Why is it difficult to imagine new futures for many urban communities in the United States?

The studio will debate this question through the act of “social dreaming” and architectural speculation. Alternative architectural futures will be designed against the backdrop of historic decisions made to an impoverished urban neighborhood thirty years ago. Students will be asked to consider the latent social, political and urban potentials of the site, operating at an architectural scale. Although we will be giving form to a speculative space, it will be based on a close reading of history and cultural practices. Our cultivation of an imaginary, parallel future intends to radically shift current communal perceptions of possible presents.

In the fall 1989, the Loma Prieto Earthquake shook the San Francisco Bay Area, amassing major destruction to the Oakland span of the Bay Bridge as well as other viaduct freeway structures in the Oakland and San Francisco Bay Area. The studio will examine one site in particular, West Oakland CA., and the double decker Cypress Viaduct built post WWII as part of a large scale urban renewal project that physically reshaped the city. After the quake, the major double-decker viaducts, the San Francisco Embarcadero, Chinatown and Hayes Valley exit ramps, the Oakland Bay Bridge and West Oakland Viaduct all collapsed.

The events during the past 30 years will serve as catalyst to fantasize and dream about a new architectural and urban future for a vulnerable community. The work will be purely speculative and reside in the imagination. The context for “social dreaming” reside in the community’s collective memory but more importantly in the country’s history of urban renewal and its lasting impact on the culture of architecture and urbanism and how certain groups of people in the United States are not part of our imagined future. Changes that have affected the Bay Area demographics, economy, ecology, culture, planning, art and architecture, etc. will serve as fodder for the imagination. Looking back, armed with what we know today, how might we even begin to dream…and see certain communities anew? Can dreaming today give us courage to be prophetic tomorrow, breaking away from paternalistic rhetoric and actions?

The studio will travel to South Africa to review recent architecture, art and urbanism projects in Johannesburg. We will review the same time period (1990-93, end of apartheid) to current day documenting the presence of an Afro Futurist imaginary in everyday life.

The studio will also review the economic and cultural value that has been added to three post quake landscapes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Particular emphasis will focus on the visual rhetoric and architectural decisions made to replace the collapsed viaduct freeway infrastructure and the communities they altered. Here we will study:

  1. The SF Embarcadero and its metamorphosis into a world class waterfront featuring, promenades, markets, new plaza, restaurants, civic/art institutions, port, restaurants, art, etc.…
  2. The Octavia boulevard, Hayes Valley, and its successful advocacy to remove freeway ramps for local streets and new public open space and
  3. The Oakland Bay Bridge with its new cable stay iconic gesture towards Oakland and the East Bay.

The studio work will be iterative at the site and architecture scale. Each student will be responsible for the architecture and site development of separate parcels no larger than a city block. Collectively, the final project will be an assembly of various futures.


Brown, Adrienne. The Black Skyscraper. Architecture and the Perception of Race, 2017, John Hopkins Press.

Dunne, Anthony and Raby, Fiona. Speculative Everything, Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming, MIT Press, 2013.

Rothstein, Richard. The Color of Law, A Forgotten History of How Government Segregated America, Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017.

All Semesters

Spring 2022
Advanced Design Studio: VERI_PLEX Center for Alternative Cinema
Joe Day, Violette de la Selle
Spring 2021
Advanced Design Studio
Sandra Barclay, Jean Pierre Crousse, Can Vu Bui
Spring 2019
Advanced Design Studio
Thomas Phifer, Kyle Dugdale
Spring 2018
Advanced Design Studio: Africa U.
Alan Ricks, Nicholas McDermott