Collaborative Studio: Tactical Urbanism, Land and Housing Reform
PSAM 5550 C
63 Fifth Ave room 502
Instructors: Melanie Crean & Caroline Woolard
Wednesdays 9:00 – 11:40 am

Course Description

The Tactical Urbanism Collab will work with two housing advocacy organizations: Cooper Square Committee and Right to the City, to investigate the political economies of housing and the development of the built environment in NYC, to discuss, debate and visualize the effect that it has had on its citizens. The course will research tactics that creative activists use locally and nationally to fight for housing rights and urban spatial justice. The class will strategize with both groups how to design tools and graphic campaigns that make information about housing in relation to income, location and speculative markets more visible, more easily understood, and more widely available through new forms of media.

After giving students a general overlay of the politics of housing in NYC, and speaking to NY housing groups to discuss their goals, media strategies and design inquiries, the class will speak to various designers and practitioners about how students might address these goals with specific spatial & visual design strategies. Spatial practices, methodologies and media forms will include data visualization, communication design for change, mobile media, narrative mapping, site specific intervention and other location based forms. The class will investigate concepts and models such as speculative real estate and trans-local organizing through applied making, as part of a larger conversation about creating tools to promote affordable housing and spatial justice for all city residents.

Learning outcomes:

  • A basic understanding of the politics of space in NYC, as learned through applied making
  • Collaboration: realistic goal setting, communication, and accountability to students in your working group & community partners
  • Spatial design: A basic understanding of using spatial design practices, such as narrative mapping, digital online mapping (geoweb), and / or schematic communication design, to convey persuasive information
  • A basic understanding of researching and working with data sets: translating data into visual information that tells stories
  • Design for Education: strategize with partnering groups on how to address problems with communicating issues of spatial politics for educational purposes
  • Project based work: Using the above research, collaboration and design practices to plan, execute, archive and deliver a creative or research based project of depth to partnering groups that facilitates the understanding of NYC’s housing crisis

Guiding Questions

  • What is the current state of housing affordability in NYC, how has it changed over the past decade, what factors have affected it, and how can media & other visual tools be designed & deployed to illuminate changes in housing policy and affordability?
  • What rights to tenants have in NYC, what tools and resources are at their disposal to combat housing discrimination, and what design & education tools can be created to visualize this information?
  • What is speculative real estate, how does it function, how has it affected NYC and what strategies can be used to combat it? How can its function and effect on NYC be visualized, and what pedagogical organizing tools can be created to understand and combat it?
  • What are community land trusts (CLTs), how do they function, what is the history of CLT’s in the US, what have been the model’s successes and short comings, and what is the feasibility of creating a NYC wide CLT (or network of CLTs)?
  • What tools can be created to make a larger audience aware that all New Yorkers are affected by the lack of housing affordability in the city?
  • What different forms of media can be used to illuminate issues of the affordable housing crisis, housing policy, speculative real estate practices and the potential for CLT’s in NYC? How can spatial strategies and practices such as mapping, mobile media and location based interventions be used to shed light on these issues? How can narrative organizing tools be employed?
  • How, as designers, should we work with the constituencies impacted by housing issues to brainstorm & co-design unique strategies to address challenges presented by complex policy issues?

Course Deliverables:

Readings: each week students will read 1-2 texts which they will respond to on the blog and in class. Students will work in pairs to take turns moderating the discussion for each reading. They will begin by writing a primary response of about 500 words on the blog the day before class that will set up the framework for class discussion. The moderators’ post should outline central points in the reading that the moderators feel pertain to the concerns of the class, and pose questions to frame class discussion. Most classes will begin with moderators and guiding these discussions. Moderators are encouraged to make their reading responses “participatory” as applicable, meaning that they would use an activity to investigate a model, system or interaction described in the readings.

Participation and blog: all students must contribute to discussions each week in class, responding to readings or informing others about your own research concerning spatial design practices, socially based data visualization, location based organizing, urban intervention, urban spatial justice, financial models of housing and land access etc. You should post material of interest to the blog. The blog will act as a collaboratively authored document / discussion, becoming both a living record and an archive for future inspiration.

Group Project in three stages: students will work with partnering groups to create a spatial design or location based art or research project. The project will be realized in three stages:

  1. The first project benchmark will be at midterms, when students will present their concept proposal and a narrative or spatial mapping of the research they have done to articulate this concept.
  2. The second benchmark will be to review a rough prototype of the project with partnering groups approximately a month before the end of term, so that students can accommodate feedback in their final designs.
  3. Final deliverables, due on the last day of class, include: an archived project, complete with all relevant media components; a README for partnering groups on project usage, and a 3 page design brief done by each design group. The brief should include a description of concept, research, audience, methodology of making and prototyping, and 1-3 relevant images.

Shared research: the class will agree upon a format, such as via or Padlet, to share project research

Project Partners

Criteria for evaluation
Students in the course will receive feedback on the following areas:

  1. Critical Thinking: To what degree has the student demonstrated and developed critical thinking skills over the course of the semester? Is critical thinking evident in the visual work, in critiques and presentations, and in written assignments?
  2. Design Process: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s design process? Is the student able to evaluate the work at different points in the process and to identify areas in their work for future development?
  3. Contextualization and Connection: To what degree has the student been able to connect the themes and core concepts of the course to their work? Is this clearly demonstrated in their class participation, project presentation, and written work?
  4. Integration and Appropriate Use of Technology/Medium: Is the student making good choices about the form and type of technology or medium they are using to express their design concepts?
  5. Communication: How well is the student able to express their ideas, both verbally and in written form?

Final Grade Calculation

Participation & blog: 30%
Pinup 1 (concept & research) & Pinup 2 (prototype): 30%
Final Project (archive, 3 pg design brief): 40%

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