The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture

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fall 2008

URB 352:
Urban Design Practice

Sinclair Black

The purpose of this course is insight. There is no discreet body of knowledge about urban design. It is not architecture, and it is not planning. Architecture is a private sector activity; planning is a public sector activity: management, inventory, allocations, and infrastructure. Urban design is both – it encompasses all of both worlds to make things happen in the public sector. The fuel to make things work will always be the private sector. Everything that truly matters floats between the two worlds of Planning & Architecture and between the public and the private sectors.

Public sector does little to create visions or urban design plans. Public projects are implemented without regard for larger visions for context, for the future, or for economic development. In short, there is virtually no Urban Design in the public sector.

The private sector has multiple objectives, but the overriding one is to maximize profits. Projects take place on designated expensive property in critical time frames. Interest carry and suffocating regulation create a sense of desperation on the part of the developers. Due to time frames and profit objectives, there is rarely the opportunity to consider good Urban Design.

Urban Design creates the vision of synergy, of quality, of economic development, of tax base creation, and of sustainability. It is the missing ingredient of both the public and private sectors.

The class will involve lectures, videos, a walking tour of San Antonio and numerous walks in downtown Austin. There will be at least 1 formal discussion session in addition to the seminar discussions.

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Conference was held in Austin, in the April of 2008. We will have access to many of the electronic presentations from that conference.

At the beginning of the semester, students with disabilities who need special accommodations should notify the instructor by presenting a letter prepared by the Services for Students with Disabilities Office. To ensure that the most appropriate accommodations can be provided, students should contact the SSD Office at 471-6259 or 471-4641 TTY.