of Science in Urban Design


Urban Design

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Global shifts in the climate system require resetting the paradigms that have guided urban growth for centuries. The Program frames the city not as a fixed, delineated territory – a modernist fixation on boundaries – but instead as a gradient of varied landscapes supported by networks of food, energy, resources, culture, transportation and capital. In this light, the historical terms urban, rural or suburban are no longer sufficient to address the “wicked problem” of global change. Program work stresses near and long term threats to local, regional and global ecosystems, framing urban design as both an inclusive, activist, tools-based project for specific sites and communities and as a critical project examining urban form, knowledge and research processes. Students and faculty work together over a series of three intensive semesters to weave a multi-scalar analysis of urbanregional fabrics and infrastructures with on-the ground, detailed studies of places and lived conditions. New York City serves as a primary initial case study for a design methodology; the scope expands in the second semester to regional research about New York and other American city-regions and concludes in the final semester with investigations in emerging global capitals and agglomerations in Asia, Africa, and South America among other places. Kate Orff, Director 411 Avery Hall @ColumbiaUD ud@arch.columbia.edu

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Urban Design - Overview

The Urban Design Program is focused on the city as an agent of resilient change, a project requiring the re-examination of the role of design in the urbanized landscapes of the 21st century. The program advances new paradigms of research, practice and pedagogy to meet the challenges of global development, resource scarcity, infrastructural challenges and social polarization, all ¬exacerbated by global warming. Students and faculty in the Program struggle with the venerable if necessarily shifting question: what is “the good city?”



Urban Design - Faculty

Faculty 2015-16 Ben Ableman Anthony Acciavatti Lee Altman Brian Baldor Elizabeth Barry Pippa Brashear Noah Chasin Reinier de Graaf Phu Duong Petra Kempf James Khamsi Chris Kroner Kaja Kühl Laura Kurgan

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Liz McEnaney Sandro Marpillero Tricia Martin Geeta Mehta Justin Moore Kate Orff, Director Thaddeus Pawlowski Richard Plunz Bry Sarte Grahame Shane David Smiley, Ass’t Director Morana Stipisic Nans Voron Gena Wirth


Degree Requirements



Semester 2 Fall

Semester 3 Spring

Design Studio 3 x 9 pts: 27 pts

Design Studio I

Design Studio II

Design Studio III

Seminar 3 x 3 pts: 9 pts

UD Seminar I

UD Seminar IIA or IIB

UD Seminar IIIA or IIIB

Other Courses 3 x 3 pts: 9 pts

Reading New York Urbanism

Open Elective

Open Elective

15 pts

15 pts

15 pts

Total: 45 pts

Urban Design - Degree Requirements

Semester 1 Summer

The M.S. degree in Architecture and Urban Design requires a minimum of 45 points in the curriculum.

Summer Semester

A 6849 Urban Design Studio I A 6836 Urban Design Seminar I A 6824 Reading New York Urbanism A 4528 Digital Modeling for Urban Design Total required points

Fall Semester

A 6850 Urban Design Studio II A 6837 Urban Design Seminar II A or A 6832 Urban Design Seminar II B or A 6830 Urban Design Seminar II C Elective Total required points

Spring Semester

A 6851 Urban Design Studio III A 6812 Urban Design Seminar IIIA: Urban Ecoogy & Design A 6814 Urban Design Seminar III B: Design Frontiers or A 4688 Urban Design Seminar III C: Recombinant Urbanism Elective Total required points

9 pts 3 pts 3 pts 3 pts 18 pts 9 pts 3 pts 3 pts 15 pts

9 pts 3 pts 3 pts 15 pts

Note: Students are strongly advised to take one additional 3-point Optional Elective during the Fall and Spring Semesters. No extra tuition is charged between 12 and 19 points.

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Summer The Summer studio is foundational, addressing representational and constructive aspects of the experimental urban design process. It addresses the New York City environs as a learning lab and as a site of conflicting interests, creatively interfacing with agencies, community groups, and contexts. Fall The Fall studio work expands to consider the city-region, examining large scale interdependencies and interactions. Studio research addresses the particular conditions of American regions in which overlapping ecological, infrastructural, historical, political and social boundaries – as well as topographical conditions – require strategies for change, which overlay a variety of systemic actions. Spring The final semester is a culmination and synthesis of the previous two, further exploring in the operational and programmatic mechanisms for urban transformation in an international context. This research typically entails travel and research in cooperation with local partners and organizations.

