What is urban design?
“[It is about creating] the common, the space between buildings, where people of different groups mix, and where the ballet of city life takes place.”
– Joshua Morrison and Laura Parsons
I’ve been learning architecture for the past six years, yet I’ve never taken any urban design studio courses. I think understanding and executing design through different disciplines makes one a well-rounded designer.
The goal of the urban design studio is solving realistic problems using analytical design methods specifically devised for urban design and landscape issues, using Copenhagen and other parts of Scandinavian regions as precedents. Also, all design students are required to take a Visual Journal course. It is a self-driven study and analytical tool to examine and understand design techniques and the physical through sketching.
The instructors for the urban design studio are Joshua Morrison and Laura Parsons. Both are urban designers from Fundament Design. Their passion for urban design, culture and society are stimulating and they always bring new urban design perspectives to the classroom. There are 14 students in urban design studio, coming from different parts of America, the majority are from the states of Hawaii and Oregon.
Most of them have a background in architecture, except for two students who specify in landscape architecture and industrial design. On our first field trip, we went to different parks in central Copenhagen.
The first park we visited was Israels Plads. The park has a mix of programs, such as a market place, a playground space for children and teens, and a hangout space for the community. I learned that children like to interact with water features by touching or playing with the water, therefore spending more time in the park.
Next, we went to Ørsteds Park, which is next to Israels Plads. Josh, our instructor, asked us to make a sketch of a tree in one minute. I learned that quick sketching is an essential skill and good practice, because time is always limited when we travel around to visit different sites.
In the Nørrebro neighbourhood, we went Folkets Park. The park has lots of playground features that requires one to climb and balance on high structures. Although the height of the playground structure is tall and could cause injuries, attempting to climb the tall playground structure teaches you to embrace danger as a learning process.
Then, went to Urban Oase, a park where the public can interact with farm animals. The park is built with the collaboration between the designers and the community. At the park, we observed that the public enjoys interacting with the animals because it’s a rare opportunity in the middle of the city. Furthermore, children learn best when they engage in the living world.
Banana Park was the next site we visited. The park features lots of mural paintings, an outdoor climbing wall, and a small hill that depicts a banana. It used to be an abandoned site but it was transformed into an attractive green sanctuary for the local residents and others who want to use outdoor climbing facilities at the park.
Superkilen Park was the last park of the site visit. Estimating 750 meters in stretch, the park is designed as a kind of world exposition for the locals, covering over 60 nationalities, who have been able to contribute their own ideas and artifacts to the park.
With all the parks we visited, I learned that urban facilities are designed on a human scale, set on a piece of wide land or spaces between buildings. It is essential that the urban spaces should design in a human scale. As Josh mentions, “we are designing spaces for people, not for cars, because people are fragile”.