Nearly a generation ago, six architects (three of them Yale SOA alumni) founded an organization to address urban disinvestment and suburban sprawl. Identifying problems and seeking solutions, they convened the purposefully-named Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) to accelerate change, trading individual brand for influence.
The trajectory of the movement that emerged is interesting of itself – projects, research, techniques, global extension. But more interesting is its current position. With many hard-fought victories - in communities built and re-built, local and national policy changes, and broad public participation - there still remain challenges, old and new.
This design studio will confront these challenges: in particular one old and one new, both related. The old regards the mixing of incomes in residential communities. Today most development espousing New Urban principles successfully mixes building uses and types in close proximity breaking long-held taboos; but the inter-mixing of price point remains an implementation conundrum.
The second, relatively new, regards the finance context of real estate development in a global ‘free-market’ economy. The evolution of the real estate market, from one responding to the needs of the user to now one that responds to the needs of the investor, spawned the Great Recession and continues to be-devil. Real estate is an asset class with trading value. Amidst skyrocketing prices, the goals of community building often seem to be at risk.
The studio project will ask the students to confront these challenges, recalling the idealism of the movement, in the design of housing and civic buildings for a new permanent resident community near the resort coast of the Florida Panhandle. The project will explore affordability through type, size and location, also addressing the scale and provenance of financing, eschewing subsidies. Each student will design an urban pocket, emphasizing architectural character, with a program of some 30 dwelling units integrating several housing types and one small civic structure serving the larger community. Apart from response to exigencies of resilience and cost, there will be no restriction on architectural expression. Style is understood to be a component of character.
South Carolina: Charleston, I’On, Habersham
Florida Panhandle: Watercolor, Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, Owl’s Head, SweetBay
The studio travel week will focus on urbanism in the American South, to examine the forces that influence settlements in the region, and to encourage students to proffer their own responses to current conditions. The trip to Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA, and the Florida Panhandle, will provide first-hand experience of two historic U.S. cities, and several New Urban projects inspired by them, tracking the evolution of recent American community development. Students will encounter the contradictions of a region with a political identity of resistance to change, while it has for decades supported innovation in the built environment, producing places of unusual beauty through new building and environmental conservation.
A complete Itinerary will be distributed after travel arrangements are confirmed.