Urban Design Studio: Shrinking Cities

Beginning in 2010, a series of Shrinking Cities Urban Design Studios (11.338)  examined the rehabilitation and re-imagination of declining American cities. Analyzing the city at three scales – citywide, neighborhood, and individual dwellings – students analyzed urban form and other variables in order to shape innovative design solutions, enhance social amenity, and improve economic performance through strategic and creative geographical, urban design and architectural thinking. While the environments of places like East St. Louis and Buffalo may seem extreme, these have come to define a certain type of American urban form: the industrial city in transition. Shrinking cities, with under-utilized land, high rates of property abandonment, and socioeconomic challenges, are ideal locations to explore new forms and modes of industrial activity and neighborhood design. Human capital, vacant lands, and industrial byproducts are untapped resources that can assist the transition to places participating in contemporary economies and providing housing and civic amenities where people are proud to work and live. In several cases, the studio projects sought to identify new modes of industrial profitability in the context of shifting urban areas.

Students addressed the economic transition away from heavy industry, while also seeking to provide new urban forms that meshed with contemporary ideals of ecology and sustainability and providing attainable jobs for local residents.