Collaborative Planning in Nairobi’s Informal Settlements

In the informal settlements of one of Africa’s most impoverished cities, Department of City & Regional Planning (DCRP) students are working to make a difference in the lives of the urban poor.

Collaborative planning studio between CED and the University of Nairobi Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Nairobi’s Settlements Enlarge [+]

The second collaborative planning studio between the department and the University of Nairobi Department of Urban and Regional Planning took place during the Spring and Summer of 2011. Organized and directed by Associate Professor Jason Corburn, eight DCRP, Architecture, Energy and Resources Group, and Public Health students joined their Kenyan counterparts to work with settlement residents on an integrated upgrading plan. The interdisciplinary team built upon collaborative work that began in 2008.

This year’s studio aimed to develop plans to improve living conditions for over 150,000 slum dwellers in the Mathare Valley informal settlement, a few kilometers from the center of Nairobi. The studio included analyzing existing conditions data and policy processes in Nairobi, workshops with our NGO partners, Muungano Support Trust (MuST) and Slum Dwellers International (SDI) in Berkeley, and over two weeks in Nairobi in May 2011. Berkeley students participated in planning meetings with settlement residents and other stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations, UN-HABITAT, UN Environment Program (UNEP), the World Bank, and local government agencies. The studio team will complete a comprehensive plan in December 2011.

Mathare Valley informal settlement
Nairobi’s Settlements Enlarge [+]

The work within the Mathare Valley comes at a critical moment. More than 65% of Nairobi’s 3.5 million residents live in informal settlements and this number is increasing. In the Mathare Valley slum, residents face the constant threat of eviction, families live on less than $5 dollars per day, electricity is intermittent, and it is common for over 500 people to share one water tap and toilet. Recognizing these intolerable conditions, the Kenyan Government and the World Bank have committed to a policy and financing for major slum improvement programs across the country. And NGOs, particularly MuST, are helping community-led movements advocate and win support for living condition policy reforms.

Salma Mousallem, a studio participant and MCP student noted, “What struck me most was how proactive community residents were in making a change. Already hard pressed for time, they engaged in a lengthy process of community mapping for the project. To me, this showed the resilience of the community.”

Collaborative planning studio participants
Nairobi’s Settlements Enlarge [+]

In spite of many hardships, the residents of Mathare Valley bring numerous assets to the planning process. Many residents are well educated and have deep expertise in community needs and the complexity of political negotiation. Many women run small businesses, manage families, and participate in community institution building, making their knowledge an asset. The team met many young people in Mathare who were active in sanitation projects, waste recycling, media and art campaigns and technology. Unlike other outsiders, we aimed to make community expertise a central part of our collaborative planning and design process.

Collaborative planning studio
Nairobi’s Settlements Enlarge [+]

Marcy Monroe, an architecture student who participated in the Nairobi studio, noted that the inequalities and injustices that contribute to informal urban settlements like the Mathare Valley are “incapable of being solved by a single profession or individual.”

According to Professor Jason Corburn, “The studios are one aspect of our long-term commitment to working collaboratively with our Kenyan partners. The studios are important for building trust with residents and our NGO partners, and linking research with tangible, short-term improvements. Yet, we are also working collaboratively to change national and local policies that penalize slum dwellers and are supporting a global network of “slum resident planners,” called Slum Dwellers International, in the hope that our students, in some small way, are contributing to global change.”

Emily Pilloton and Project H Design: Supporting Community

Author, industrial designer, architect, educator, social activist, and leader, Emily Pilloton (B.A. Architecture, 2003) is a firm believer that design and the designer can and should have world-changing social impact.

She is the Founder and Executive Director of the 501c3 nonprofit organization Project H Design, a grassroots network dedicated to using design to create positive social change in local communities. In 2009, she published Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People, a collection of life-improving humanitarian products, and embarked on The Design Revolution Roadshow, a traveling exhibition and lecture series bringing design that empowers” to high schools and universities nationwide.

