After several months of work here in Madrid, collaborating with our associate editors at the GSD in Boston, we are happy to announce that the Networked Urbanism book has finally been published online and is making its way through the printing process!
We have been presenting the work of the “Networked Urbanism” students in a series of posts on the blog and they have been publishing many of their ideas and the results of their efforts on networkedurbanism.com, but having the book finally printed on paper is an important milestone considering that the book also contains 4 unpublished essays and an exclusive interview. For those of you that haven’t been following our updates during these years at the GSD, here comes the short story of the book and its contents.
The book is the product of three different studios taught by Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, in Boston, during Fall Term of 2010, 2012, and 2013. The three courses shared the same approach while focusing on slightly different topics; this approach, what we call network-design thinking, is an alternative to the traditional way of designing cities from a bird’s eye view, and a single designer’s perspective.
What is Networked Urbanism?
In today’s connected world, urban design can no longer be addressed from a singular perspective, but should result from an open and collaborative network of creative professionals, technical experts, citizens, and other stakeholder, we need to explore the new role of the designer as an activator, mediator and curator of social processes in a networked reality, but above all, we must develop and test tools that allow citizens to be active participants at all stages: before, during, and after the design process.
Networked Urbanism promotes the exploration of new tools that can become the catalyst to spark creativity and multiply the possibilities of interaction and connection among individuals in the search for more healthy and sustainable communities. The studio challenges future designers to develop initiatives that reconcile existing physical conditions with the emerging needs of citizens through network-design thinking, and promotes active participation in the redefinition of the contemporary city.
The pedagogical approach: the toolbox
The Networked Urbanism studio adopts a framework of experiential education that promotes learning through direct action on the ground and reflection in a continuous feedback loop. With this approach, students actively engaged in posing questions, assuming responsibilities, being curious and creative, investigating, experimenting, and constructing meaning. They became intellectually, emotionally, and socially engaged. This involvement produced a perception that the learning process is authentic, necessary, and real, as a starting point, the Networked Urbanism toolbox provided a set of guidelines that could be applied sequentially throughout the design process:
1. EXPLORE: Choose a topic at the intersection between your personal interests and societal needs.
2. RESEARCH: Become an expert on the topic.
3. NETWORK: Create a network—from citizens to experts—and explore connections at both the official and grassroots level.
4. SHARE: Confront and experience ideas outside your own desk: feedback is a treasure.
5. BE OPEN: Start with a detailed plan but be prepared to disrupt it, responding to its natural development.
6. THINK BIG: Focus on a small-scale design that has the potential of the larger scale, and design a strategic overall vision.
7. START SMALL: Any aspect can be the starting point; the concept will grow as your project develops.
8. ACT NOW!: Prototype and implement in real life at least a small but significant part of the design.
9. COMMUNICATE: Take your initiative to a broader audience.
10. MOVE BEYOND: How can you develop your project beyond the limits of the studio?
The book contents
The book dives deep into the exploration of these principles, first through four essays: “Digitas Meets Humanitas” written by Blair Kamin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune
The second part of the book contains 19 selected projects organized by their main area of intervention. Even if, obviously, they all can not be easily categorized under a single topic, the first projects are more focused on Environmental issues followed by the ones centered on Social interventions and finally by projects considering more the Digital realm, which are reconnected to the Environmental ones closing the conceptual circle of topics.
Until the printed version is released, you can read the book online and download it in digital format:
If you want to explore the projects briefly, you can have a look at the list of posts with the projects organized by different thematic categories: