Global Urbanism Studio

The 21st century is an urban century, one in which the human condition has become an urban condition. The Global Urbanism Studio, an immersive 12-week summer experience, responds to this challenge and provides students the opportunity to study and experience significant global cities in comparative perspective. These cities are marked by an active culture and lively arts and design scene; their urban fabric is challenged by rapid growth, environmental stress, social complexity, and the need for a new approach to urbanism.

Each year the studio selects a fast-growing city in Asia, Africa, or South America to compare and contrast with an American city. Various themes of urban intensification have been explored, with particular focus on sustainability, vertical urbanism, hydro-urbanism, emergent urbanism, and the creation of everyday lively, livable, and socially transformational urban interventions. Recent studio locations include Mexico City, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Dubai, Accra, and Cape Town.

The studio begins with research and study in St. Louis, followed by immersion in the selected cities, where students live, research, observe, and work on the design project. Field trips to other significant cities and contemporary icons of architecture, landscapes, and urbanism occur throughout the duration of the studio. Work culminates back in St. Louis with the development of a detailed design project that offers a distinctive, place-specific urban response.

The studio is supported by a seminar on the history, theory, and methods of global urbanism, and a robust visiting international guest lecturer program that provides valuable local insight into the cultural, artistic, and social conditions of the city. The studio is open to all architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design students.

Summer 2019: Johannesburg & Kampala

The summer studio began in St. Louis, where students became familiar with the spatial patterns of Johannesburg and Gauteng and the multi-scalar issues affecting the region. They developed a comprehensive drawing set that they later verified on site and used as the base drawing for their design proposals.

They then traveled to Johannesburg to work with Ferdinand le Grange in our studio space at the Fox Street Studios in the Maboneng arts district, just east of downtown. The studio tested dual (dueling) sites at the city center (Marshalltown) and perimeter (Madderfontein) to assert new conditions of housing density, employment, ecologies, sustainability, economies, and the public realm. After engaging both sites through an intensive drawing charrette and site analysis, students began a three-week design process with a final review by critics local to Johannesburg.

Following the final review, the studio traveled to Kampala, Uganda, on the northern coast of Lake Victoria, to work on a comparative analysis of the public realm of a quickly growing and vibrant Africa city. Doreen Adengo led a drawing-intensive workshop in collaboration with students from Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi. The workshop explored Nakasero Market in downtown Kampala, and documented the innovative ways in which the use and quality of this space changes over time.

Summer 2018: Johannesburg & Kigali

This summer studio responded to human, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges and provided students the opportunity to experience and make design proposals in significant African global cities—cities that are imbued with the complexity of urban life. Students focused on the complex urban forms, social juxtapositions, and spatial apartheid that exists within Johannesburg though the examination of the M1 Rand to Reef corridor encompassing the Fordsburg, Ferreiras Dorp, and Newtown neighborhoods. They also had the opportunity to study in Kigali, Rwanda.