A BCAM student at one stop on the Design Revolution Roadshow (NYC)
Project H Enlarge [+]A BCAM student at one stop on the Design Revolution Roadshow (NYC)
The travelling Design Revolution Roadshow makes a stop at Syracuse University (New York)
Project H Enlarge [+]The travelling Design Revolution Roadshow makes a stop at Syracuse University (New York)
BCAM students at the Design Revolution Roadshow (NYC)
Project H Enlarge [+]BCAM students at the Design Revolution Roadshow (NYC)

The “H” in Studio H has many definitions, including humanity, habitats, health, and happiness—themes that underlie the community-centric goal of Project H Design’s endeavors. Created in 2008, the organization has nine chapters across the U.S. and massive popular support, with over 380,000 followers on Twitter, and over 3,000 Facebook fans. Successfully completed projects include building furniture for rural elementary schools in Mexico, the development of interactive outdoor learning environments (Learning Landscapes) around the world, the design of Hippo Roller, an innovative yet practical device helping rural women transport water, and creating therapeutic spaces for children in foster care homes in Austin, Texas.

Constructing school furniture for rural schools (Mexico City Chapter)
Project H Enlarge [+]Constructing school furniture for rural schools (Mexico City Chapter)
Constructing school furniture for rural schools (Mexico City Chapter)
Project H Enlarge [+]Constructing school furniture for rural schools (Mexico City Chapter)
Constructing school furniture for rural schools (Mexico City Chapter)
Project H Enlarge [+]Constructing school furniture for rural schools (Mexico City Chapter)

One of the most exciting projects in Project H Design is Studio H, a year-long high school “design/build” program at Bertie Early College High School in Windsor, North Carolina in one the poorest counties in the state. Working hands-on, students engage in critical and creative thinking and productively apply these newfound skills to give back to the community. Through the course, students earn college credit and the opportunity of summer employment, working on a Studio H-sponsored community project. The first year of Studio H concluded this past October with the opening of the first large-scale project, Windsor Farmer’s Market. Designed and constructed by the students (except the more specialized work), the Windsor Farmer’s Market is emblematic of the community-centric focus of the Project H Design initiative, ensuring continuing community access to fresh foods and growth of the local economy. Studio H continues with an intensive semester format in January 2012.

Studio H students at the final critique for the chicken coop project (Windsor, North Carolina)
Project H Enlarge [+]Studio H students at the final critique for the chicken coop project (Windsor, North Carolina)
Studio H students with their final chicken coop: “ChickTopia” (Windsor, North Carolina)
Project H Enlarge [+]Studio H students with their final chicken coop: “ChickTopia” (Windsor, North Carolina)
Inside Studio H (Windsor, North Carolina)
Project H Enlarge [+]Inside Studio H (Windsor, North Carolina)
The Windsor Farmers Market at night (Windsor, NC)
Project H Enlarge [+]The Windsor Farmers Market at night (Windsor, NC)
A vendor at the grand opening of the Windsor Farmers Market (Windsor, NC)
Project H Enlarge [+]A vendor at the grand opening of the Windsor Farmers Market (Windsor, NC)

The impacts of Project H Design have also been felt globally. The Learning Landscape, in locations such as Thailand, Uganda, and the Dominican Republic, utilizes a simple grid of tires buried in the ground to facilitate interactive learning and play. Through the Learning Landscapes Network, educators around the world can contribute new ideas to the Learning Landscape system.

A Learning Landscape at Muungano Primary School (Moshi, Tanzania)
Project H Enlarge [+]A Learning Landscape at Muungano Primary School (Moshi, Tanzania)
A Learning Landscape at Muungano Primary School (Moshi, Tanzania)
Project H Enlarge [+]A Learning Landscape at Muungano Primary School (Moshi, Tanzania)
A Learning Landscape at Maria Auxiliadora Primary School (Mao, Dominican Republic)
Project H Enlarge [+]A Learning Landscape at Maria Auxiliadora Primary School (Mao, Dominican Republic)
A Learning Landscape at Maria Auxiliadora Primary School (Mao, Dominican Republic)
Project H Enlarge [+]A Learning Landscape at Maria Auxiliadora Primary School (Mao, Dominican Republic)

Though the influence of many of Project H Design’s initiatives are only felt locally, their profound community impact speaks to the larger movement of sustainable design as a practical humanitarian approach to deliver tangible, positive results. This focus continues to grow and gain national recognition. In November, the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland opened the exhibition, Studio H: Design. Build. Transform. Studio H Design is a three-time consecutive Sappi Ideas that Matter recipient. Learning Landscapes continue to be built worldwide.

