11.332J / 4.163J
Urban Design Studio

Terra-Sorta-Firma: Seeking Resilient Urbanism in the C-11 Basin

General Description

With nearly 20 million residents, Florida is one of the country’s fastest growing states. Its ubiquitous suburban landscape is enabled by the continued manipulation of a dynamic estuarine environment and a pervasive real-estate-driven housing pattern. Thirty-five miles of levees and 2,000 hydraulic pumping stations drain 860 acres of water per day, resulting in the ‘world’s largest wet subdivision’ with $101 billion worth of property projected to be below sea level by 2030. The overall structure that defines Florida’s cities emerges from the combination of hard infrastructural lines, developer driven master plans, reductive normative zoning, and rigid form-based codes.  These conventional tools have proven marginally effective in dealing with the increased vulnerability caused by Florida’s inherently dynamic ecological forces and constantly fluctuating environment. This renders traditional static “object-based codification,” which has defined much of contemporary urban design, inadequate and in urgent need of innovation.

Student teams will design projects that cover many scales ranging from large-scale landscape infrastructural systems to the design of housing prototypes of varying densities. The teams will work to develop a systemically driven approach that takes the hydrological extremes and ecological resonance of the context as the foundations of their formal proposition. Through the design process, students will then devise a set of unique resiliency zoning, codes, land uses, programs, and typologies that are precise, yet dynamic, flexible, and responsive. These new codes and designs will be collected in a compendium of urban design guidelines to be handed to the practicum’s clients as they reconsider their policy documents. By incorporating the indeterminacy of the shifting broader environmental systems, with the pervasiveness and exactitude of planning code, we establish an opportunity for the instrumentality of policy to be a part of the design process and a progeny of it.

Several counties in South Florida began a review of their comprehensive physical planning documents since executing the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact in 2010. Accordingly, Broward County (north of Miami-Dade) will serve as the studio and practicum’s client. Five sites of exploration follow the C-11 and Dania Cut-off Canals from the Everglades in the west, out to the Atlantic Ocean. Along the Canal is a representative range of urban, suburban, agricultural, infrastructural, and ecological, variations of Florida’s urbanization. Student teams composed of architects and planners will have the opportunity to select their site and specific programs will be developed after an initial research and mapping phase. The C-11 Canal will be segmented into Team 1: The Everglades Coast, Team 2: The Ranches, Team 3: The Transitional PUDs (Planned Unit Developments), Team 4: The Logistical Spines and Team 5: The Atlantic Coast

Studio Structure 

The studio is broken into three main phases, first a mapping exercise, followed by code research and dynamic multi-scalar design strategies, concluding with an urban catalyst affected by the shifting terrain. The first half of the semester is interlaced with several guest lectures to understand the core principles of the science behind the dynamic flows. The lectures including lectures by groundwater hydrologies, urban ecologists, housing experts, and urban designers. There will also be several workshops with optional additional help to build up skills in both software programs and representation techniques.

Students will have the opportunity to attend the 2016 Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit in West Palm Beach during the class trip to Florida October 5th - 9th. At the summit, student will get to hear “real stories of real success in communities, business and political sectors examining the environmental, economic and direct consequences of climate change” from experts and leaders. Students will have a more targeted meeting with County officials on the Friday following the summit.

The results of each of the following assignments will be carried into the following module to build into a final integrated project. There will be structured pinups at the end of each assignment, one mid review and one final review during the semester. This is an intense production and review schedule, necessary to cover the required ground in this studio. These presentations are not only moments of graphic and design presentation, but also of ways to practice public speech and leadership skills. Furthermore. the work of this studio will be highly integrated with the Samuel Tak Lee Lab interactive multi-media case-study initiative. This means the design and research generated in the studio will be shared with audiences across the Institute and around the world. 

The studio is open to SMArchs and MCP students by permission of instructors. The studio counts towards the UD Certificate. For DUSP: students requiring a practicum to graduate will be given priority, followed by those who have prior design experience and / or 11.328J - 4.240J Urban Design Skills. Applications should include a maximum of 5 page PDF of graphic work samples and a 150-word interest statement. We will accept applications till 11:00pm on Tuesday September 6th, after the DUSP Showcase and Arch Lottery Presentations. Please email your applications to fmasoud@mit.edu. Instructors will make their selections and notify successful candidates on Wednesday September 9th. The studio’s first meeting is on Thursday Sept 10 at 1:00pm in 10-485. The studio meets twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:00-6:00pm.