Re-Mix urban form studio

Inspired by Geoff Manaugh’s fantastical description of his studio, I figured that it was worth sharing details about the MLA studio that I’m co-teaching with Kristine Miller (who has a new book on Gertrude Jekyll going to press as I write this post). Okay, this studio isn’t up in the clouds like Geoff’s, but we have a chance to do good. We’re partnered with Juxtaposition Arts, who’s founders – Roger & Deanne – just returned from a year at the GSD thanks to a Loeb Fellowship. That means they will be hosting an upcoming Brunner Loeb Forum, and our studio will be part of the process of getting that event off the ground.

Here it is:

Re-Mix Urban Form Studio


In this challenge based, service-learning urban design studio, students will investigate the role of the street (as defined not just the gap between buildings or between destinations but as a place in itself) and it’s role in shaping the urban experience. This course will take as its special focus the West Broadway neighborhood in North Minneapolis. We will collaborate with our community partner, Juxtaposition Arts to develop proposals for public and private spaces, streets, pedestrian systems, and public infrastructure. Our studio is timely: the West Broadway Alive! planning study has been adopted by the City of Minneapolis as the official plan to initiate the revitalization of North Minneapolis. In this context, the studio will critically explore what additional urban design opportunities are available in North Minneapolis.

We will focus on integrating the neighborhood’s street and block into a larger network of urban systems: public transit, bikeways, sidewalks, private yards, curbs and swales, verges, boulevards, parking lots, bus stops, public schools, public libraries, utility lines, storm water sewers, ecological corridors, communications networks, parking, outdoor lighting, and community agriculture, to name just a few.

Our investigations will be guided by readings in urban studies, geography, sociology, ecology, design, economics, and art history. Seminar guest lecturers will include landscape architects, architects, urban designers, community organizers, public artists, engineers and public officials.

Our questions

Urban design is the process of analyzing options, representing ideas, imagining futures, and engaging the community to transforming the urban fabric. Urban design shapes physical spaces, creating settings that produce and frame the experiences of those who move through and occupy them.

A designer sets boundaries within a space, makes connectsions, lifts it above or pushes it below the street, creates systems of vegetation, polished marble or advertisements. A designer can highlights aspects of a place’s history and leaves other aspects hidden. But how do any of these actions relate to questions of the public sphere? How do design’s other roles, of representing ideas and imagining futures come to bear? Then there is the question of how do we improve the eco-technological performance of the urban fabric in regards to sustainability and address climate change.

…[stuff about service-learning and challange based learning pedagogy]…

Our Collaborators

Juxtaposition Arts is a non-profit youth focused, minority directed, urban visual arts center based in North Minneapolis and the West Broadway Area Coalition is a non-profit group that provides technical assistance toneighborhood groups, businesses, residents and other non-profits. Our studio projects address issues of importance to our community partners and provide us with a broad range of learning opportunities. Our studio is related to one other course: the Design Institute’s Undergraduate Streetlife Seminar which includes students from other University disciplines including architecture, journalism, geography, find art and urban studies. Our courses will have a set of joint sessions including a historical tour of the West Broadway neighborhood and two professional panels.

Course significance: or why study the city?

We live in an increasingly urban world:

Every US census (with the exception of 1820), since 1790 has shown an increase in the number of people living in urban areas and a decrease in the number of people living in rural areas. According to the UN, by 2005 over half of the world’s human population will live in cities. Currently 75% of people living in Latin America live in urbanareas and this number will climb to 83% by 2030.

Why the emphasis on streets and blocks?

The street is at once mundane and dynamic. It is the site of most banal activities and the locus for much of our daily movements. It is where we engage with passively or actively our community, our neighbors, and with strangers. The street is the venue for our most significant public events. It is also a monumental piece of public investment. Blocks offer opportunities for examining the relationship between public and private spaces. Block interiors contain and connect alleys, backyards, utilities, and parking lots.

Key questions

• How can the work of landscape architects serve urban residents?
• How can landscape architects build a rich understanding of urban places given the complex social, environmental, economic, legal, and physical systems that shape and are shaped by city life?
• What is the role of the designer, artist, researcher, and citizen in shaping urban space?
• How do decisions that shape urban environments get made?
• What is urban design or what might it be?
• How can cities mitigate and adapt to climate change?
• What is the role of infrastructure in influencing the development of places?

Course Objectives

• To explore these key questions through readings, discussion, drawing, writing, and reflection;
• To understand the systemic inter-relationships of culture, design, infrastructure, ecosystem, and urban places;
• To build skills in urban inventory and analysis methods;
• To build skills in the design and planning of urban places;
• To build a body of information, ideas and/or design proposals;
• To collaborate/exchange ideas and processes with members of the Hope and West Broadway communities;
• To learn from student peers from other University departments;
• To produce portfolio-quality records of our work.


1_Urban Precedents (group project) 5 points

There is a rich history of successful urban places around the world that
offer ideas and concepts useful for urban design process. Teams of
students will research and present their findings as related to North

2_Mapping & Indexing dynamic urban systems 15 points

The goal of this project is to introduce students to the complex and
sometimes contradictory processes that drive changes in cities. Students
will research, analyze, and map the West Broadway neighborhood.

3_Hawthorne Crossing Re:mix 20 points

This project is to reinvent a major parcel along West Broadway and
explore the role of retail and commercial land use in defining

NYC Sketch Book 5 points

During the field trip to New York City, you will make a sketchbook.
Opportunities will be provided to sketch and photograph through out the

4_Final Project 35 points

You will define the program and site for the final project of the Studio. You
will be graded on both the process and the final design. You will submit a
proposal that defines your thesis, site, program, and work plan at the
beginning of this project.

Written Reflections 10 points (pass/fail)

Through out the semester, you will submit a response journal twice. These responses will respond to the service learning aspect of the studio and can take the form of an Op-Ed, letter to the editor, policy statement, manifesto, or prose.

Discussion Leadership 5 points (pass/fail)

Each student will lead one class discussion during the semester on select
Fridays. You will select a topic relevant to the studio to discuss. You can
choose to give a short lecture/slide show or have a short selection of
readings (to be read in class) to spark the discussion. There is a wiki to
sign up for specific dates.

[more jurors/guests are in the works – including the newest member of the Minneapolis Arts Commission: Ken Koense]

2 thoughts on “Re-Mix urban form studio

  1. Super informative blog. Thanks for posting up these details. I second Ariah’s idea to publish the students work widely. Insidenorthside is great and we should think of other ways to have the work live and be seen discussed thought about by lots of people. Fantastic to continue this inspiring work with CDES!

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