With the urban population more than doubling within the next 30 years, global challenges caused by climate change, pandemics, and economic paradigm shifts will demand novel strategies to address an ultimately planetary urban condition. This anticipated population growth will be unevenly distributed, with large migrations driving rapid urbanization and acute depopulation. The fast pace of these processes may further the legacy of socio-environmental injustice and put additional strains on the equitable access to land and natural resources. For the design disciplines, this presents unique challenges and opportunities for a more fluid exchange with the professional realm to effect urgent, positive change in society. For academia to engage, it is imperative to turn competition into collaboration, invent novel pedagogical methods, build strong links to practice, and diversify role models. Yet, how can we turn the classroom into a platform to convene, converse, conspire and co-produce, taking the experimental and critical into action? The inter-institutional urban design seminar “Owning [up to] the Urban” brings together a diverse group of educators, practitioners, scholars, and students to discuss the nature of contemporary global urban transformations while featuring the participants’ novel ways of working and testing concepts 1:1. The seminar demonstrates how designers can carve out new agencies and urban design applications, take risks and explore new territories. The discussions and presentations explore the temporal and spatial scales of these emerging urban projects, the access to funding and land resources, the involvement of actors, and the strategies engaging the public. With urban projects being inherently political, the conversations foreground power structures in place, questions modes of representation and public engagement. Besides critical contents featured in the seminar, the conference presentation will showcase the pedagogical concept, the model for collaboration across institutions, and all that COVID taught us about classroom democratizing.
Mona El Khafif, Dr. techn. is an Associate Professor at UVA School of Architecture and Director of the Urban Design Program. She is co-author of the award-winning publication ‘URBANbuild: Local/Global’ (with Ila Berman) and author of ‘Staged Urbanism: Urban Spaces for Art, Culture and Consumption in the Age of Leisure Society’ (German edition). Her research operates at multiple scales, examining the interdisciplinary aspects of urban design, temporary urbanism, urban prototyping, and strategies for the smart city. At UVA El Khafif serves as the RCN director of the recently funded NSF Grant entitled “MainStreet21” supporting a network of small and midscale cities in Virginia and co-directs the school’s initiative on Smart Environments. El Khafif has taught at the Vienna Institute for Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, Tulane University in New Orleans (joined URBANbuild), California College of the Arts in San Francisco (led URBANlab), and the University of Waterloo, Canada (co-directed the school’s DATAlab). Recently from 2016-2017 El Khafif was a guest professor at the TU Dortmund, Germany at the Urban Design Institute. At UVA she teaches the graduate urban architecture studio, urban research and design studios as well as urban elective seminars investigating networked systems of urban mega regions.
María Arquero de Alarcón is an associate professor of architecture and urbanism, and the director of the Master of Urban Design at Taubman College University of Michigan. María leads MAde Studio, a research-based, collaborative design practice that offers integrated expertise in architecture, landscape, and urbanism, and promotes cultural resilience. Her work has been recognized with an ACSA Collaborative Practice Award, AIA Michigan Design Awards, BSA Award Citations, and an ACSA Faculty Design Award. Her work is published in The Third Coast Atlas and Mapping Detroit. Additional contributions are featured in JAE, MONU, JPER, Applied Geography, Sustainability; Architect Magazine’s Next Progressives; PLOT; Green and Building Design. She has exhibited work in the 2019 Seoul Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism, the 2017 Shenzhen-Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. In her teaching of graduate design studios, interdisciplinary seminars and workshops, she incorporates experiential learning components in partnership with local actors in geographies across the Great Lakes Region, Latin America, India and Europe. She is a registered Spanish architect and A.S.L.A. member. The Fellowship for Postgraduate Studies “Obra Social La Caixa” made possible her academic journey in the US.