The redesigned Hippo roller in action (Kgautswane, South Africa)
Project H Enlarge [+]The redesigned Hippo roller in action (Kgautswane, South Africa)

Before founding Project H Design in 2008, Pilloton regularly contributed as Managing Editor to the green design blog Inhabitat, and held adjunct professorships at the Illinois Institute of Art and the School of the Art Institute Chicago. After receiving her B.A. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, Pilloton went on to study for her M.A. in Designed Objects from the School of the Art Institute Chicago. In 2010, she was a speaker at TED, lecturing on incorporating design into public education to further the creative capital of future generations. This coming year, Pilloton will deliver the commencement speech to the College of Environmental Design 2012 graduating class.

Links List:

Everyone Needs Fresh Air!

In the Summer of 2011, the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley had the privilege of being among a small number of distinguished international universities invited by the National University of Singapore to compete in a 5-year series of urban architecture competitions, Vertical Cities Asia. The competition focuses on the pressing issues of rapidly developing Asian cities, each year highlighting one primary quality-of-life issue, and sited in one exemplary Asian city. This first year’s theme was Everyone Needs Fresh Air, for a project in Chengdu, China.

Urban residents often experience increased access to economic, social and cultural opportunities but also have to tolerate pollution, reduced access to air and light, and higher stress levels. The project presents an opportunity to rethink the development of the contemporary city.
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]Urban residents often experience increased access to economic, social and cultural opportunities but also have to tolerate pollution, reduced access to air and light, and higher stress levels. The project presents an opportunity to rethink the development of the contemporary city.

The ancient and rapidly developing city of Chengdu offered a unique challenge for radical new vertical density, requiring close study of a broad range of natural, technological, and cultural conditions. Competing schools marshaled interdisciplinary student teams of architects, landscape architects, planners and urban designers with a goal of developing provocative solutions for a dense urban community of 100,000 people.

Early design investigation included travel to China to study the city of Chengdu, and seminars and meetings with faculty and researchers from Tongji University, Sichuan University, and The Sichuan Institute of Architecture and Urban Design. The design process required significant thought as to structure, program, systems and urban function as an integrated design problem inviting many avenues for creative solutions.

The environmental strategy is comprehensive. It ranges across all scales and takes advantage of local conditions and the building’s height.
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]The environmental strategy is comprehensive. It ranges across all scales and takes advantage of local conditions and the building’s height.

Student teams presented their work, which was judged during the week of July 5th in Singapore, at an international symposium on vertical city design. Judging was based on five criteria: sustainability, quality of life, feasibility/buildability, cultural/environmental appropriateness, and technical innovation. Although the UC Berkeley team did not garner the competition prize, their work was well received, and the experience was of great value.

More information about this project:

Team “B”
City|Building

Team Members:

  • Fang Huan
  • Mengxi Wu
  • Phi Tran
  • Michael Song
  • Alexandra Harker
  • Warner Brown
  • Zach Streitz
“Air Quality” Green Belt
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]“Air Quality” Green Belt
Facade as Dynamic Biofiltration Element
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]Facade as Dynamic Biofiltration Element
Ventilation and Humidity Harvesting Systems
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]Ventilation and Humidity Harvesting Systems
An integrated network dynamically controls temperature and pressure differentials throughout the city. As such the city functions as a part of the local ecology and landscape, as a small mountain. It is a smart mountain capable of optimizing its climate and energy use to suit both the needs of its inhabitants and its surroundings.
Vertical Cities Enlarge [+]An integrated network dynamically controls temperature and pressure differentials throughout the city. As such the city functions as a part of the local ecology and landscape, as a small mountain. It is a smart mountain capable of optimizing its climate and energy use to suit both the needs of its inhabitants and its surroundings.

