Urban Narratives and Regions in Newburgh, New York and the Hudson River Valley
Fall 2014 Urban Design Studio II: American Cities & Regional Contexts
Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design

The fall semester Urban Design Studio builds on the summer studio while expanding beyond the laboratory offered by New York City onto a critical analysis of the larger region. Confronted with two interrelated trends, the studio considers the Hyper-urbanism, manifested by Manhattan and expanding to its surrounding boroughs, and the re-urbanization along regional infrastructure, responding to the current post-suburban tendencies and looking to redefine industrial legacies.

The practice of Urban Design is viewed as fundamentally interdisciplinary and collaborative. It is the result of a kinetic relationship between physical design, environmental considerations, public policy, culture and economy that operate at scales that often exceed the limits of a specific site, a city, or a region. By working closely with professionals outside of the design fields, as well as with local groups and site-specific partners, the studio collectively examines the influence exerted by these various factors, and the immense impact they have in contributing to an urban environment, including its public and private spaces, its programs, and the perceived quality-of-life of its communities.

The studio’s primary pedagogy advocates for simultaneous, collaborative research, and the development of design thinking and concepts as generative ingredients of new and alternative ways through which viable, vital urban environments are understood and conceived. A fundamental aim is to challenge the default mode of approaching architecture, landscape, infrastructure, planning and policy as isolated disciplines, and instead to allow a unique set of tools and approaches to evolve from the specific design or policy challenge at hand.


The exploration of the “American City” throughout the semester’s research and design work is established through ongoing inquiry and referencing of various North American cities. The studio has a topical emphasis that provides a lens through which each student, research team and design group can explore the varied issues, contexts and questions relative to the way that they influence Urban Design. Through the development of multi-scalar, site-specific design proposals for the New York metropolitan region and its’ urban communities, students propose, test, and refine a variety of design hypotheses and explorations. The studio also works to acknowledge and develop the necessary understanding and techniques for articulating layers of information, complexity, and systems. Through navigating design ideas across multiple time frames, and narratives, diverse visual representation techniques are encouraged to communicate a range of scales that reach from regional systems to the human-scale experience of place.

The fall 2014 studio is focused on Newburgh, NY, and the Hudson River Valley as its regional context. Cities like Newburgh, have an image problem. In 1977 New York City and State also had an image problem so the New York Department of Commerce created a statewide marketing campaign and hired graphic designer Milton Glaser to design the now famous I ❤ NY logo. New York’s dramatic shift in narratives from crime, grime and decline to its current state has been decades in the making. Changes in Newburgh and the Hudson River Valley during the long arc of the post-industrial era reflect the complexity and connectedness of such urban dynamics and patterns in the greater metropolitan region. These dynamics stretch across local impacts to regional scales of operation, and are illustrated by the varied and compelling “moving images” that connect people to places over time. Conflicting identities of the region can move quickly from high-crime inner city blocks with degraded infrastructure and vacant buildings to the highest quality of “sustainable” life, local organic farm-to-table bliss, “only one hour away from the city.”

Read the full syllabus here.