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Urban Design - Curriculum

The curriculum exploits the pedagogic potential of the design studio as a site of research, visionary speculation and critical inquiry. Across the three semesters of the program, work ranges from site formation and policy environment to visualization and representation to lived spatial and social conditions. Research, assignments and deliverables seek forms of mediation and action to address the challenges of global and local change. The sequencing of three studios builds a shared understanding of urban theories and terms, design tools, and research methods essential to urban design thought and practice.

Site visit and research in Mumbai, India

Collaborative studio environment

Fu, Lew, Ren, and Yoon


Seminars work in tandem with studio work and encompass topics from site representation, to discourse of the past and future projections of the city, to the language of public engagement and emerging urban forms of public space, resiliency, and ecology. Seminars contribute to a shared understanding and of urban design theory and practice. Studios and seminars integrate a range of interdisciplinary expertise both internal to Columbia University — such as the Mailman School of Public Health, the Earth Institute, and the Fu School of Engineering — and external to the school with diverse governmental and non-governmental agencies providing valuable feedback and direct engagement with political and social realities.

Palacios, Dolezal, Yi, Su

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Urban Design - Curriculum - Overview

Throughout the studios, projects emphasize a multi-scalar approach to site and program, embracing local, regional, and global scales and advancing the role of the urban designer as a catalytic and thoughtful practitioner who can place herself among diverse actors, existing conditions, and imagined futures. The collaborative studio setting enables a synthetic approach to design that weaves together environment, infrastructure, and planning.

Abdulrahman Ahmad Al-Ishaq, Cezar Nicolescu, Long Xu, Summer 2014

Preetal Shah, Maria Agustina Santana, Ye Zhang, Summer 2014

Noella Aoun, Ekarat Punsupol, Zhimin Zhang, Summer 2014


Urban Design Studio I Three ambitions guide the Summer Urban Design Studio: to nurture a design process specific to existing urban environments, to critically consider site and program, and to interrogate the role of Urban Design in service to the public as a client. The studio provides a framework for students to expand their design thinking using New York City as a laboratory. Students are introduced to a post-industrial, built-out American city through its past, current and future layers of neighborhoods, public spaces and infrastructure. Designing for growth and change in the context of the built-out metropolis requires an array of emergent Urban Design tools for researching, mapping, investigating and hypothesizing the continuous transformation of the city. For Urban Design, “site” is not a given. The studio treats site as a value-laden construct that embodies multiple motives shaping the process and products of Urban Design. Over the course of the semester the studio explores methods of defining and representing urban sites and their multi-scalar, multivalent systemic linkages within the city and the region. Urban Designers must identify and investigate complex, layered contexts, within which urban places are embedded. Like site, “program” is constructed and offers opportunities to extend and expand the field for human interaction. In this first Urban Design Studio, these explorations are additionally framed by research into the redefinition of infrastructure, encouraging students to critically investigate and assess the many layers of public systems relevant for constructing a transformative urban environment. Understanding Urban Design’s primary concern as serving a public clientele, students are asked to develop speculative hypotheses for new infrastructures that address the multiple needs of a variety of stakeholders at different scales, embedding their hypotheses in a site-specific design for a particular neighborhood, while impacting the larger scale of the city.

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Urban Design - Curriculum

Kaja Kühl, Coordinator Ben Abelman, Brian Baldor, Tricia Martin, James Khamsi, Thaddeus Pawlowski

Duncan Moore, Filiberto Viteri, Xiaobei Yang, Preetal Shah, Nour Zoghby, Fall 2014

Duncan Moore, Nans Varon, Ross Brady, Anaid Niembro Garcia, Ye Shang, Fall 2014

Bina Bhatia. Abdul AlIshaq, Long Xu. Manela Souza, Fall 2014


Urban Design Studio II The Fall Urban Design studio is the “regional studio” which moves beyond New York City to embrace the city-region, the vast literal and systemic territories under stress from global and local shifts. Integral to this design research is the very problem of the term “region.” For Urban Design this means that rather than a singular biophysical meaning of the term, the new region includes infrastructures, resources, materials, governments, funders, policies, organizations, businesses and residents all of which are drawn into a struggle to define a region. The Regional Studio asks students to enter this discourse and construct the region, identifying, selecting and representing those actors and features which cohere in the form of a research and design program. The current research orientation of the Regional Studio is “American Cities and Regional Contexts.” This unit enables students to examine the functioning of specific city-regions as a basis for examination of the Hudson Valley in New York State. The Hudson Valley is, in fact, part of a much larger system of mobility and production, from New York Harbor to the Erie Canal and to the Great Lakes, with implications for transportation networks, manufacturing, food systems, tourism even as the Valley has its own tensions and needs. Future iterations of the Regional Studio will maintain the American focus but will shift to examine other sites and situations. The Regional Studio is also premised on the practice of Urban Design as interdisciplinary, collaborative and researchbased. This entails a challenge to typical conceptions of architecture or landscape as isolated disciplines, to instead create opportunities for knowledge overlaps that might yield new forms of design practice. To this end, the studio process goes beyond invited reviewers to include the intensive participation of local officials, organizations, non-profits, community groups, planning and design professionals and other educators. The research-based curriculum entails studio work that tests methods of representation. The Regional Studio uses new (and “old”) media to visualize information, invent new ways of storytelling, and of engaging new audiences in the problems of urban change. Opening out Urban Design in this way enables the studio to explore the kinetic relationships between architecture, public policy, social life and the economy.