Connecting Cairo to the Nile

Renewing Life and Heritage on the River

In 2010, we conceived a plan to craft a collaborative learning experience and to catalyze a new understanding of the Nile as a public resource for the people of Cairo.

With a population of over eleven million, Cairo is one of the densest cities in the world, supporting an urban population underserved by parks and other public open space. Yet the city holds remarkable opportunities to reconnect its people with the river that was historically its heart.

Cairo struggles with the impacts of population growth and urbanization on traffic, air pollution, and informal housing settlements.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Cairo struggles with the impacts of population growth and urbanization on traffic, air pollution, and informal housing settlements.

In January of 2011 in Cairo, in an intensive workshop involving 23 students and seven faculty from Cairo University (CU), The American University in Cairo (AUC), and the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), interdisciplinary teams systematically inventoried existing conditions along a 12-km reach of the Nile from Maadi to Tahrir Square. The details of this workshop and its results were compiled in a report available online.

The first day of the workshop included student introductions at the recently designed Al-Azhar Park, site of a former landfill.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]The first day of the workshop included student introductions at the recently designed Al-Azhar Park, site of a former landfill.

Based on this fieldwork the student teams identified specific opportunities for ecological restoration and better open space connectivity with the rest of the city. The presence of historic landmarks and excellent views along the Nile also provide significant prospects for urban revitalization and economic development.

Challenges were pin-pointed relating to the existence of incongruent public and private land-uses along the Nile Corniche, and to urban waste management along the waterfront.

Following their investigations, workshop participants developed a strategic plan for a continuous trail network along the Nile with connectivity to important nodes in Cairo. They also developed detailed plans for the revitalization of two key zones: Athur El Nabi and Old Cairo.

The workshop ended just one week before demonstrations erupted in the streets of Cairo, highlighting public desires, expectations, and demands for major change. Bringing the people to the riverbanks could be an important step in improving daily life for millions, and could strengthen the city’s social fabric, and contribute to the democratization of Egyptian society.

UC Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Faculty Advisors and Coordinators:

  • Matt Kondolf
  • Louise Mozingo
  • Linda Jewell
  • Amir Gohar

Cairo Advisors and Coordinators:

  • Ahmed Sherif
  • Khalid Z. El Adli
  • Abbas el-Zafarany
  • Aboulfetouh S. Shalaby
  • Sami Shaker
  • Mohamed Nagib Abou-Zeid

Student Participants:

