NSL Colloquium 2014: Urban Design in Transition

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NSL Colloquium 2014: Urban Design in Transition
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The practice of urban design is in a state of transition. Transitions, if intended, can often be productive. Jose Lluis Sert established the first graduate program in urban design at Harvard University over fifty years ago, and since then urban design has come to occupy an important and productive space between planning and architecture. The focus of much of urban design’s work has been the middle ground, negotiating the space between architecture and the city. Because of circumstance, the tools and methods of urban design have also been limited to the middle scale. This middle scale intentionally provides urban design with the capacity to use recognizable, yet unspecific, architectural objects. Architecture in urban design invariably functions as a placeholder, a placeholder that in all likelihood is based on recollection of past architectures, of what pre-exists. But are the methods of urban design, many of which were developed in response to the rebuilding of the European city after the Second World War, capable of responding to the everchanging conditions of urbanization today? The aim of this lecture is to re-evaluate the criteria, in terms of both theory and practice, that might lead to alternative and contemporary strategies for the practice of urban design.