Interdisciplinary teams will focus on the planning, design, construction and retrofitting of urban environments for the 21st century. — cau.mit.edu
Already, the world is becoming predominantly urban. However, the dominant form of urban living will be very similar to our older suburban regions in the U.S. This places substantial pressure on American suburban models, the dominant model of urban development copied worldwide, to set a better example of sustainability. This is even more critical as economic development grows robust middle classes in developing countries who expect more from their living environments.
To address the urgent need for better models of urban growth, the MIT School of Architecture + Planning is launching a major new research center focused on the planning, design, construction and retrofitting of urban environments for the 21st century.
Under the leadership of center director Alexander D’Hooghe and research director Alan Berger – professors of architecture and of urban design and landscape architecture, respectively – the Center for Advanced Urbanism will coordinate collaborations among existing efforts in the School and with other MIT groups, as well as undertaking new projects at the Institute and with sponsors in practice.
For the first two years, the center’s research program will focus on the particular challenges of infrastructure. Traditionally, infrastructure design has been based on a single function – a bridge for auto use, for instance, a lake and dam for electricity, a coastal barrier for storm surge protection. But two new trends will soon alter that model – the increasing intensity of development in our suburban regions, putting capacity pressures on existing infrastructures; and the need for a broader systemic view of infrastructure’s multiple roles.
“We need to continue studying and modeling new scenarios for suburban forms and infrastructures, with special attention to the design performance and programmatic adaptability,” says Berger.
Fundamental to the center’s approach is the notion that research will be most effective when it is focused on specific projects as elements of the larger system, with a constant eye toward how that project can provide extra services beyond its primary function. By limiting intervention to individual projects, rather than trying to rewire entire regional systems all at once, infrastructure investment should, over several growth cycles, result in a reconfigured and durable new urban order.
As part of its commitment to building a new collaborative approach to the challenges of urbanization, CAU will offer subjects to general student populations in all the School’s degree programs and will contribute to a new, one-year integrated studio experience in which students will work on a complex urban problem from the combined perspectives of architecture, ecology, energy, housing, landscape, policy, real estate and technology.
With its distinguished history in urbanism, reaching all the way back to the work of pioneering urbanist Kevin Lynch, the MIT School of Architecture + Planning is well positioned to lead this effort, drawing faculty from both the department of architecture and of urban studies and planning.
The School’s participating labs include City Science, the Civic Data Design Lab, the Housing and Community Lab, Locus-Lab, the Mobility Systems Lab, the New Century Cities Lab, the P-REX Lab, the Platform for Permanent Modernity, the Resilient Cities Housing Initiative, the Sustainable Design Lab and the Urban Risk Lab.