Teaching urban design

From Urban Omnibus comes this interview with Victoria Marshall, assistant professor at Parsons New School for Design, on the topic of urban design. The interview caught my eye because it focuses on an ecological approach that emphasizes “’how to see the city as a designer’ rather than, say, how to design the city or its spaces”. Of particular interest to me as an interaction design researcher is the fact that several of the classes are based on hacking experiments, e.g. when students are prompted to create satellite balloons that can monitor the city. If you feel like exploring through doing, the kind people of Grassroots Mapping have put out a guide for mapping with balloons.

Here are a couple of snippets from the interview to whet your appetite:

“I think of urban design in terms of comfort with multi-scalar thinking, the ability to link the big and the small, from large landscapes to small urban interventions. I’ve done a lot of research with ecologists, working a lot to translate ecology theory into urban theory: how do we read cities as ecosystems?”

“There’s also a class called “Sensing,” in which students build sensors, collect environmental data, do mapping and create their own aerial photography using balloons. They launch their own satellites and collect infrared data.”

The launch of our research center, Digital Urban Living, three years ago seems to have coincided with an explosive interest in urban informatics and the changing experiences and practices of and in the city brought about by digital technologies. Since I’ve brought many topics from this research into my teaching, it’s good to get some insights into how colleagues around the world go about teaching their students the proper skills to address the changing urban landscape in the face of emerging technologies.

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