  • Noha Abbassy (AUC)
  • Krishnachandran Balakrishnan (UC Berkeley)
  • Tami Church (UC Berkeley)
  • Richard Crockett (UC Berkeley)
  • Nada Abd El-Aziz (CU)
  • Fekria El- Bialy (CU)
  • Ali Abd El Gawad (CU)
  • Momen El-Husseiny (AUC/UC Berkeley)
  • Mohamed El Kharbotly (AUC)
  • Heba Ezzat (CU)
  • Salsabil Fahmy (AUC)
  • Ahmed Farouk (CU)
  • Erene Kamal (CU)
  • Michal Kapitulnik (UC Berkeley)
  • Mirette Khorshed (AUC)
  • Madonna Maher (CU)
  • Malak Maher (AUC)
  • Rachael Marzion (UC Berkeley)
  • Nada Nafeh (AUC)
  • Adrienne Smith (UC Berkeley)
  • Bahaa Stephanos (AUC)
  • Mohamed Tarek (CU)
  • Rob Tidmore (UC Berkeley)
Student introductions at Al-Azhar Park
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Student introductions at Al-Azhar Park
CU, AUC, and UCB workshop students and faculty at Al-Azhar Park in January, 2011
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]CU, AUC, and UCB workshop students and faculty at Al-Azhar Park in January, 2011
Cairo university faculty lead workshop participants on a tour of Al-Azhar Park and Old Cairo’s Al-Darb Al-Ahmar district.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Cairo university faculty lead workshop participants on a tour of Al-Azhar Park and Old Cairo’s Al-Darb Al-Ahmar district.
Ahmed and Malak survey bankside conditions in the suburb of Maadi.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Ahmed and Malak survey bankside conditions in the suburb of Maadi.
Old Cairo survey team on the Manasterly Pedestrian Bridge (from left to right: Adrienne, Professor Mozingo, Ahmed, Nada, Krishna, Salsabil, Rachael, Nada, Aly, Noha)
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Old Cairo survey team on the Manasterly Pedestrian Bridge (from left to right: Adrienne, Professor Mozingo, Ahmed, Nada, Krishna, Salsabil, Rachael, Nada, Aly, Noha)
View of the Nile’s east bank in CBD from the Marriott Hotel. Landmarks visible on the east bank include (from left to right) the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, the radio and TV building, the Ramses Hilton Hotel, and the 6th of October Bridge.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]View of the Nile’s east bank in CBD from the Marriott Hotel. Landmarks visible on the east bank include (from left to right) the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, the radio and TV building, the Ramses Hilton Hotel, and the 6th of October Bridge.
Students observe steep concrete banks, unused terraces, and informal settlements along the water’s edge
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Students observe steep concrete banks, unused terraces, and informal settlements along the water’s edge
Unused vegetated terraces along the floodplain in Maadi.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Unused vegetated terraces along the floodplain in Maadi.
Low wide flood plains in Maadi could be used for cafes, food stands, outdoor seating, and a ferry plaza.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Low wide flood plains in Maadi could be used for cafes, food stands, outdoor seating, and a ferry plaza.
Overcrowded ferries arriving at Maadi’s ferry landing demonstrate the need for a more robust and efficient ferry system.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Overcrowded ferries arriving at Maadi’s ferry landing demonstrate the need for a more robust and efficient ferry system.
Students and faculty compile and discuss fieldwork data during the workshop held on the campus of The American University in Cairo.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Students and faculty compile and discuss fieldwork data during the workshop held on the campus of The American University in Cairo.
Students sketch cross-sections of the Nile to assess constraints and opportunities for each study site (sketches by Krishna Balakrishnan).
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Students sketch cross-sections of the Nile to assess constraints and opportunities for each study site (sketches by Krishna Balakrishnan).
One of the small collaborative student groups discusses a strategic plan for the four study reaches along the Nile.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]One of the small collaborative student groups discusses a strategic plan for the four study reaches along the Nile.
Ali, Professor Mozingo, and Krishna evaluate proposed designs for a continuous river trail along the Nile.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Ali, Professor Mozingo, and Krishna evaluate proposed designs for a continuous river trail along the Nile.
Berkeley students visit the Giza Pyramids during a break from the workshop.
Connecting Cairo Enlarge [+]Berkeley students visit the Giza Pyramids during a break from the workshop.

How Pastoral Capitalism Reshaped the Metropolitan Landscape

Site plan of the 1956 General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, an early and influential corporate campus. The essential site plan components of the corporate campus are the central open space surrounded by laboratory buildings circumscribed by peripheral parking and driveways. Corporations built corporate campuses to house middle management research and development divisions comprised of prized corporate scientists and engineers.
Pastoral Capitalism Enlarge [+]Site plan of the 1956 General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, an early and influential corporate campus. The essential site plan components of the corporate campus are the central open space surrounded by laboratory buildings circumscribed by peripheral parking and driveways. Corporations built corporate campuses to house middle management research and development divisions comprised of prized corporate scientists and engineers.

At first glance, the shimmering, suburban rim of the American metropolis might seem haphazard compared to the tightly organized urbanism of the center city. Nonetheless, all landscapes, once closely examined, present a deliberate logic. Among those seemingly baffling yet actually decipherable suburban scenes are the offices of corporate management.

Large-scale corporate offices were the last of the center city land uses to emerge in the suburbs, in the 1940s, after housing, manufacturing, and retail commerce. Constructed by the most powerful global entities, these new suburban corporate landscapes displayed a preference for the pastoral. Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes examines the evolution and consequences of this form of postwar American urbanism.

Pastoral capitalism results from the intersection of three forces: the structure of corporate management; decentralization of American cities; and the dominance of a pastoral aesthetic. These forces convened to produce three interrelated suburban forms: the corporate campus, the corporate estate, and the office park. These landscape types, with their distinct layout of buildings, parking, driveways, and surround, materialized to serve a particular stratum of the corporate hierarchy.