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Urban Design - Curriculum

Justin G. Moore, Lee Altman, Pippa Brashear, Christopher Kroner, Sandro Marpillero, David Smiley, Liz McEnaney, Nans Voron

Silvia Vercher,Maria Belen Ayarra, Marco Sosa, Zahraa Alwash, Spring 2014

Silvia Vercher, Maria Belen Ayarra, Marco Sosa, Zahraa Alwash, Spring 2014

Silvia Vercher, Belen Ayarra, Marco Sosa, Zahraa Alwash, Spring studio


Urban Design Studio III The Spring Urban Design (traveling) studio investigates the ongoing process of urbanization in a global context. Building on and synthesizing the work of the previous semesters, the research and design work of the semester focuses on major conurbations facing structural and social change, and sites have included Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Accra, Bucharest, and Medellin. The goal of the studio is to link issues along a spatial and temporal transect of developmental change, environmental justice and physical intervention, all reflected in the specificity of place. Studio research moves beyond the legacy of urbanism characterized by city and countryside, urban and rural, or city and suburb as discrete forms and instead frames urbanism as a continuously shifting assembly of socio-natural systems. In particular, the studio focuses on the waterenergy-food nexus with a close look at the spatial dynamics of extraction economies, oil dependency, water resources, cultural life and equity. Depending on the sites selected, study frameworks include regional settlement systems, the local and uneven effects of climate change, landscape and ecological degradation, destabilization of housing systems, threats to public health, challenges to work patterns, and the transformation in mobility systems. Students explore the operative potential of multi-scalar, ecological frameworks for designing the architecture, cities, and landscapes of the future, all embedded in robust social and civic life. The studio is organized with intensive participation of local partners, from city governments and planning departments, to humanitarian groups, local universities and community groups. The studio also builds on Columbia University’s resources via the Columbia Global Centers and Studio X, and typically involves the production of publications, videos, or exhibitions sharing the work with a wide range of participants, decision-makers and other professionals. Most importantly, the work of the Spring studio, culminating a key aspect of the UD Program, is to engage public discourse as well as scholarly discourse on cities and urbanization.

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Urban Design - Curriculum

Kate Orff, Coordinator Petra Kempf, Geeta Mehta, Laura Kurgan, Reinier de Graaf, Guilherme Lassance

Seminars Digital Modeling for Urban Design Chris Kroner, Ben Martinson, Phu Duong

This course serves as an introduction to fundamental techniques for urban design representation that aims to bring meaning to the above questions which underlie the nature of how urban designers think, make, work, and communicate. The primary objective is to provide an entry point into digital software that explores current modes of representation for contemporary urban design practice. Digital Modeling for Urban Design (DMUD) approaches visualization as both a descriptive and generative process. By understanding design through this frame, students are offered opportunities to discover the relevance of cartography, aerial photography, and datascapes as they relate to the physical spaces of the city.

Reading New York Urbanism Elizabeth Barry

DMUD course runs in conjunction with the cinematic content framed by Reading New York Urbanism seminar. At the start of the term, digital seminars will share the same geographic study areas as UD Summer Studio. In this course you will visualize various urban conditions through 3d digital modeling and animation completed in Autodesk Maya. By the end of the semester you should expect to gain an effective cross-program workflow in addition to establishing a sense of control when using static 2d vector formats and 3d modeling with animation.

Urban Design Seminar I: Urban Theory & Design in the Post-Industrial Age Noah Chasin & Anthony Acciavatti

This seminar is an introduction to the theoretical, critical, and formal vocabularies of postwar urbanism throughout the United States, Europe, and beyond. The class is arranged thematically and, in a larger context, chronologically. The rise of new urbanisms as a result of rapidly proliferating technological and industrial advances is explored as a backdrop to various Urban Design strategies that have been subsequently deployed from suburban sprawl to the Team 10 critique of interwar functionalism; from megastructures to semiotic models; from New Urbanism to X-Urbanism.


