Across human time architects have designed the buildings we spend our days in. But more than the architectural design of a home or office, in urban planning we consider the city itself. We consider the shapes of the urban spaces in which we experience culture.
Many argue that the city is humankind’s greatest creation. And since humankind is, after all, part of nature, some argue that the city is nature’s greatest creation. Given the vast complexity of a city, is it possible to “design” a city? To harness the diversity of dreams, hopes, and fears held by the city’s many stakeholders and guide them toward some vision of a city?
Jerusalem is a holy city for 3 religions. Hong Kong is the city where east meets west. And once upon a time, it seemed like every road led to Rome. Paris was the capital of the 19th century. New York City of the 20th. Perhaps Shanghai will become the capital of the 21st century.
The outskirts of the city
For as long as there have been cities, people have left the safety, security, and predictability of their rural homes for the unpredictable possibilities of the city. For a chance to live a different life. For a chance to live a better life. People have always migrated to cities because the city is where new things happen. Until very recently the majority of people lived outside cities, yet the vast majority of creativity and innovation happened inside cities.
From a remote village in India to a middle American farm, people have left the comforts of home to live in a slum on the outskirts of a city. Every great city once began its life as a slum.
Is CSULB a City?
Is CSULB too small to be a city? Except for the dorms, people don’t actually sleep here. Probably we are too small to be a real city. But CSULB is a pretty robust neighborhood. Robust enough for us to use it to try a few activities that will help us think about Architecture and Urban Planning.
For this week’s activity we have 3 projects that I hope are easy and fun: Cognitive Maps, Adopt a Building, and Redesign the Campus.
A cognitive map is not the best tool to get from point A to point B. In fact, your cognitive map might not help me navigate to anywhere at all. But it will show me what you care about.
For your cognitive map of the CSULB campus just take a sheet of paper (or computer drawing program if you like) and draw the CSULB campus. Don’t look at a map! You don’t want to “pollute” your map with “the facts,” because your map isn’t about “the facts.” We have Google and Yahoo and Bing maps for that. Your map is about your experience of the campus. Just draw what comes to mind. Don’t worry about accurate proportions, your drawing will automatically have the “correct” proportions for your experience of the campus.
Adopt a Building
CSULB has about 80 buildings (according to Kat). Pick any building on campus to “adopt.” You might pick the building your major is in. You might pick some funky old building that you love. Or a sparkling new building. Or a mysterious building that you don’t even know what they do there. Pick any building you like.
Adopting a building could be a deep, years long project where you really become the custodian of knowledge about the building and where you might weigh in when things like renovations are being considered. Of course, we don’t have time for all that. But you can go to your building and chat up a few students to get a sense of the experience of the building today. Try to find a staff or faculty member who works in the building and see if they can tell you a little bit about the history of the building. Has it’s use changed? Have things been added? Has the color changed? Was it someone’s pet project? Did it almost not get built?
At the UCLA Film School there are two television stages, and next to them for many years was an empty space. Legend has it that when then California Governor Ronald Reagan heard the price of the building, he took a pencil, drew a line through the blueprint, and said don’t build that third of it. Perhaps you’ll discover some gems like that about your building.
Redesign the CSULB Campus
You can redesign the whole CSULB campus, or any part of it you like. Maybe you’ll redesign the Liberal Arts buildings. Or the Fine Arts buildings. Or the athletic facilities. Or Engineering. You can also focus on specific issues in your design, like your vision for better parking. Or a way to have skateboards and pedestrians both accommodated.
Your design can be in any media. Pencil and paper is fine.
If you’d like to use a computer drawing or design program that’s great. BTW, the company Autodesk makes lots of design and architectural software. It’s very powerful and very expensive. As a college student, you can have any of it, totally free. Not trial or limited versions, but full versions. Visit Autodesk Students if you’d like to check it out!
As Mina suggested, you could also build a model if you like. You can use any material you choose. You could also buy a sheet of Foamcore Board in the Student Art Store in FA3.
Your Blog Post
Post a photo of your cognitive map. You don’t have to write about it.
Post 1 or more photos of your building. Write a sentence about why you chose it. Write 2 or more paragraphs about what you learned about its current use and its history.
Post 1 or more photos of your drawing or model for you CSULB campus redesign. Write 1 or more paragraphs about your idea.