Three Ways to Improve Architectural Education by Including Urbanism and Urban Design

Below are three ways to introduce urbanism and urban design into professional programs' curricula. The best option is #1: a new SPC.

Option #2, adjusting existing and already broad SPCs, is a weaker approach.

Option #3 would be best in combination with #1. 

As with all Student Performance Criteria, the manner and extent of the coursework in the subject area would be determined by the schools and faculty; urbanism and urban design could be taught as a seminar or studio course, or part of a seminar or a studio.

Note: SPCs emphasize understanding or ability. The current proposal emphasizes understanding (urbanism as a body of knowledge) and ability (urban design skills). 



create a new spc: "urbanism and urban design"

If urbanism and urban design are considered as important as such topics as building materials (SPC B8), building service systems (B9), and financial considerations (B10), then we should have a new Student Performance Criteria such as:

A.9. Urbanism and Urban Design: Understanding the fundamentals of urbanism and ability to utilize urban design fundamentals as a foundation for designing projects and public spaces, at various scales, responsive to people, landscapes, and urban and suburban sites.

An alternative is to simply adopt a version of the more detailed 2017 CACB Urban Design SPC:

A6. Urban Design. The student must demonstrate an ability to analyze and respond to the larger urban context where architecture is situated; its developmental patterning and spatial morphologies; the infrastructural, environmental, and ecological systems; to understand the regulatory instruments that govern this context; the broader implications of architectural design decisions on the evolution of cities; and the impact of urbanism on design.



change SPC a8 to include "Urbanism" 

As the first part of a two-part proposal, SPC A8, Cultural Diversity and Social Equity, could be changed to Urbanism, Cultural Diversity, and Social Equity. Although A8 is already very broad, including a focus on urbanism here would tie together and provide an overarching context for the somewhat disparate concerns of cultural diversity and social equity. We believe urbanism is a foundation for understanding such issues as cultural diversity, social equity, and environmental justice.  


change SPC b2 to include "urban design" 

Having addressed urbanism in option 2A, the second part of this proposal is to add urban design to B2. The revised SPC would be titled Urban Design and Site Design. As appears almost immediately evident, including urban design here would situate building-scaled site design within a larger context. 



CREATE A NEW UrbaNism and URBAN DESIGN "perspective" or “value”

The 2014 NAAB Conditions feature a number of "Defining Perspectives"— overarching educational concerns— that concern A. Collaboration and Leadership, B. Design, C. Professional Opportunity, D. Stewardship of the Environment, and E. Community and Social Responsibility. Improvement option 3 is to create a new Defining Perspective focusing on Urbanism and Urban Design. This improvement would work best in conjunction with options 1 or 2. Although the Defining Perspectives are all worthy goals, they are not directly linked to specific coursework. (See 2014 Conditions, p. 11). The same is true if urbanism and urban design or, more broadly, the built environment is considered an appropriate focus for architecture students’ education as a “value.” How will “perspectives” or “values” be more than platitudes and translate into actual learning, both knowledge and ability?