Urban Design Seminar IIA Emergent Urban Design Practice & Pedagogy Kate Orff

Urban Design Seminar IIB Fabrics and Typologies, New York/Global Richard Plunz

This course explores the meaning of building typology and fabric in the evolution of cities worldwide. It questions the canons of architectural and urban historiography that tend to overemphasize isolated urban monuments and heroic designers. Part I of the seminar comprises lectures by the instructor on the history of New York as evolution of its anonymous urban fabric. The focus is on the culture of housing, with the intent to grasp the political and tectonic devices that lead to specific fabrics in specifics urban contexts. The city becomes a crucible to be understood both forwards and backwards in time, from extant present-day realities to underlying formational causes and vice versa. Part II of the seminar applies this exercise in urban forensics to the study of other global cities, translated from New York by the students who apply their analytic techniques and values to a place embedded in their own local knowledge. This exercise culminates in a forum that, among other things, compares designs for hypothetical architectural transformation of the case-study fabrics. Using this as a basis for critical analysis, we strategically explore design responses to urban “non-design� anonymity within the discipline of Urban Design.

Urban Design Seminar IIC: Infrastructure, Resilience, and Public Space Bry Sarte, Morana Stipisic

This seminar explores the development of integrated, multi-disciplinary urban design paradigms for creating resilient communities that can adapt and thrive in the changing global conditions, meet carbon-reduction goals, and sustain urban populations in more compact settings by focusing on

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Urban Design - Curriculum

This course explores emerging urban design practice and pedagogy through the lens of infrastructural and ecological systems. Critical readings that conceptualize the contemporary city from Jean Gottman’s Megalopolis (1961) through the present are interspersed with analysis of case studies of catalytic urban design projects. Students examine how interventions at multiple scales can both transform urban systems and integrate culturally, embedded with the specificity of human scale spaces and community fabrics. The seminar also marshals the expertise of the Columbia Urban Design Faculty at large to convene a series of conversations that link across semesters, developing a collective understanding of the urban design methodologies and perspectives of the Urban Design Program.

Ekarat Punsupol, Maria Agustina Santana, Natasha Angelique Trice, Zhengyang Wang, Fall 2014

infrastructure and public space amenities that are key to healthy urban growth. Participants will explore urban design approaches, methods and tools to strengthen community resilience to climate change through a systemic, interconnected public realm and green infrastructure to achieve reduced energy loads, cleaner air and enhanced civic life. The seminar will look into prototype case study frameworks and methodologies in both local and international contexts. Recurring themes and questions will include synergies between green and grey infrastructure, strategies toward urban resilience, considering overlaps between infrastructure and public space, defining urban livability, questioning the relevance of traditional sector-specific planning and design processes and exploring new urban design models applicable to 21st century cities.

Urban Design Seminar IIIB Public Space and Recombinant Urbanism Grahame Shane

This seminar examines how cities evolve and develop public space and density over time in cycles of expansion and decline. The emphasis is on the urban actors who generate these spaces. The first part of the course is based on a close reading of Recombinant Urbanism and an in-class discussion based on issues raised in the four chapters. Cities are seen as complex systems involving multiple actors, energy and information flows, resulting in diverse urban forms and systems of self-governance. The second part of the course concentrates on city models, Urban Design and public space case studies, tutorials and student presentations. Students are required to develop digital group presentations at the end of the semester modeling a city and selected public spaces that are assembled into a website based on the seminar research.


Urban Design Seminar IIIC: Urban Ecology & Design Matt Palmer (Earth Institute) & Gena Wirth

Urban Design Seminar III: Global New Towns, Then and Now David Smiley

The “New Town” was modernism’s answer to the global problem of urbanization. Embedded in the variously interpreted discourses of Garden Cities, Ideal Cities and CIAM cities, the mid-20th century New Town entailed the deployment of architecture to provide for and manage all the needs of its population. This goal – or, this fantasy, this horror – reached across scales, from desks and chairs, to streets and highways, and to regional economic infrastructures and national bordermaking. Nothing, it seemed, could be more progressive and more than a few New Towns were built in the global north as well as across the developing, often colonial-ruled globe. The outcomes of these experiments in totality varied greatly, ranging between outright abandonment and remarkable elasticity. In the early 21st century, large new cities, perhaps the “Global New Town,” are once again being built across the globe, especially in Asia and the Middle East. Like their predecessors, these constructions appear to account for all the necessities of an urbane social life, as their advocates claim. This class will examine those claims. From site plans, sections and surfaces to policies, finances and management, students will create analytic work and speculative diagrams to problematize the Global New Town, seeking its potential as well as its limits. Central to research will be questions of public space and the provision of civic, open, and recreational spaces. Previous examples include: Harlow, Hook, Cergy-Pontoise, Reston, Guayana, Naypyidaw, Lusail, Songjiang and Hammarby.