The Stanford Research Park, a speculative, for-profit office park development of Stanford University built for tenant corporations. The Hewlett Packard facility is at the top of the photograph, the canted foursquare of buildings surrounding an interior courtyard.
Pastoral Capitalism Enlarge [+]The Stanford Research Park, a speculative, for-profit office park development of Stanford University built for tenant corporations. The Hewlett Packard facility is at the top of the photograph, the canted foursquare of buildings surrounding an interior courtyard.
Cornell Oaks Corporate Center, Beaverton, Oregon outside of Portland first developed in the 1990s. A typical office park found at the periphery of most American metropolitan areas. Individual buildings and surrounding parking lots are encircled by narrow pastoral landscape verges; interior “parkways” provide circulation. As is customary with most office parks, an adjacent freeway provides easy access for users and visibility to passing motorists.
Pastoral Capitalism Enlarge [+]Cornell Oaks Corporate Center, Beaverton, Oregon outside of Portland first developed in the 1990s. A typical office park found at the periphery of most American metropolitan areas. Individual buildings and surrounding parking lots are encircled by narrow pastoral landscape verges; interior “parkways” provide circulation. As is customary with most office parks, an adjacent freeway provides easy access for users and visibility to passing motorists.

In the 1940s and 1950s, corporations such as AT&T, General Electric, and General Motors devised the corporate campus to valorize the industrial scientist and validate the use of science for profit. The corporate campus became a strategic management tool, attracting scientists and facilitating technological discovery. Modeled on the American university landscape, it contained office and laboratory facilities surrounding a green space or quadrangle, encircled by a drive, and peripheral parking. The corporate campus spearheaded the move of white-collar work out from the city center. It is a genre of corporate building that persists to the present day.

A view of the GE Electronics Park that appeared in the July 1951 edition of Architectural Record. Note the cluster on men in shirts and ties lying on the lawn slope by the lake—an unimaginable sight before the corporate campus. A new vision of corporate work, General Electric expected that the campus context would be conducive to creativity and collaboration among their scientists, engineers, and managers.
Pastoral Capitalism Enlarge [+]A view of the GE Electronics Park that appeared in the July 1951 edition of Architectural Record. Note the cluster of men in shirts and ties lying on the lawn slope by the lake—an unimaginable sight before the corporate campus. A new vision of corporate work, General Electric expected that the campus context would be conducive to creativity and collaboration among their scientists, engineers, and managers.

In the wake of corporate campuses, large firms built the corporate estate for top management. Such suburban headquarters evolved through three canonical projects: the 1954 General Foods headquarters, the 1957 Connecticut General Life Insurance Company headquarters, and the definitive 1964 Deere & Company Administrative Center. These sites, and those that followed, testified to the prestige of executive status and acted as a stand-in for the myriad dispersed properties of global corporations. With 200 or more scenically designed acres and a sweeping entrance drive culminating at a central building complex, the sites were broadly appealing. Corporations used the image of suburban headquarters as public relations tools in communicating with employees, local residents, stockholders, competitors, and bankers.

Site plan of the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company headquarters that opened in 1956 in Bloomfield, Connecticut, outside of Hartford. A suburban office for top executives, it typifies the corporate estate. An approach drive culminates at the central building complex and two blocks of parking flank the building providing parking for hundreds of employees. Two hundred and eighty acres of carefully composed pastoral scenery envelope both the structure and parking, to be viewed both from the interior of the office structure and from the outside, as a bucolic frame for the corporate facility.
Pastoral Capitalism Enlarge [+]Site plan of the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company headquarters that opened in 1956 in Bloomfield, Connecticut, outside of Hartford. A suburban office for top executives, it typifies the corporate estate. An approach drive culminates at the central building complex and two blocks of parking flank the building providing parking for hundreds of employees. Two hundred and eighty acres of carefully composed pastoral scenery envelope both the structure and parking, to be viewed both from the interior of the office structure and from the outside, as a bucolic frame for the corporate facility.
The entry view of the Deere & Company Administrative Center, the quintessential corporate estate. Used on countless publications including annual reports, corporate brochures, and now websites, the Administrative Center became the icon of the global corporation for both internal and external audiences.
Pastoral Capitalism Enlarge [+]The entry view of the Deere & Company Administrative Center, the quintessential corporate estate. Used on countless publications including annual reports, corporate brochures, and now websites, the Administrative Center became the icon of the global corporation for both internal and external audiences.

