urban design as a situated practiceThe responsibility of the urban designer, and why society invests in us, is to imagine better spatial futures. Today, however, urgent, unprecedented challenges are questioning the values and scales that have previously guided urban design, and testing its agency to provide more just and sustainable living environments—and therefore demanding new visions for its education. Indeed, the fundamental topics of urban transformation, sustainable development of city-regions, livability, and the design of public space cannot be decoupled from deep ecological crises, structural injustice, technological disruptions, changes in the organization of work, or demographic and political shifts.
Within that context, I understand education on urban design about reading and situating the context of a site (regardless of its size) within such broader systemic contexts: seizing potentials, discerning emerging patterns and trends, and anticipating challenges and opportunities through design strategies. Thus, in my view, urban design must be taught as a situated practice, that is, one where expertise comes not just from a focus on the discipline and its autonomy, but from its grounding in a creative and critical position that operates beyond predetermined categories and scales. That implies demanding rigor and mastery in the use of urban design theories and methods, and, at the same time, inviting students to embrace the ‘fuzziness’ that appears when thinking across disciplinary boundaries and engaging with the plurality and complexity of contemporary social, environmental, and political conditions.
ExperienceI accumulate over five years of international teaching experience, including bachelor level studios (Madrid), master and post-master level studios and seminars (Harvard, TU Delft), and master thesis supervision (TU Delft). My studio teaching has focused on the formulation of spatial strategies and designs for sustainable, fair and inclusive development in metropolitan regions, firmly grounded in everyday design practice and in an understanding of the region’s existing networks and systems. By confronting students to ‘wicked’ problems (e.g. addressing the impact of automation, migration or climate change), and combining digital methods of urban analysis with others, such as scenario-making and gaming, my aim has been twofold: to develop in the students a critical, independent perspective that comes from a deeper understanding of the complexity of urban systems in an uncertain context for urban design practice; and to promote imagination and speculation to come up with forward-looking solutions to unprecedented questions for humanity.
Another aspect of my approach to teaching is to enhance education by linking courses to inter-institutional research initiatives, such as Cities of Making (with an elective course) or Automated Landscapes (through the ‘Urban Region Networks’ studios of the European Post-Master of Urbanism). Placing education in such frameworks allows involving students in meetings with researchers from other disciplines, actual stakeholders, public debates, visits, and new venues and formats to present their work, raising students’ motivation. Further, I bring in to studio my professional experience as urban designer.
teaching portfolio at TU Delft
- AR1U090: R&D Studio: Analysis and Design of Urban Form.
AR1U100: R&D Studio: Designing Urban Environments.
AR0167: Architectural Design Crossovers: Architecture & Urban Design Studio.
AR0225: The Urban (Re)Development Game.
AR0039: Designing Productive, Multi-functional and Mixed-use Territories.
- AR9300: Research and Design Studio Urban Region
Networks: Automation and the Changing Landscape of Work, a Strategy for the
Metropolitan Region Rotterdam-The Hague (European Postmaster in Urbanism).
- Mentor of MSc graduation projects, on topics related to technology, industry, work, automation, mobility, migration, commoning, public space. Examples here, here and here.