Urban Designers Tackle Chicago’s South Side

CCNY Spitzer School Urban Design students and faculty are Chicago-bound. Their studio is devoting the spring 2017 semester to an investigation of and a series of designs for the city’s South Side. Their immersive research trip to the city before the start of the semester (in the chilly month of January) will be packed with a day-long bus tour to numerous sites on the South Side; a conference of scholars, activists, and planners that they have organized at the Experimental Station; meetings with community groups such as MAPSCorps and the Co-Prosperity Sphere; and individual visits to project sites.

Although this terrain is often maligned for urban dysfunction, it is rich in physical, social, and cultural assets, including an unrivaled concentration of universities. It is also one of the most-studied environments on earth. Beginning with the research trip, the studio will map the spaces of hope and possibility in several extended regions of the South Side–including the neighborhoods likely to be transformed by the construction of the Obama Library–and design projects that offer visions for beautiful, equitable, and sustainable futures for the amazing and complex place.

Participants in this project include CCNY Urban Design graduate students–a group comprised of architects and landscape architects from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East as well as the United States–and faculty as well as Chicago-based academics, design professionals, community leaders, and students.

CCNY student Angela Khermouch is quite familiar with the area, having spent five years there as an architecture student at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “It is exciting to revisit Chicago, my own second city, with new Urban Design eyes,” she says. “Approaching this project with an Urban Design background allows for the expansion of design thinking from the architectural scale to several scales simultaneously. Our round table session with designers and activists working in the area should provide a fantastic overview of the current developments and design thinking. I am also excited to see what my peers, many of whom have never been to Chicago, will bring to the design table, and how they will interpret the city’s unique urban landscapes.”

The graduate program in Urban Design, led by Distinguished Professor Michael Sorkin, is focused on creating new, equitable, beautiful, and sustainable forms and technologies for the city and urban life. Committed to both experiment and amelioration, the two-semester program focuses each year on a New York City site and, after a research visit, on design of a city in a demanding environment abroad.