Created by speculative real estate developers in the 1950s, the office park provided a lower cost, flexible alternative to the corporate campus and estate. The office park housed third-tier corporate management, “back office” functions, small local and corporate service businesses, and start-up technology corporations, particularly in a specific version of the office park, the research park. Besides market pressures, office parks appeared because of shifts in the fiscal management of suburbs, new zoning regulations in suburban jurisdictions, and the construction of federally funded transportation corridors. Office parks provided building facilities surrounding by ample parking and framed by a concise scheme of parkways, parking lot berms, and landscape frontages. As the most widespread and large-scale type of suburban corporate landscape, they proved particularly useful to corporations in volatile economic times, as they could easily expand and contract personnel and offices.

Pastoral capitalism restructured the metropolitan landscape of American cities and accounts for well over half the office space in the U.S. Corporate campuses, estates, and office parks became American norms and as companies moved overseas, they replicated these homegrown patterns. Eventually international corporations imitated their American counterparts and occupied places such as Silicon Fens in the United Kingdom, Telecom Valley in Southern France, and the Singapore Science Park. Now, Indian software companies attempt to keep the brainy in Bangalore by building corporate campuses.

Because landscapes of pastoral capitalism are engrained in the fabric of low-density, auto-dependent suburbs, they present an obvious target of re-design as we confront the challenge of a post-peak oil metropolis. Rethinking sprawl might begin most effectively with the forms and uses of corporate campuses, estates, and office parks, especially their vast parking lots, roadways, and bucolic greenspaces. In so doing, they can be transformed into places that are both dense and connected, an essential step in building sustainable metropolitan regions.

Wudadao

Imagine working on the revitalization of a 500 acre historic district in China—in a city that just demolished all of its courtyard compounds within its original walled city. Last year, this was the task for fourteen M.Arch students in their final year of study.

The City of Tianjin is China’s third economic development zone (with Shenzhen and Pudong being the first two) providing the nation’s economic and political power to both build and eradicate large swaths of the city. Throughout Tianjin, evidence of splintering urban design and architectural practices are evident—widening of roads and deep building setbacks, retail malls with their own interiorized marketing logic, iconic skyscrapers that add little back to their local context, and rows upon rows of rubberstamped housing blocks. While progress measured by standards of living and the ever changing skyline are palpable, the unique conditions that form the identity of Tianjin are being lost. There is a homogenizing of urban experiences within and between Chinese cities.

Section showing project site between the new city and the historic district.
Wudadao Enlarge [+]Section showing project site between the new city and the historic district.

Our project site was Wudadao, or Five Main Streets, located within the inner city and as yet undeveloped due to its isolation from the major networks of the city. This separation is rooted in the original settlement of this district by the British during the concession era of the city. The long streets and gridded blocks occupied by an eclectic mix of small scale buildings are rapidly being surrounded by large scale, coarse grained, object oriented developments. At the invitation of the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI), the research seminar and studio explored urban paradigms that recognize that we live horizontally, rethinking habits twentieth century habits of considering buildings as vertical containers.

October 2011 field work in Wudadao. (Left to right:) directions to Wudadao; lilong housing; early morning; the influx of cars; the old and new.
Wudadao Enlarge [+]October 2011 field work in Wudadao. (Left to right:) directions to Wudadao; lilong housing; early morning; the influx of cars; the old and new.

