Eth Teaching

Urban Design I/II + III/IV: Urban Stories HS18 FS19

Overview

The ‘Urban Stories’ lecture series introduces a city during each lecture. The city’s urban development is described through contemporary phenomena and is critically presented as strategies and tactics. The urban phenomenon we explore in this course show urban conditions, models and operational modes.

How can we read cities and recognize current trends and urban phenomena?

The lectures series will produce a catalog of operational urban tools as a series of critical case studies, and as a basis for future practice. Urban Stories introduces a repertoire of urban design instruments to the students.

This will empower them to read cities and apply these tools in the urban environment. The course will approach the topic employing analytical cases on different scales, geographies, in diverse socio-political and economical environments. With our collection of tools compiled in a ‘toolbox’, we aim to tell the fundamental story of contemporary urban development. This specific analysis offers insight and knowledge that helps students to make informed design decisions. The tools are grouped in thematic clusters, compared and interpreted. This approach sensibilities the students to understand how to operate in different local but also international contexts.

Urban form cannot be reduced to the physical space. Cities are the result of social construction, under the influence of technologies, ecology, culture, the impact of experts and accidents. Urban un-concluded processes respond to political interests, economic pressure, cultural inclinations, along with the imagination of architects and urbanists and the informal powers at work in complex adaptive systems. Current urban phenomena are the result of an urban evolution. The facts stored in urban environments include contributions from its entire lifecycle. That is true for the physical environment, but also for non-physical aspects, the imaginary city that exists along with its potentials and problems and with the conflicts that have evolved over time. Knowledge and understanding along with a critical observation of the actions and policies are necessary to understand the diversity and instability present in the contemporary city and to understand how urban form evolved to its current state.

How did cities develop into the cities we live in now? Which urban plans, instruments, visions, political decisions, economic reasonings, cultural inputs, and social organization have been used to operate in urban settlements in specific moments of change? We have chosen cities that are exemplary in illustrating how these instruments have been implemented and how they have shaped urban environments. We transcribe these instruments into urban operational tools that we have recognized and collected within existing tested cases in contemporary cities across the globe.

This lecture series will introduce urban knowledge and the way it has introduced urban models and operational modes within different concrete realities, therefore shaping cities. Urban knowledge will be translated into operational tools, extracted from cities where they have been tested and become exemplary samples, most relevant for providing the understanding of how urban landscape has taken shape. The tools are clustered in twelve thematic clusters and three tool scales for better comparability and cross-reflection.

Tool case studies are compiled into a toolbox, which we use as templates to read the city and to critically reflect upon it. The presented contents are meant to serve as inspiration for positioning in future professional life as well as to provide instruments for future design decisions.

How can architects and urban designers (YOU) realize projects that build better cities?