2nd Year

Snøhetta, The Best Weapon, peace bench, United Nations, NYC, June 2019
Image sources: coolhunting.com, hydro.com

ARCH 251: Second Year Fall 2020 Studio

Recognizing the profound impact that buildings have on urban life and communities, the Fall Second Year Studios focus on civic architecture and public space. These spaces today are failing due to poor design, decreased funding and maintenance, and the recent retreat to the indoors. Additionally, tragedies in the public realm reveal ways in which architecture has been complicit in creating racist and exclusionary public spaces. Yet, historically, civic spaces (which are public by definition) have been the heart of cities. They provide free spaces where community members can gather in celebration, participation, or protest, activities that enable engagement in the public realm and draw communities together. 

This Fall, although each studio will be tackling different civic or community programs, we’ll all grapple with challenging questions: How can civic spaces make positive contributions to the city and community? What does it mean to design inclusive public spaces? How can architects design for the public interest? What is the value of architectural form within the urban context? 

Through studio readings, discussions, presentations, observations, information gathering and analyses, we hope you will develop a broad understanding of the multiplicitous quality of the urban experience and how to design inclusive and engaging civic spaces. 

Site: Downtown San Luis Obispo;  part of the building should meet the sidewalk edge. 

Program: 1,500-5,000 sf civic or community space (specifics provided by studio instructor); universally accessible to all, and a dedication, in some measurable sense, to give back to the community or be in tribute of the inclusive public realm.

Expected Outcomes: Analytical photographs, collages or diagrams of public spaces; measured digital or hybrid orthographic drawing set (including site plan, floor plans and sections) of the proposal and adjacent public spaces, iterative study models that relay concepts, spatial relationships and threshold conditions. 

Readings suggested by multiple faculty:

On public and civic spaces...

  • The Center for Design Excellence – Urban Design, Public Space



On just cities  and social engagement…

  • Jeremy Till’s Forward for the book, The Routledge Companion to Architecture and Social Engagement


On monuments...

  • Hank Willis Thomas, “What Should Our Monuments of the Future Look Like?”


  •  Paper Monuments and Monument Lab              

https://www.papermonuments.org/aboutus and https://monumentlab.com/

  • Church Removes Junipero Serra Statue from SLO Mission          



  • Jonathan Sacks, The Home We Build Together: Recreating Society
  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass


Individual Prospecti; More to Follow...

Michael Lucas

Karlskirche [1737] Vienna, under renovation with mylar balloon, June 2019 [Lucas]
Dimensions: Urban.Masque.Temporal.Border
Michael Lucas, Fall 2020

Architecture as urban dimensions. We will begin with the familiar in SLO, and gradually excavate our site, and preconceptions about urban typologies, looking deeply and broadly toward understanding the contexts and dimensions of location to become active design components.

Architecture as ethical dimensions. The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment that flourished in 16th and 17th-century…within an elaborate design… combining settings, fable, and dramatic elements of ethical debate…with political and social application …and inevitably ended with a tableau of bliss and accord.

Architecture as temporal dimensions. Architecture weaves spaces and materials with time in mind: time of the world, time of the body, and project time. Architecture freezes an ideal moment as barrier to change or act as exquisite initiator of the appreciation of difference. We are immersed in time.

Architecture as a border. Ontologically [at its core], architecture defines here from there, on an index from dimension of thickness of brute definitive wall to porous atmosphere of cooperation between things. 

We’ll open these four dimensions together, as a community, despite the diaspora, supporting each other across time zones and changing shadows.


Jermaine Washington/Ryan Brockett

Arch 251-04 Washington & 251-06 Brockett w/ Invited Guest            
Drawing the Obvious, Seeing the Hidden: Learning from Empathic Design Process   

As humans, we use drawing and modeling as a way for our hands to help our brains comprehend and communicate what we see and think but does not fully understand. Urban is a transitive concept equating to what we think about a city or place, how it should look and how we should exist within it. It’s spatial elements and experiences spring from this conception. Civic, social, and cultural urban public spaces physically and ethnologically embody themselves both in tangible moments and experiential objects; often seen as additions, deletions, arrangements, repairs, furnishings, collective memories, and frozen imagery. As designers, we are complicit in designing these elements, but ultimately not defining their value. The occupant defines the home, community its public spaces and so forth. History and pop culture, for example, play a far greater role in these determinations. In this sequence, our combined studios will look at what defines socially unjust public spaces on a journey to better determine and illustrate what makes urban spaces inclusive as termed not by the designer, but by the social constructs that indoctrinate them. Our studio projects will focus on monuments and public space, as design interventions along Monterey Street in Downtown San Luis Obispo.

"Unity," Willis Thomas 2019, sits at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, with a gesture reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty. Credit: Hank Willis Thomas


Clare Olsen

Architectural design is an adventure involving many unknowns, constraints and surprises. In turn, architecture produces experiences. The exciting challenge in the studio will be to design inclusive spaces that support communities, while also creating engaging, dynamic experiences. We’ll investigate the history, culture, economy, program, design, environment and context issues that contribute to a building site and use these to inform designs that are simultaneously responsible and imaginative. How can a building serve the community and respond to the environment while also sparking creativity and well-being? We’ll discuss these challenging issues throughout the quarter as a studio and in small groups. We’ll also build your making and design skills through iterative strategies. There will be multiple tutorials, but at the same time, breathing room to be creative and thoroughly develop your design proposals. The studio foundation is the community of learners (you and me!) that come together to help one another throughout the creative process. 

Serene Teh illustration with pen, post-production by Noel Lee, source: rebloggy.com



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