Loeb Fellows saw the Harvard University January term as an opportunity to dig into their interests, work closely with GSD students and - by the way - solve some thorny real-world challenges. They designed 4 dynamic courses based on their passions.
In "Designing Peace: Envisioning the Future Jerusalem,” Karen Lee Bar-Sinai led students in a 5-day exploration of how design can help people envision peace in conflicted territories through resolution planning - a practice developed by Bar-Sinai’s firm SAYA. She was joined by colleagues Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat and Chen Farkas (both of SAYA) and Dan Rothem (senior research consultant at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace). Their aim was to uncover new ways to encourage policymakers to think as architects and architects to think as policymakers.
The class focussed on several sites in Jerusalem as case studies for landscape intervention, urban design strategy, and policy vision. Teams of students researched and created spatial-based peace proposals for a variety of border crossings along the seam line between Israeli and Palestinian territories. Classroom sessions were supplemented by a related lecture at HLS, "Designing a Yes,” by Diane Davis (professor of urbanism and development) with Nizzar Farsakh from the P.L.O. General Delegation to the U.S and former borders expert in the Palestinian Negotiation Support Unit.
The teams were highly motivated and creative in devising valuable spatial concepts for realizing peace in the complex urban conditions of Jerusalem. They used sophisticated modeling techniques to show barriers transformed into borders with shared space that welcomes intergroup congregation and interaction. Some schemes incorporated shared management, a potential testing ground for wider cooperation.
The Designing Peace solutions have been collected in a blog and publication to disseminate these ideas to SAYA’s colleagues advancing peace on the ground in Israel. The class is hopeful that their work will achieve wide distribution to convey their belief – at this time when the peace process is in deep stalemate - that peace is possible.
DESIGNING HAPPY PLACES
Bar-Sinai collaborated with LZ Nunn on another workshop playfully titled "Designing Happy Places: How art, policy and urban design can reshape our cities.” The class sought to capture what makes urban design joyful and how to design inspiring urban spaces and catalysts that engage people.
A range of guests from Greater Boston and beyond weighed in on the qualities, tactics and framework that promote happier places. Lowell city manager Bernard Lynch described intentional and serendipitous events and policies that gave rise to an identity that merges culture with democratization and civic pride in a gateway city with large proportions of immigrants.
Transportation designer Etty Padmodipoetro (LF 2006) and artist Ross Miller (LF 1993) described their work to empower the next generation of designers and community-makers through the Boston Schoolyard Project and the Urbano youth arts program. The presentations were supplemented by tours of selected public spaces in Boston and Cambridge to examine the tools city makers use to create memorable places.
For two demanding days, Lynn Richards and Deanna VanBuren took students through a process to reverse neighborhood decline and repair the suburban fabric in Retrofitting Suburbia: Policies, Politics, and Designs. Their focus was on the thousands of abandoned or underutilized properties that have the potential to be re-purposed in first and second ring suburbs. These often large segments are served by existing infrastructure, and there is growing demand to redevelop them by residents and local governments seeking the economic value and vitality associated with placemaking.
After examining indicators for redevelopment potential and economic and land development policies and regulations that can facilitate or incentivize redevelopment, the class explored design strategies for incremental and wholesale redevelopment. Then student teams created redesign scenarios for a site in Sandy City, Utah.
They identified structures for reuse, proposed new buildings and initiated street and transportation changes. Despite the short timeframe, they also developed a capable grasp of policies and land development regulations that the local government could change to incentivize redevelopment.
Students were tasked to present their design concepts in ways that would help stakeholders begin to re-imagine Sandy City and its future growth and success.
CIVIC ART AND TRANSFORMATION
Jim Lasko’s 5-day workshop Civic Art + Transformation studied the role of meaningful, engaging and unexpected urban events in promoting civic pride and creating new visual language to advance conversations about the urban realm. The exploration centered on the conceptualization, design and execution of a river-based cultural event currently in planning, the Great Chicago Fire festival.
Through a review of signature urban events around the world, the class deconstructed the elements of cultural engagement to compile an archive of best practices for different scales of events: from connecting to diverse neighborhoods at the program level to transforming treasured civic space. Key components included incorporating relevant narratives; reclaiming space by increasing access or using it differently; taking a humanistic rather than an architectural approach and employing ritual, symbolism and participation to establish personal and communal significance. Attention to sound, space, time and order and chaos in the right measure were also deemed important.
Students grappled with technical challenges and produced a host of ideas for the festival that were instrumental in preparing Loeb Fellows for their trip to Chicago, where they met with city officials and community stakeholders. Based on the groundwork done at the GSD, the Fellows led a series of charettes and work sessions to address key questions uncovered and framed by the J-Term class.
The research of the class is available on the Great Chicago Fire blog.