Transdisciplinary Urbanism Studio: swlab energy farm

networked infrastructures, research and practice


Transdisciplinary Urbanism [TU]: networked infrastructures, research and practice
Profiles: Technology, Urbanism, Ecology
The TU studio gathers Master degree candidates from diverse design disciplines to form “entrepreneurial design teams” to investigate and experience the nature of 21st century research and practice; understand the systemic role of infrastructure networks and current sustainable techniques; and employ knowledge and awareness gained through to conceive of design interventions at the scale of the building, the site, the city and its associated bioregion. Increasingly, design disciplines are acknowledging and embracing the necessity of transdisciplinary research and practice to effectively address the complexity of forces and dynamics affecting the built and natural environment, and the pressing need for sustainable interventions at all scales. Our studio will address this phenomenon through design investigation of infrastructure networks with a diverse instructor team and client group [Prof. Bodurow engages transdisicplinary colleagues from the College of Engineering, the City of Detroit, NGOs,]. Our studio design project and program will address building, site and infrastructure design for a specific urban site.

Studio Objectives
[TU] Studio participants will engage in “Disciplinary Thievery” (White, 2012) through a guided investigation, including:
Research [Awareness]: explore past and current theoreticians and practitioners as their work relates to natural systems and infrastructure, including: Allen, Belanger, Berger, Brown, Corner, Lerup, Schwartz, Varnelis, White+Sheppard, Bodurow, Carpenter, et. al.
Analysis [Knowledge]: understand the study area and client group objectives (conditions, criteria, capacity) and natural and infrastructure networks [“blue, green, gray + white” – as defined by Bodurow] and their role in sustainability, through lectures, interactions and site visits. Design [Ability]: integrate and apply knowledge and awareness of infrastructure theory and best practices related to infrastructure (including LID and Net Zero Energy principles) into both conceptual design alternatives (Teams) and a final design project (Individuals). Project precedents include (but are not limited to!): Lateral Office, Water Economies, Salton Sea, CA, USA []; Field Operations, Fresh Kills Park,; studio[Ci], Urban Evolution_Creating Detroit’s first Net Zero Energy Community [].

The scale of studio participants’ design interventions will include architecture, but will extend ‘beyond the building’, generating design alternatives and specific “hybridized architecture” projects for newly conceived infrastructure networks and structures for the site and study area. Participants will be encouraged to focus on form that re-purposes existing or is generative of net new infrastructure, based on research and therefore, ideally, criteria driven. Students will be encouraged to design infrastructure that acts as a new melded, hybridized ecosystem of both natural and built form, including but not limited to:
– Networks and Structures that envision future infrastructure as the armature for multifarious urban and regional capacities;
– Networks and Structures that embody an intersection of both the traditional and non-traditional (informal) roles of infrastructure;
– Networks and Structures that address virtual (programming, data, media, etc.) as well as the physical and environmental functions.

Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems – “where cities first begin to mitigate their impacts and then become a source of regeneration as in natural ecosystems.” Newman and Jennings, 2008
Sustainability for Post Industrial Cities – “the unique challenges and opportunities [decommissioning, optimization, harnessing vacancy, etc.] for designing and managing infrastructure systems in a context of population decline.” Schwartz and Hoornbeek, 2009
Systemic Design – “the reintegration of disvalued landscapes into our urbanized territories and regional ecologies. Systemic Design is about scale rather than problem.” Alan Berger, 2009

Transdisciplinary Design Practice – “an immersive, collaborative and integrative design centered entrepreneurial practice approach, expanding diverse disciplinary boundaries through collaboration, and achieving urban sustainability through resultant design interventions from the scale of the site to an [urbanized] ecosystem.” Bodurow, studio[Ci] 2012
Research Based Design Practice – “design as a research vehicle to pose and respond to complex, urgent questions in the built environment,” engaging in the “wider context and climate of a project– social, ecological, or political.” White+Sheppard, Lateral Office, 2012
Low Impact Design [LID] Practice – “a process of sustainable development and redevelopment that conserves and protects natural resources. The LID process holistically considers the landscape during design and construction to protect the environment through practices that enhance water and air quality while preserving open green space.” Carpenter, GLSMI, 2009


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