HYBRID CITIES

[ARCH 202: SPRING 2004]

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'hybrid': Something of mixed origin or composition. [Genetics] The offspring of genetically dissimilar parents or stock, especially the offspring produced by breeding plants or animals of different varieties, species, or races.
'city': A center of population, commerce, and culture; a town of significant size and importance.
'network': a: An openwork fabric or structure in which cords, threads, or wires cross at regular intervals; b: Something resembling an openwork fabric or structure in form or concept, especially: 1: A system of lines or channels that cross or interconnect: a network of railroads.2: A complex, interconnected group or system; c: A chain of radio or television broadcasting stations linked by wire or microwave relay; d: A company that produces the programs for these stations


The urban landscape is changing - the traditional notion of a centralized city is being reevaluated as the American cities of the Northeast Corridor are gradually merging. Cities are no longer constrained by given and specific boundaries, but are sprawled along highways, railways, extending across previously uninhabited areas given away to 'infrastructure'. The city now has to co-exist with infrastructure, it has to hybridize with infrastructure, become an integral part of it and possibly define a new kind of city: the Hybrid City.

The Hybrid City is not a local condition - it is an expansive field that occupies a larger territory, one previously not assigned to the field of 'architecture'. The next generation of designers will have to challenge the normative understanding of the city as bound and constrained and begin exploring the potential of the global, interconnected and dynamic city to come.
The city is no longer a node on a line with a fixed destination and a central downtown; it is no longer a walled city. It is part of a larger network that speaks to an ever growing global condition that architecture cannot ignore. Cities are connected - we are connected. Whether we like it or not, cities are no longer distinct and independent entities that are fueled by their exterior. Cities are crossed by a multitude of systems that flow through them - the city is no longer a final destination, but a thoroughfare.
What does it mean to inhabit an environment of such vastness? How might architecture respond to the new - expanded - version of the city-to-come? How might it build in a city that has no end? How might it graft itself onto infrastructure? Will it create a center or a bundle?

'In this new order, travel no longer requires a significant rite of passage, the city no longer needs a wall or a gate. The hybridization of the public space with the transportation infrastructure is one of the most distinctive features of the contemporary city.'
Foreign Office Architects, in Phylogenesis [p.190]

This semester our studios will focus on the implications of infrastructure, motion, connectivity and hybrid, working within a variety of conditions and scales in the urban environment and questioning the condition of the city today.
We will use Washington DC as a laboratory for our investigations. Our explorations will range in focus and scale, the aim being to question our common assumptions that make us 'zoom into' a place. The landscape that we will be working with does not have scale; it fluctuates between the scales of the vast and the microscopic, between the scale of a gallon of water flowing through a water main and the scale of a kilobyte flowing through an Ethernet connection, or the flow of cars on I-95.

A series of three projects will structure our semester:
PROJECT 01: Urban Cartographies: A set of analytic exercises that will ask you to explore the larger scale condition of the Northeast Corridor - from Baltimore to Richmond, through Washington DC.
PROJECT 02: Urban Cabinet: This project will work at the scale of a particular site in Washington where infrastructure is revealed. You will be asked to design a space in which this system is revealed and articulated, a space that can be inhabited by infrastructure and people simultaneously.
PROJECT 03: Urban Hybrid: You will work towards a building design for the last half of the semester sited in Washington. Each section will be designing a small institutional building in close proximity to an infrastructural system, investigating the possibility of a hybrid condition to exist between architecture and infrastructure.

TECHNIQUE:

Studio work will fluctuate between work at your individual desks, usage of the computer labs, desk critiques and pin-ups. Each project will have a distinct digital component assigned to all studio sections. After each project is completed, digital documentation of your work will be required for portfolio and studio documentation purposes. Unless otherwise stated, you will be free to engage digital or analogue media for your investigations.
A series of mandatory readings, along with a set of writing assignments, will help you articulate your ideas and clarify your design intentions. These exercises will also enable you to generate a vocabulary - an index - in order to begin describing the hybrid conditions you will be encountering in your research.
A strong emphasis will be placed on the cross-pollination of studio sections. At least once in each of the three projects, sections will swap critics in order to generate more discussions between the sections. In addition to these mandatory studio swaps, you should feel free to approach any other 202 critic and ask for feedback.

EVALUATION:

Grading will be based on an amalgam of work, quality, quantity, intelligence, participation and sensibility that will be established throughout the semester. It is critical that studio is approached as a design process and not solely as a means to an end. You will be evaluated and graded according to your abilities to translate, represent and present your ideas and designs in a critical and graphically coherent manner. You should regard studio as an opportunity to develop and test your ideas in front of a likeminded audience. Participation and constant questioning are a requirement.
Studio attendance is mandatory. Any absence from studio has to be accounted for and your presence throughout the duration of a studio session is a requirement, even if you have already met with your critic. Two missed studio sessions will account for a letter-drop in your grade. Any delayed work, or unobserved deadline will also be reflected in your final grade.

Extraordinary Work [A, A-]: Addressing and expanding upon the issues presented in the assignments and discovering / proposing issues which are reciprocal; similar and coincidental to the assignment, demonstrating the ability to achieve and excel independently in the development of studio work. Comes to class on time with perfect attendance. Actively supports peers in studio. Exceptional process documentation.

Notable Work [B+, B]: Addressing and expanding upon the issues presented in the assignments, and demonstrating not only understanding but achievement in directing investigations and development in studio work.

Competent Work [B-, C+]: Addressing all of the issues presented in the assignments and demonstrating an understanding of these issues.

Marginal Work [C, D, F]: Exhibiting difficulty in demonstrating through the work recognition and understanding of the issues and concepts presented in the assignments.

 
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