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Urban Design - Curriculum

This seminar will explore and evaluate the ecological potential of the designed urban environment. Taught jointly by Gena Wirth of SCAPE Landscape Architecture and Matthew Palmer, Ph.D. at the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, students will work in interdisciplinary groups to study and evaluate the relationships between urban design and ecological performance through a series of case studies, field explorations,and studio visits. New York City will be used as a test site for analysis and students will work together to evaluate urban systems of waste, sediment management, vegetation, and water using hybridized techniques of visual mapping and the application of quantitative scientific criteria over multiple scales. The course offers a deeper understanding of the ecosystem relationships that drive urban ecology, a critical evaluation of commonly used urban design techniques, and insights into how to better design functional ecosystems within the urban context.

Publications Naples: New Urbanisms: Centro Direzionale (1997) ISBN 1-883584-09-04 Caracas: New Urbanisms: La Cota Mil (1998) ISBN 1-883584-10-8 New Urbanisms: Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina (1998) ISBN 1-883584-13-2 New Urbanisms: Yonkers Nepperhan Valley (2000) ISBN 1-883584-17-5 New Urbanisms: Prague 13 (2000) ISBN 1-883584-18-3 New Urbanisms: Geothermal Larderello (2005) ISBN 1-568985-34-7 Litoral Central, Venezuela: New Urbanisms (2005) ISBN 1-568984-46-4 New Urbanisms: Constellations: Constructing Urban Design Practices (2007) ISBN 1-883584-45-0 New Urbanisms: Eco-Gowanus: Urban Remediation by Design (2007) ISBN 1-883584-46-7 New Urbanisms: Baltimore Patch Dynamics (2008) ISBN 1-883584-47-4 The Carbon Studio: Bangkok (2008) www.lulu.com. ISBN 1-883584-55-8 Mumbai Dharavi: Scenarios for Development (2009) www.lulu.com. ISBN: 1-883584-59-0 Aspern Vienna: Scenarios for Development (2009) www.lulu.com. ISBN 1-883584-62-0 Entwerfen Für Das Hausfeld. Designing Housfeld (2009) Municipality of the City of Vienna. Kingston Harbor: Development Transects (2010) www.lulu.com. ISBN 1-883583-65-5 Mumbai Eastern Waterfront: Development Transects (2010) www.lulu.com. ISBN 1-883584-64-7 Urban Strategies for a Post–Soviet Kharkov (2011) www.lulu.com. ISBN 978-1-300-08929-2 Gulin New Town: An Integrated Design Framework (2011) www.lulu.com. ISBN 978-0-9822174-2-9


Urban Research & Publications

Urban Development in Accra, Ghana (2011) www.lulu.com. ISBN 978-0-9822174-1-2 Madureira, Rio De Janeiro & Itaquera, S達o Paulo: Comparative Informalities (2012) www.lulu.com. ISBN 978-1-300-33841-3 Re-Cultivating the Garden City of Kumasi (2012) www.lulu.com. ISBN 978-0-9822174-3-6 Alternative Futres for New Rochelle (2014) ISBN 978-0-9822174-6-7 Re-Envisioning Health in Kumasi: Spacial Strategies (2014) ISBN 978-0-9822174-4-3 Spatial Strategies for Manyatta (2014) ISBN 978-0-9822174-7-4

Research partnership with the Millenium Cities Initiative in Kumasi, Ghana

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Urban Design Studio visit to Kisumu, Kenya


Admissions All applicants for admission to the program leading to the degree of Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design must have a first professional degree, B.Arch, B.S. Landscape Architecture, M.Arch, or Master of Landscape Architecture degree (accredited programs eligible for licensure). In addition to the application form and required supporting documents, applicants must submit a portfolio containing examples of their architectural designs, including the last two years of previous training. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required. Unless exempted, all applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Due to the sequential nature of the curriculum, all students are required to begin their studies in the Summer Term, on or around June 1 of each year, and attend on a full-time basis. For Checklist Requirements:

http://www.arch.columbia.edu/admissions/admissions-requirements/ msaud

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Student Body

Cover Design: Kees Bakker

Countries of Origin, 2012-2014



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