BA DESIGNING CITIES
Giulio Verdini Roudaina Alkhani
Our city of the future needs to be more resilient and sustainable. Climate change, economic stresses, inequalities, and public health crisis are showing their limits. Communities are making great efforts to adapt to everyday challenges and shocks, reinventing their way to use and experience the city. However, new architectural, urban design, and planning approaches are required to help cities meet current challenges and unpredictable futures capitalising on their strengths and potentials.
Designing Cities brings together knowledge about the city and its diverse communities, exploration of the richness of architecture and public spaces, housing development, mobility, green and blue networks, urban ecologies, rural-urban synergies, and much more. It does so, prompting students to design more sustainable places and futures.
The course addresses the challenge of building post-pandemic climate-resilient cities due to the unexpected outbreak of COVID that the world has faced in recent months. We have organised ‘industry projects’ with London-based practices, such as Jacobs, WSB, and INGMedia, to study various approaches to tackle the urban challenges of COVID, such as digital placemaking, forms of active travel, and tools to assess place productivity and wellbeing. We have also organised a virtual field trip in Milan and Berlin titled ‘Understanding neighbourhood in times of pandemic’ in collaboration with ILAUD, the International Laboratory of Architecture and Urban Design, to explore how local communities have reacted to the pandemic and cities are changing.
The staff of Designing Cities have addressed such topics throughout the course, and various modules have emphasized resilience, sustainability, and climate change. The module ‘Sustainability and Environment has developed a fruitful collaboration with the London Borough of Hounslow involving students in designing future 0-Carbon Neighbourhoods. The project has taken place in the framework of Hounslow’s Green Recovery strategy and focus on the 15 min city. The Year 2 ‘Climate Urbanism Studio’ has used an assessment framework of sustainability to design a landscape strategy for the Lower Lea Valley in East London, engaging with local activists and practitioners.
A blend of on-site and online teaching has been successfully put into practice, and we experimented with a rich variety of digital knowledge and design tools. Overall, we promote a project-based and cross-disciplinary learning approach, engaging with diverse expertise from architects, planners, urban designers, economists and liaising with practitioners, policymakers, activists, and communities. The course is accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) as meeting the requirements for the spatial planning element of initial planning education.
Giulio Verdini & Roudaina Al Khani
We design sustainable and integrated neighbourhoods benefitting from London as our City Lab. Under the title More Canal, we focused on the Regent’s Canal at Broadway Market between Hackney and Tower Hamlet. The work explored the ecological and health potential of the Canal in North London, and unpacked the canal and waterways that have historically shaped the city’s spatial structure, and its ecology, economy, and society. The students worked in groups to assess the qualities, specific potentials and needs of the area using site-appraisal and urban mapping methods and engaging with city debate and policies. They developed creative sustainable urban strategies using the canal’s multiple opportunities as a spine for ecological, social and economic revival and for stitching the neighbourhoods together around the canal. Meanwhile the students explored the unique architectural, urban and ecological experience and the industrial typologies. The students then developed individual architectural and urban design propositions based on sustainability principles with varied themes: Readapting the gasholders, re-wilding and hanging farms, pocket parks, and green links, community and house-boaters’ hubs, recycling stations, and many more. A series of key lectures, digital site visits and skills workshops helped the students develop and communicate their projects.
The studio investigates how to build up climate resilient post-pandemic cities and neighbourhoods, capitalizing on existing learning from the COVID-19 outbreak. In particular, it explores ways to address global environmental challenges and to tackle the many social and economic dimensions of this crisis, while focusing on the most vulnerable (UN HABITAT). The aim is to redesign cities to strengthen their resilience against all hazards. The case study selected is the Lower Lea Valley, in East London. Due to its very fragmented nature, being comprised of mixed residential areas with problems of social deprivation, and large-scale industrial areas, the area has remained relatively untouched by large property developments of the London Docks, but equally affected urban restructuring. In 2007, a framework for a new river park was proposed but never fully implemented. This is because its location, between the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham, has been always considered as a ‘backyard’ without being politically relevant. Today this area is reconsidered as an important ecological resource with the potential to reinforce its role of social and environmental infrastructure for the surrounding residential areas. Students have therefore worked to propose resilient and green solutions for the future of the river area.
This year’s project focused on one of GLA’s Opportunity Areas within Southwark, inner London’s, across the River Thames. The area dates back to pre-Roman times when the thoroughfare linked London to Southeast England. The area along the road was rural until the 19th century when a number of landholdings became industrial sites, including the Metropolitan Gas Works, the old Surrey Canal of 1811, and others. The area experienced rapid transformation during the pre- and post-war periods due to slum clearances and bombing, resulting in the development of some of the largest social housing estates in Europe. It saw continued industrial, & warehouse development, along with big-box retail facilities from the 1980s. The area is now the focus of development speculation. The Bakerloo Line is to be extended along the length of Old Kent Road with 2-3 stations. In response, the GLA established the Old Kent Road Opportunity Area OKR OA, followed by Southwark’s Area Action Plan (AAP). Covering over 114ha with 10,000 new jobs and 20,000 new homes, (7,000 affordable tenure), it will become the capital’s latest high-density cluster with some tall buildings. In Term 1 the students worked in groups to undertake high-level urban design and contextual spatial, demographic and socio-economic analysis while proposing strategic plans for large scale development parcels within the opportunity area. During Term 2 they worked on smaller sites to develop individual architectural development proposals foRead More...