BA DESIGNING CITIES
Giulio Verdini , Roudaina Alkhani
Our city of the future needs to be more resilient, sustainable, and adaptable as we face diverse challenges. The urgency of addressing 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 potential.
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 plan and 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. Last year, we 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 has addressed such topics throughout the course, and various modules have emphasized resilience, and sustainability, and addressed climate change. The module ‘Sustainability and Environment has engaged the students this year in creating a Climate-Resilient Neighbourhood at Deptford - a historic naval dockyard and Thames-side neighbourhood. The area is part of both the London Borough of Lewisham and the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The Year 2 ‘Climate Urbanism Studio’ has investigated how to build up climate-resilient and inclusive post-pandemic neighborhoods, capitalising on existing learning from the COVID-19 outbreak. The studio focused on the borough of Newham in East London - one of the most diverse boroughs of London with a high level of social deprivation.
We have been successful in returning safely to campus for our studios. A blend of on-site and online teaching has been effectively put into practice for the rest of the modules, 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, and 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
More Canal - Reinforcing the Ecological and Urban Potentials of the Regent’s Canal at Broadway Market. 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 site, re-wilding and hanging farms, reuse of underused spaces, pocket parks, and green links, community hubs, recycling stations, and many more. A series of key lectures, site visits and skills workshops helped the students develop and communicate their projects.
The Climate Urbanism Studio investigates how to build up climate resilient and inclusive post-pandemic neighbourhoods, capitalizing on learning from COVID-19 outbreak to ensure a smooth green recovery as advocated by COP26, Glasgow. The Studio applies an integrated analytical and design framework to understand & map city vulnerabilities to address economic shocks, pandemics & climate challenges, producing meanwhile scenarios of resiliency and design explorations at the local level (Verdini, Dean, 2022). We focus on the borough of Newham, East London - one of the most diverse boroughs of London, with high level of social deprivation and problems exacerbated by COVID. Newham is also committed to promising experiences of local government, including experimenting with the council’s first permanent Citizens Assembly - one of UK’s most innovative processes of ‘participatory democracy’. Residents’ view, including the youth, in the Citizens Assembly, has been already incorporated into its Climate Emergency Action Plan. A series of recommendations on the topic of ‘Greening the Borough’ has also been published. The Council is planning now to develop an action plan aiming to: encourage physical & digital access to green space, implement community projects around green space & wellbeing, supporting the development of green infrastructure, pockets of green, and the re-wilding of existing areas. Students’ work gives voices to people & explore solutions for greening the borough.
The project is set within the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Opportunity Area Planning Framework, one of GLA strategic development sites in the larger River Thames Opportunity Area, East London. It lies within the Royal Borough of Greenwich & London Borough of Bexley, historic settlements. The area dates back to 1178, when Lesnes Abbey was founded. The only local railway station opened at Abbey Wood in 1849, linking the area to central London. The first social housing was built by RACS in1900-1930, a precursor to the London County Council housing built in mid-1960s. The design of the new estates increased isolation. Architectural design reflected futuristic ideologies with elevated walkways, buildings & plazas to provide spaces for car parking & reduce flood risk, however became neglected. This isolation encourages car use, impacts local economy & reinforces deprivation. Prepared in consultation with GLA, Greenwich & Bexley councils & TfL, the current opportunity area calls for the extension of the DLR to Thamesmead and beyond, 15,000 new homes & 8,000 new jobs. Students undertake a spatial design project in 2 parts: Urban design group analysis & three-dimensional design framework during the Fall semester to assess challenges and highlight solutions. An individual architectural and public realm design proposal for smaller sites in the Spring semester.Read More...