Seven Streets

Coordinator of the First Year Urban Design Studio at the UIC School of Architecture in Chicago. Collaborators: Judith K. De Jong, Julia Di Castri, Alexander Eisenschmidt, Andrew Moddrell, Allison Newmeyer, Marina Nicollier

The studio reads seven American cities through the architecture of their streets, aiming at bridging architectural and urban scale through the instruments of drawings. From the Cardus and Decumanus of the early Roman settlements, through the main-streets and the grids of the American colonies, to the highways of the contemporary metropolis, streets have always determined the nature of any human settlement. Beside providing the necessary network for the circulation of people and commodities, the infrastructure of distribution for energy, water and information, the juridical ordering of daily urban activities and the administrative ordering of any city, streets are also the place where a city is immediately experienced: the horizontal surface and the three-dimensional stage where social interactions between individuals, communities and the whole society are constantly interwoven.

In the first phase of the semester, students have been reading seven paradigmatic American cities — Boston, New York, Detroit, Washington, Houston, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles — by redrawing the elevation of one of their streets and trying to understand building typologies, architectural elements and urban patterns. From that analysis, in the second phase they have been elaborating a fictional urban block derived from the intersection of the previous seven streets within a one-squared mile. As final assignment, students have been asked to formulate an architectural solution for two corners of their blocks, juxtaposing, combining, assembling or dismantling the features of the different cities into hybrid solutions.