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TERROIR Studio at UTS

Gerard Reinmuth and Ingo Kumic are to teach an urban design studio at UTS.  The studio has been framed with Adrian Lahoud and looks at the City of Sydney's notion of a "City of Villages" and crituques both this notion and how it might impact on urban design propositions.

 

Preamble

In both the private and public realms there is an increasing recognition that good architecture, (rather than good building) is a consequence of sound strategic thinking.

Good architecture is therefore often grounded in the critical ability to contextualize. That is, to use a theoretical framework that reflects the prevailing urbanism of a place and which results in an explanation rather than simply a description of the end solution. One could argue that this may always be the case in the future as the focus on a single design-object shifts toward a greater emphasis on the resolution of the multiple systems or layers that affect our cities and which come to bear on any singular design problem.

This emerging condition has led to an increasing level of criticism that urban design praxis is being wholly ineffective at responding to and reflecting the production of the material basis of urban life - or if you like, the economy as a whole.  This ineffectiveness may be an opening into which architects can step – hence the desire to play out these issues in this studio.

Alexander Cuthbert (The Form of Cities; Urban Design and Political Economy, 2006) argues that urban design theory is plagued by propositions which emerge from physical determinism, aesthetic theory and representation (architecture) on the one hand and public policy and planning control (planning) on the other. According to Cuthbert, the problem with urban design stems from its weak theoretical basis, allowing other built environment professions to claim ownership.  This results in superficial explanations of operational features of the urban environment where “description = explanation”. [1]

In an effort to introduce students to the process of strategic thinking and to contest traditional approaches to urban design, this studio will, albeit in a cursory manner, engage the contemporary condition of capitalist globalization which commodifies culture and in so doing co-opts architecture in the broader project of making a place/ city (urban boosterism) economically competitive.

 

Studio Context

To this end, the City of Sydney (CoS) is attempting to solicit interest and investment in the City by pursuing what they believe to be a desirable ‘image’ which they call the ‘City of Villages’. As part of this process the City has prepared the Draft City East and Surry Hills Urban Design Study (EHUDS).[2]

The EHUDS arguably embodies many of Cuthbert’s concerns, not the least of which is that it describes urban design rather than explains its existence, and begs the question therefore of whether or not urban design, and therefore architecture, is being deployed in a manner that contributes to the project of making a city - or whether it simply responds to the immediate project of ‘building’ for the sake of it?

 

[1] Cuthbert cited by Kumic, AAUD submission 2006

[2] The Draft Urban Design Study was prepared by Allen Jack and Cottier and was on public exhibition until April 2006. Submissions are now closed and being considered by the CoS.