As in all urban and architectural design, there were multiple and parallel research goals. One overarching objective was to develop tools of analysis and design that describe the relational, connective conditions of urban form. A corollary was a proposal for how to design “big” since many projects in China have large project sites. The group developed systemic design parameters that define urban continuities both internal and external to any site without pre-figuring architecture as building envelopes (objects). These parameters were tested for their ability to integrate the work of a group of architects—to develop density, identity with variety and the larger legibility of Wudadao within Tianjin. The analyses, systems, and designs were exhibited and reviewed in Wurster Hall in April of 2011.

(Left to right:) June presentation to TUPDI (Left to right:) Nicole Lew, Nancy Nam, David Dahl, Daniel Gasser, and Steven Brummond; Chengdu Biennale middle: Renee Chow, Daniel Gasser and alumna Doreen Liu in background; (Far right:) alumnus Yung Ho Chang in front of our exhibit.
Wudadao Enlarge [+](Left to right:) June presentation to TUPDI (Left to right:) Nicole Lew, Nancy Nam, David Dahl, Daniel Gasser, and Steven Brummond; Chengdu Biennale middle: Renee Chow, Daniel Gasser and alumna Doreen Liu in background; (Far right:) alumnus Yung Ho Chang in front of our exhibit.

Another objective was to define the architectural tactics that aid in revitalizing Wudadao. Toward this end, an urban network study identified differences between local blocks and streets that presented opportunities to connect the district to the rest of the city and guided a local architectural code. In addition, the need for residential density along the edge of the historic district to animate the district was illustrated by the design proposal. The findings and projects of the research group were presented by five students to TUPDI in June of 2011.

Chengdu Biennale: Exhibit designed by Daniel Gasser with Renee Chow; Video by Kirsten Heming. (Left to right:) Design parameters developed by research group, rendered by Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew, Lot 10 Kirsten Heming and Katherine Cong.
Wudadao Enlarge [+]Chengdu Biennale: Exhibit designed by Daniel Gasser with Renee Chow; Video by Kirsten Heming. (Left to right:) Design parameters developed by research group, rendered by Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew, Lot 10 Kirsten Heming and Katherine Cong.

Individual research programs were also woven into the framework, in particular the collective potentials to capitalize on natural ventilation, storm water collection, and daylighting. In our proposal to the 2011 Chengdu Biennale whose theme was “Holistic Realms: Garden Cities,” we highlighted the project’s storm water system, treatment, collection, and urban parks. In a city where current and future water shortages are and will be extreme, water management is one key to a green city. The studio’s work has been on exhibition since late September and recently closed.

Chengdu Biennale: (Left to right:) Lot 9 Justin Short and Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew; aerial view of Lot 7 David Dahl, Lot 8, Lot 9 and Lot 10 in the foreground.
Wudadao Enlarge [+]Chengdu Biennale: (Left to right:) Lot 9 Justin Short and Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew; aerial view of Lot 7 David Dahl, Lot 8, Lot 9 and Lot 10 in the foreground.

Our thanks to TUPDI for funding the research, in particular Mr. SHI Wujun, Dean; Ms ZHU Xuemei, Vice Chief Planner; and Ms JIANG Bei, urban designer and graduate of our Urban Design program. Our thanks also to the Department of Architecture Charles W. Moore Endowment for the Study of Place and to the Department of Architecture for the publication of our forthcoming research pamphlet.

Researchers included: YaOu Zhang, Hechang Chen, Won Shim, David Dahl, John Faichney, Benjamin Lueck, Nancy Nam, Nicole Lew, Justin Short, Daniel Gasser, Kirsten Heming, Katherine Cong, Hao Zhou, Steven Brummond.

The design propositions and tools are guided by on-going research on field relations by Renee Chow. Renee is Associate Professor of architecture and urban design and Principal at Studio URBIS, currently completing a book on the evolving forms of Chinese urbanism.

Systemic design parameters and the projects that emerged. (Left to right:) Design parameters developed by research group seen from the west, rendered by Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew; design paramters from the east; individual designs and parameters; Lot 7 to Lot 10.
Wudadao Enlarge [+]Systemic design parameters and the projects that emerged. (Left to right:) Design parameters developed by research group seen from the west, rendered by Daniel Gasser; Lot 8 Nancy Nam and Nicole Lew; design paramters from the east; individual designs and parameters; Lot 7 to Lot 10.