From Syracuse to Dubai, students take on real-world urban challenges in architecture visiting critic studios

Each semester, upper-level architecture students participate in the visiting critic program taught by leading architects and scholars. This semester students will engage in a range of complex challenges facing many of today’s cities, including aging infrastructure, urbanization, economic constraints, environmental impact, and energy efficiency:

  • Architecture and the City: East Orange, NJ Studio, taught by Professor Ted Brown, Syracuse Architecture; Munly Brown Studio
  • Studio|Next: Building the Post-Carbon City, taught by Assistant Professor Susan Dieterlen, RLA, MLA, PhD; Research Fellow, Syracuse Center of Excellence
  • Dubai: Sustainable Start-ups in the Desert, taught by Assistant Professor, Tarek Rakha, Ph.D

Students will gain exposure to contemporary and innovative advances in green technology, participate in site visits, and interact with emerging thinkers and professionals from public and private sectors to spur their own creative, well-grounded design solutions. Throughout their collaborative, hands-on studio experiences students will build practical and vital skills, from technical to communication, to secure a solid foundation for future work opportunities.

“Each of the studios this semester, while very different, presents students with a uniquely valuable opportunity to deal with real-life problems that typify challenges they’ll likely face in their professional careers,” says Dean Michael Speaks. “Plus, our students will greatly benefit from small-group settings and dedicated studio faculty with a wealth of knowledge and experience.”

Professor Ted Brown’s “Architecture and the City” studio puts forth a challenge to students from Mayor Lester Taylor of East Orange, New Jersey. Taylor first presented the challenges of Brik Church Plaza—a large underdeveloped parcel (Parcel 863) in the heart of the NJ Transit Village District—at the Mayors Institute of City Design held in Syracuse in fall 2014. Using Parcel 863 as the foundation for design inquiry, Brown’s studio will now develop a range of land use scenarios and prepare a set of documents that will help the City of East Orange recognize the potential of different design strategies and advance dialogue on the parcel’s future. In addition to a visit to the site, students will meet with a diverse range of critics and consultants in areas of urban design, transportation planning, landscape architecture, and real estate development to inform their design proposals.

The economic, political, and ecological issues facing post-industrial cities lie at the center of Susan Dieterlen’s “Studio|Next,” with particular focus on clean energy activity at federal, state, and local levels. According to Dieterlen, the challenges of heat, neglect, and data “will define the next decades of careers in environmental design.” Her studio is divided into two segments, “Infrastructure Crisis” followed by “Energy in the Landscape.” Students will engage with tools of urban design as they develop a large master plan/urban site design project with clean energy generation elements for the Syracuse city center. Connecting with experts through participation in a poster session at the NY Power Dialog event in Albany, and meeting with the City of Syracuse Innovation Team will help students develop professional communication and presentation skills.

The city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates has emerged as one of the world’s wealthiest and most active entrepreneurial global business hubs. Tarek Rakha challenges his students to question the sustainability of the region’s start-ups and the real value of investing in energy efficiency in the desert. His studio will be divided into three stages that cover urban-scale sustainability, building-scale energy efficiency, and a feasibility study specific to energy-conscious design in desert architecture. Students will have the unique opportunity to travel to Dubai over spring break and visit a wide range of urban desert sites. Additional experiences throughout the semester in the City of Syracuse, the Syracuse Center of Excellence, SUNY ESF, as well as participating in an entrepreneurship and sustainability workshop with students from the Syracuse University Whitman School of Management, will enhance understanding. Students will present their final project design solutions at a “Start-Ups in the Desert” symposium scheduled for April 25 in Slocum Hall. El Seif Construction Company is sponsoring the studio and underwriting the cost of the trip and symposium. (by Elaine Wackerow)